Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The January Studio Roundabout

Tuesday I pinged around to different Glendal Studios like a steel ball in an old arcade game.

At Disney TVA Sonora, Mickey's Clubhouse is winding down.

We've got a couple more months work on the show. We're doing a bunch of new two-minute shorts, and a pair of long DVDs, and then boom. We're over. The studio has all the episodes it wants, and in April most everybody will be looking for other work.

But the consensus seems to be the schedule for Clubhouse has been sane. One board artist said: "I haven't been stressed and crowded on this show. Lots different than other projects I've worked on ..."

And artists wonder aloud what projects are going to get greenlighted next. "What kinds of shows will Disney XD be doing? Nobody knows ..."

At DreamWorks Animation, crews are well along with the latest features (MvA, S4, HttyD) and told me about Jeffrey K's recent meeting with the staff:

Jeffrey had everybody in the commissary, telling them us that we've had a really good 2008 but that 2009 could be tough.

We only have one movie coming out this year [Monsters vs. Aliens], not our usual two. And in oh-ten there's three. Plus nobody knows what the economy's going to be doing, but probably it's nothing good. Jeffrey says the money is flying out of the studio and we've got to hold costs down. He talked for a long time, and then there was a Q & A. I like it that he lets us know what's going on ...

As I understand from staff, salary increases are probably going to be minimal over the next couple of years, but the company is working to avoid major layoffs.

Over on Sonora, Disney Toons still labors on the Tink franchise. Tink One is available at your favorite DVD retailer, Tink Too is in full-bore production ... and Tink Three?

John Lasseter saw our last story pass and decided to make changes, big changes. So things have been shaken up on the picture. We've got some new people working on it now, and we're waiting for the revised script before we start boarding again.

But the changes mean more work for everyone, and that's a good thing ...

Then, of course, there is Tinkerbell 4 still to come. CEO Robert Iger is a believer in franchises.

That, in a nutshell, was a large portion of my yesterday. Lots of walking involved, but it was informative.

11 comments:

Max said...

First Disney Feature introduces 45-hour weeks (at the same 40-hr payrate) to hold down costs, and now Dreamworks is moving to hold down salaries.

I can understand Disney's problems--Bolt cost a fortune, and didn't do great at the boxoffice. But Dreamworks had a gangbuster year with both Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar 2. If that's not enough to allow for reasonable increases in employee pay, what the hell is??!

The reports are also that Sony is no longer the "high-paying" studio it once was. And Pixar has always been not particularly generous with pay.

There have been mentions of a particular study all the major animation studios in the country have participated in, wherein they share with each other, in minute detail, what they are paying their employees. This, to me, smacks of borderline collusion, as it is clear there is a concerted, anti-competitive, united effort in bring down the wages of animation employees.

With all the massive success these various companies (Pixar, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, etc.) have been enjoying lately, we see wages going down! It defies normal market economics, and whenever that happens, there is usually some corruption going on.

simpleton said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSZZGD3VppY

1998 lecture, still relevant today!

rufus.

Anonymous said...

Any word on "How to Train Your Dragon" is doing? I heard Chris Sanders did a huge retooling of the script, which caused a bit of a panic at the studio. A bit ironic, methinks. Im very curious to see how it turns out.

Bob Parr said...

From what I've heard, Blue Sky's wages have been going up (to try and keep people from going to the competition)

Max said...

From what I've heard, Blue Sky's wages have been going up (to try and keep people from going to the competition)

If true, that would at least be a glimmer of good news. The point of the aforementioned studio study was for the studios to ensure that they all were paying essentially the same rates. And if they all basically agreed to slowly reduce them over the next few years...?

Paranoid? Maybe. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Dragon": No panic. New director does retool, which is why they brought on a new director.No irony there at all, just what was required and expected. Hear only good things about it, which is a relief.

Sorry there's not some meltdown drama to report, but there's not.

Anonymous said...

I can understand Disney's problems--Bolt cost a fortune, and didn't do great at the boxoffice. But Dreamworks had a gangbuster year with both Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar 2. If that's not enough to allow for reasonable increases in employee pay, what the hell is??!

"Reasonable [pay] increases"?! These are not people who are paid rock bottom to begin with.
I never thought I'd argue for management but this is ridiculous.

Have you read the news lately? There's been a kind of horrific financial situation going on. As a matter of fact, it still is. Unemplyment is at its highest in 14 years and California's ecomony is near meltdown.

Dreamworks has had a great year. As a result, the GOOD news is that they are going to avoid layoffs and pay cuts(which other places have not managed to avoid). How is that strange? They can't carry a studio with 1000 people (an independent studio by the way) with last year's profits forever. Everything has to always be projected into the future, and every projection is that 2009-10 is going to REALLY HARD for all americans and in fact the entire planet. It's likely many fewer people will do repeat business at movies, or buy as many DVDs.
It's a bleak time, but they're still committed to the business and to keeping as much of the staff as they can put to work.
Don't bite the hand that's trying to manage it as best they can.

nobody said...

Of course big businness is going to use the current finacial crisis as an excuse to further cut wages, in the meantime, ceo's and executives will still enjoy stratostpheric bonuses and salaries...not just in this industry.

Max said...

Hmmm...seems to me Dreamworks has just had the most successful year in its history. And regardless of the economy, with the Shrek franchise, they might just as well print the money themselves.

But oh! Look over there! Bad economy elsewhere! Well, sorry folks, no raises for you.

Anonymous said...

You guys are just monumentally puerile.

Max said...

I'm sorry this upset you, Jeffrey.

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