... at union shops? (We've got answers below) ...
Above, 2007 employment stats at union animation shops. (Click on the image for a full-sized view.)
Artists around town ask all the time: "How many people are working?" ... "What studios are hiring?" ... "Who's got the most work? ..."
The chart above gives totals for the year just past, but totals can be a teensy bit misleading. For instance, TAG and the IATSE have organized artists at newer studios over the past eight months, and those new-minted "union workers" go into the overall numbers. So, in addition to older union shops, newer ones plunge into the mix as well. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of animation employees are from long-time studios.
So what's driving employment increases now? I'd have to say feature animation work. Television animation, long a locomotive for job creation, has lagged over the past ten months. Cartoon Network has fewer people on fewer shows, as does Warner Bros. Animation, as does Universal Cartoon Studios. Disney Television Animation has a half-dozen series in various stages of work, but the number of episodes for a given series are way below the go-go nineties. (This is true for most of the studios.)
Where fifty or sixty-plus half-hours used to get produced, today the congloms make them in batches of 6, 9, or 13. Thirty-nine total episodes is now often the template for a series, a huge difference from fourteen or fifteen years ago.
In features, Disney and DreamWorks are the big employers, as you will see from the pie chart that we trundle out tomorrow. DreamWorks has been adding staff for a while now, and tends to swing employees from one show to another, holding on to its artists and technicians. (this was Mr. Katzenberg's business model when at Disney Feature Animation in the 1990s.) Disney, by contrast, hires newer people for production and lays them off when production winds down. Core staff works year-round.
Recently, the question I've been asked the most is: "When is TV animation going to pick up?". My stock answer used to be, "In a couple of months." Lately I've had no stock answer. I still think television work is going to expand again, I just don't know when.