A few days back, I met a digital animator who had moved down from the Bay area some months ago. He had an interesting story to tell:
"I worked up north for over six years. At the studio where I worked, you have to have a champion who touts you for the next picture or you get laid off.
"I was lucky, I had people who helped me get picked up. But if you're down in the middle ranks like I was, never getting cut loose but never getting up to the top rungs, you don't make a lot of money. Of course they frown on you sharing wage information with other people you work with.
"And management comes to you when you get restless and says: 'Hey, if you factor in the bonuses and the stock options, you're doing pretty well.' But a lot of the people in my department, they had to sell their stock options to make ends meet. One day at a meeting a manager asked a group of us if we had still had options left. Only about thirty percent of the employees raised their hands.
"And I thought to myself: 'Okay, that's enough for me. I'm moving to L.A.' Three weeks later I did."
This is a tale I've heard (with variations) for the whole time I've been doing this job: Artist works at a place for years, can never get more than a $25 raise. Finally the artist quits in frustration and goes to a new studio and increases his salary by 50%.
I still have memories of my father relating how an acquaintance from Europe asked how Dad could work at Walt Disney Productions for such paltry money: "You let this man Disney take advantage of you! I don't know why all the artists stay there year after year..."
Father never tired of the thin Disney money. He had other gigs going.