Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Tuesday Disney Stroll-Through

I was back at Disney Feature Animation on Tuesday, handing out my ever-present 401(k) booklets and chatting people up...

Meet the Robinsons is in its last week or two of finaling as it makes its way to the film lab and a March release.

Much of the tension that I noticed in the hat building prior to last month's layoffs has dissipated (not that everything is sunlight and roses, but people seem to have a realistic view of what's going on at Feature Animation.)

The most interesting part of yesterday's walk-through for me actually had little to do with Disney. I ended up talking to a couple of staffers who've worked at different cg studios up in the bay area and have also worked down here in Los Angeles. Their observations:

The studios up in San Francisco have a business model that's more like the game industry: they hire younger, less-experienced people, pay them less and work them longer hours.

Down in L.A., with more places to work, studios seem to value experience more. Up around San Francisco, it's more sweat-shop time. Get the work done fast. Grind away. Maybe it's because people have fewer options in the bay area, but salaries are definitely lower than L.A.

I observed that when I dealt with c.g.i. employees a decade ago, there was a quiet confidence among the more experienced artists and technicians that they had plenty of job opportunities and there was lots of work to be had. At the time, there were more jobs chasing way fewer numbers of people with extensive production experience. Today supply has pretty much caught up with demand, even though demand is bigger.

Makes a difference in the confidence thing.

11 comments:

MrFun said...

Today's business model sucks, and it's not just CGI that carries the blame. A few years ago, traditional animation was burning out their staffers with long hours and the demand for more product.

I guess I live in a dream world. Whatever happen to the days when people could work a normal eight hours and go home at five? One could still have a family life -- hell, one could have a life.

I guess it's the same pathology that infects all corporations today. The demand for ever more profits. Even though most earn a little more today, it's taken all the joy out of a wonderful business.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's a damn shame that the "sweatshops" up here are the ones that consistently produce the films that bring in the grosses that keep the studios down there solvent and contribute to those higher salaries, isn't it? The Shrek movies, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Cars... well, you get the point.

But don't feel bad - sooner or later you SoCal guys will have an unqualified hit too. And you did do Shark Tale...

Anonymous said...

I've lived in both Socal and Norcal working at various studios. The salaries are definately lower in the Bay area. And I would have to agree about the hiring of younger guys willing to work longer hours. ILM seems to be the exception. But, I really feel that Pixar goes after the younger guys so that they can mold them and they haven't yet been tainted by other studios.

To anonymous above... I spent a few years at Pixar and felt that the place was very creative. But unfortunately it bred a huge ego in almost all of the employees that sometimes feel more like fanboys than actual artists. Deserved? Well, you be the judge. ome out as if they joined a cult.

Oh, boy how I wandered from the topic. Sorry. People displaying overly large egos will do that to me. This we are better than you attitude is getting old.

p.s. this ego attitude is mostly coming from Pixar. Not PDI or ILM or some of the other houses that are more grounded in humility.

MrFun said...

Well, I worked on two shows at Pixar as well. I don't know about this fan boy ego thing. Maybe that's something that manifested itself after I left.

Pixar is still doing great work in any case. The only thing the Southland studios need is for knuckle head managers to get out of the process and stop screwing up films. Most don't know anything anyway.

Anonymous said...

That is right. You sweat and produce the hits. We chill and get the money. Sounds good to me!

Anonymous said...

Unjustifiable attitude of superiority - how typically L.A. of you...

Anonymous said...

What a great animation family we all are!

tc said...

As some folks above talked about Pixar, and the attitude and culture of that studio- I have always wondered, what do all the folks at Pixar think of the folks within Walt Disney Feature Animation (Burbank)?

tc said...

^I speaking more in terms of the creative folks - what do the creative folks at Pixar think of their colleagues at Disney?

Anonymous said...

This is a generalization... and ofcourse not everyone feels this way.. but while I was at Pixar,,, i felt that the vibe was that Disney's CG efforts were close to pathetic... the only time I heard anything favorable about Disney was when they gushed about the fancy rigs for Chicken Little at Siggraph years ago..

now that the two are being operated by the same people... the attitude is shifting somewhat.. After all, Disney will be "fixed" now.

Anonymous said...

And let's hope the salaries go up at Pixar...

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