The last couple of days, I've had long chats with two old feature animation vets -- one from management, one with the artistic side. Between them, they have eighty-plus years in the business.
Below, I distill a little of their spoken wisdom (they've worked for various animation studios) ...
What artists in animation don't understand like they should is that companies don't care about them. Artists want to believe that companies do, but it's not the way things are.
There used to be some paternalism, back when animation was separate and apart from live action, but the live action people came into the cartoon feature business twenty years ago and made it a lot the same. You get the same b.s. now that you get in live action. They don't like storyboards, claim not to understand them. They want to see a script, words. So everything is wordy.
I've seen good employees get laid off and mediocre employees get promoted. Doesn't always happen that way, but everybody is at the mercy of their supervisor. If your boss sucks at making good crew choices, then the guy above him will give the better artist the axe on his say-so, because the higher exec mostly has no idea who's better than who. He relies on the supervisor's judgement.
It's that way all the way up the food chain. The top people make decisions based on the advice they're getting, and the advice they're getting comes from the small ring of people who report directly to them.
A few months ago an artist who's been here twenty-eight years called me to say he was getting laid off. After thirty-two years. He asked if there was somebody I could talk to, that he could talk to. I phone [ ]. I don't know if that helped of what did it, but management changed its mind and didn't let him go. They kept him on.
But the guy was stil bitter about it. He said: "Is that all the respect they have for me? After all this time?"
The thing of it is, when new management comes in, they have no relationship with anybody. The artist who's been around a week means as much to them as the one who's been here fifteen or twenty years.
The management we've got now, they look at everybody in production as a disposable gog in the machine anyway.
And if you're old and making a higher salary, you're expendable. They want people who don't cost so much and who have "new, fresh ideas."
At least that's the excuse they use when they hand you your last check.
They don't dump you because they're mad at you (mostly), and they don't dump you because you loused up. They dump you because you're too big a number on their balance sheet, too old and too much money. They think it's better to fill your slot with somebody who's "fresh," and who they can mold. Who won't argue wth them as much.
It's nothing personal. They're not trying to be mean or cruel. They just have their budget to get down and you're a hindrance to that. So they get rid of you. Nothing personal about it at all.
Except a lot of employees take it personally. It's hard not to. They work hard on a project and feel like they're part of the team, and it's bum to get laid off.
If this sounds like things I've posted here before, I'm very sorry. It's just that workplace realites keep popping their ugly little heads up again and again. And people keep telling me similar tales over and over.