The solo studios -- DePatie-Freleng, Hanna-Barbera, and Filmation among others -- are pretty much over. There's DreamWorks and Jeffrey Katzenberg, but that's about it. Almost everything else today is but a gear in larger conglomerate machinery. And everyone is an employee, one way or another.
Lou Scheimer was a co-founder of Filmation in 1962, and kept the doors open for 26 years before L'Oreal bought the place and instantly shut it down. He remembers the day that it happened -- along with a lot of other things -- in a wide-ranging interview with The Trades:
...It [was] the ugliest day of my life. I had to tell hundreds of people that they were out of work. I had spent twenty-five years trying to keep all the work in this country and training animators. And I'm proud of those moments. And I'm really proud of all the people who worked there too, because they were great people, and they're all doing very well nowadays...
It was certainly a memorable day in my life, since I'd been there since the previous summer and was hoping (don't we always?) for a longer run. But Lou called us into the third-floor theater and gave us the bad news. He was emotional. We were emotional. And shortly thereafter, we were carrying our belongings out to our cars in cardboard boxes.
Which, come to think of it, is often the fate of employees who work in a "project-to-project" business. And project-to-project is what the animation industry is in 2007.