Sunday, January 25, 2009

Imagi closing down temporarily?

We were going to hold off on this till at least Monday, when we could get more information, but a commenter below has broken the news: it appears that Imagi, maker of Astro Boy and Gatchaman, may currently be out of cash and temporarily shutting down operations. We've heard from one of Imagi's Los Angeles animators that he was called at home on Saturday, Jan. 24, and told that the studio was out of cash, and that he should not report to work on Monday. Since this is all happening over the weekend, we've been unable to get any confirmation from official studio sources.

We've previously noted that the company informed the Guild in December that the company was having cashflow problems related to the credit crisis, and it's noteworthy that just a few days ago the studio reported it had found a new depositary bank for their American depositary receipt program, so clearly they're scrambling to get additional funds.

There's also this telling quote from a Jan. 14 Forbes.com article:

Their boss, Douglas Glen, Imagi's chief executive, had just come back from the American Film Market in Los Angeles, which was devastated by the gloom and doom spanning the globe. "If markets don't return to some semblance of normalcy, it is going to be difficult to keep operations going," an ashen-faced Glen told a visitor. Only two months before he had triumphantly secured $30 million in financing for his movie animation company. Then $20 million of it fell through.

We want to emphasize that right now we have only second-hand information from a single Imagi employee. We're hoping this is a temporary hiccup for a company that has a good-looking feature well on its way to completion, and a couple of more features well along in the development pipeline.

Imagi employees are encouraged to call the Animation Guild office this coming week at (818) 766-7151.

Hulett Add On: I'm in Albuquerque on business this coming week (In fact, I'm in Albuquerque now), but I'll be in touch with TAG's office by phone. As we receive more info, we'll disperse it.

Add On Too: Word spreads on the intertubes, probably from similar sources (employees who've been told not to come into work).

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

They've not only had cash flow problems, but production pipeline/workflow issues, stymied further by transcontinental communication issues. They've attempted to misguidedly import production systems that could work well if the expectations of the creative team, mostly Western, were more in sync with the Eastern culture. Not a new problem, but one very evident at Imagi.

I sure hope they get this all straightened out.

Steve Hulett said...

The stuff I've seen on Astroboy looks good. But I have no idea how painful it was for the crew to work on the flick.

rufus said...

Is work on "Astroboy" finished?

I had hopes for this studio to do well...

r.

Anonymous said...

This must be true. We've had quite a few Imagi people calling about work today. Either they are out of a job or they are scared it is about to happen or just tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Anonymous said...

What kind of spin is Imagi putting out on this? Cartoon Brew seems to believe what's stated by the studio-that only a few Chinese animators(because of Chinese New Years) and some Astroboy "animators" (here in L.A.? ) are off work. But I'm hearing from everyone there that they were asked not to go in. People who are on the other productions.

Anonymous said...

What kind of spin is Imagi putting on this, you ask? Here's a quote for an on-line article in which the US president of Imagi, Erin Corbett, goes out of his way to be upbeat:

When that "bridge financing" looked like it might not materialize, the only responsible thing to do was shut down the company's U.S. offices for a week, says Corbett. Everyone, including the animators, was put on "mandatory unpaid leave," until the new round of financing comes in on Feb. 3. (Union rules require the company to let everyone go if they don't have money on hand to pay salaries.)

Note the bit in parentheses at the end -- it's apparently "the union's fault" that people have been sent home with no notice and no information about what to expect. I'm no expert on the Guild's contract, but I believe the actual rules require 5 working day's notice before people are laid off or sent on unpaid hiatus.

Kevin Koch said...

Erin Corbett, president of Imagi in the US, has contacted the Guild office and let us know that the company is in a "holding pattern" until Feb. 3, when they will learn if they have continued funding. There apparently isn't any more information than that. This is affecting all the Imagi productions.

I'd put this up as a new post, but I think virtually all the affected artists and animators and TDs know the same thing. Here's hoping next week brings good news.

Anonymous said...

Man this SUX! The film looks pretty good too. More artist than there jobs out there.

On another sad note. I was driving by Warner Studio and noticed that they have removed the Warner Animation Characters mural off the side of the building off near Pass. I guess its only a memory now.

_ Sad Sam

Anonymous said...

"...It's the End of Deficit Financing As We Know It..."

C'mon, everyone! Sing along now!

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

If that is what Erin said to you, then it goes against what was said in that interview. Which leads me to believe that Feb 3rd isn't looking so good for employees.

In the article, she said that the bridge financing is what fell apart. If you take that at face value, on Feb 3rd, another bank transfer should take place. However, if she is saying to you that they will "learn if they have continued funding on the 3rd". Well, it aint good cause something deeper is wrong.

I feel for the Imagi people right now. I'd be out looking for a new job if I were you.

BTW, how many animators do they employ (or did they)? By animators, I mean actual animators, not the loose definition of the word the media latches onto.

thanks!

Anonymous said...

BTW, how many animators do they employ (or did they)? By animators, I mean actual animators, not the loose definition of the word the media latches onto.


By animators, do you mean people who animate? Because the staff of Imagi in Sherman Oaks were "actual" members of 839 whose job classifications are story, visdev and directors. But all are artists if by artists you mean people who draw and do art on animated films. Those are the people I know that work there( or did till yesterday). I wonder if in asking the question you're wondering if the L.A. Imagi staff is all "above the line" producers, etc? There were those people too, but Imagi had amassed quite a large staff of really top people in the 839 jobs, since they had several films in production and preproduction here.

These people had deals and I think contracts, didn't they? If an employer can't pay at all suddenly(hypothetically speaking of course) what recourse do members have?

Anonymous said...

I can't tell if you're trying to be funny or not. Or maybe my question just wasn't clear enough.

However, I'm not sure how to be much more clear than I was. "how many animators do they emply? By animators, I mean actual animators...".

Not sure how I can be much more straight forward than that.

It sounds like the answer is zero. However, Kevin suggested that there were animators. Perhaps he was referring to the Chinese production arm.

Kevin Koch said...

Yes, there were character animators, along with layout artists, visdev artists, and so on. I personally know several of the character animators who were working in the Sherman Oaks Imagi facility. I believe the number of character animators was around 8 or 10, but I don't know the exact number.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this dated Wednesday Jan 28 2009 4:59pm PT
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117999218.html?categoryid=1050&cs=1

Erin Corbett says that the bridge finance is in place. Did anyone get a call to go back to work?

Anonymous said...

No one to the best of my knowledge including myself have gotten any call backs regarding this nor about coming back to work.

Anonymous said...

LOL, you guys are being way too optimistic... think about it, if you finially got the limited fund, which team will you spend it on, the expensive US team or the cheap and large HK army?

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