Friday, February 20, 2009

Disneyana

The second floor coffee bistro in the Disney Hat Building, Disney knick knacks on display ...

I spent a lengthy morning at Disney Animation Studios. But before I get into that, lookee here:

Bolt Worldwide Grosses

Domestic: $113,643,011

Foreign: $172,601,478

Total: $286,244,489

The delusional among us cling to the fantasy that a $300 million cume is "optimistic" for the White Doggie.

But at this point, it's more like wildly short of the mark, because the pup is going to end up way over my original estimate of $300 mill. (Hell, it's only $6.3 million under where I thought it would end up for the U.S. and Canada ... even after its awful opening against teenage bloodsuckers.) ...

And what's going on at the Mouse House? The big recurring question I get from many of the employees I meet is:

"So ... what's with the 45-hour week?"

My answer is simple. I tell them, "It's a pay cut."

Then we get into the usual back and forth that I've been through with Disney employees before.

I think that some of the unhappy rumbling stems from the top spin that Disney and other companies often put on bad news. It's not like they're denying there's bad news, they're just under-emphasizing it, as in: "Hey, you're working more hours, but you'll still be taking home the same money."

That's sort of like the doctor telling you, "There's some emphysema in your lungs, but your complexion is really nice."

Beyond that, one artist said to me:

"I've always gotten my work done efficiently, always gotten it in on schedule. This mandatory 45-hour workweek seems like punishment to me ..."

Actually, it's a cost-saving item. And of course, there's a lot of cost-savings at Disney (and elsewhere) going on just now.

But it's always better, IMO, for companies to roll out the bad tidings with a straight-forward explanation of why the tidings are bad. People appreciate the candor, even as they hate the news.

Elsewhere in the building, work on The Princess and the Frog continues at a steady clip. I saw a few backgrounds from the picture up ona various computer screens, and they look nice.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does this mean they get an extra 5 hours per week credited to their Pension and IAP plans? Just looking for some silver lining (albeit a very small one).

Anonymous said...

I know I'll get creamed for this, but an extra five hours a week seems a small price to pay to keep the income flowing just now. There are literally millions of people today who would gladly work an extra five hours a week if it meant having a job. Besides, you love what you do, right? What's five extra hours devoted to the craft you love?

Anonymous said...

I think the tricky thing is, how will they decide when the work week goes back to 40 hours? What criteria is there to say, "Okay, the economy is doing better, we're doing better, so thank you and let's get back to a normal work week." And will there be any kind of thank you bonus? (I think we all know the answer to that).

Anon 2: You're right in that everyone working right now should be thankful they have a job. I think many people are. But does that mean a company can do whatever it wants to cut back, all the while reminding workers that they're lucky to still be employed? Where does one draw the line? And just because someone's thankful for still having a job doesn't mean they have to like their decreased pay.

I think the biggest problem is the imbalance of power between the company and the worker. In what possible situation could a bunch of workers come to the company and say, "Times are hard, we're struggling, and we're asking for more money. Why? Well, you're lucky to have US because we're so talented and dedicated to the company."

The closest thing to that is, of course, the guild... but that above situation still seems implausible. Only the corporation could get away with it...

Anonymous said...

A company does what it has to to remain profitable and continue to employ people. The alternative is that it runs out of money and closes down, perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently (see "Imagi"). No one's suggesting the employees have to like it, but if a shutdown occurs, their pay will be cut by roughly 100%, which is far less desirable than a few extra hours a week.

One draws the line when one decides that what the company is doing is no longer acceptable. That point is different for every individual.

Anonymous said...

To the above:

What you say is true--but only halfway.

Companies always plead poverty, regardless of whether the economy is bad or good. No doubt in this time, the economy is truly bad, and this is a bad time to be asking for a raise.

Yet I hear the same story always. It seems there is never a good time to ask for a raise, there is never a good year for merit increases, etc. Companies would have a bit more credibility if they weren't such liars when times are good.

Anonymous said...

A safe bet is that it will never go back to 40 hours.
To keep this in perspective, there hasn't been a 40 hour week at some other studios for years and years. It really is pretty standard now. That doesn't make it any less painful to have a de facto pay cut, however.

Steve Hulett said...

Does this mean they get an extra 5 hours per week credited to their Pension and IAP plans?

Yes, they do.

Every entertainment company -- hell, every company -- is getting hammered economically right now.

I've had conversations with artists at almost every studio, and everyone is feeling the squeeze. And while many grouse about the wage cuts and layoffs, virtually everybody is happy to have a job, and says so.

I didn't emphasize that in the post above, but it's true at the Mouse House, as it true other places. Also, many are uptight at the ongoing financial downturn.

But who isn't?

Anonymous said...

its easier to jerk around animators during these cgi times. far less talent is required now then the hand drawn days. what is the threat of a strike over a pay cut when artists are far more replaceable then ever?

at disney the cgi animators are paid quite a bit more than the 2d artists brought on for princess and the frog.
i find any complaints from them about a 45 hour work week doubly insulting since they have been working steady the last seven years while the more talented 2d folks have been suffering.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again.

Justin said...

I think the reported value of $172 by Box Office Mojo is incorrect. Before last weekend the International gross was $107 million. I seriously doubt that Bolt made $70 million over the weekend. I actually think the number is $127 million as reported in a Box Office Mojo article here: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=2549&p=.htm. That puts Bolt's global gross at $240 million, still a long way to go to $300.

Steve Hulett said...

Justin, you could be right.

Looks to me like Mojo inverted numbers. But I still think White Doggie goes past the $300 million mark.

Anonymous said...

To the 2D vs. 3D poster above, your own post contradicts itself.

If it takes more talent to do 2D, then that talent should be more scarce than a skill which is easily replaceable. If the skill for 2D is more scarce and irreplaceable, it should be more valuable--hence, 2D animators should make MORE than 3D.

But of course, Disney is the only game around for 2D features. So 2D is not terribly valuable. Meanwhile, there are quite a few CG studios, so the competition for 3D folks should make them more valuable and harder to replace.

Anonymous said...

" far less talent is required now then the hand drawn days. "


Thank you, anonymous asshole.


Because, you know, when the economy is going to shit in a shit basket, this is EXACTLY the fucking time we need to resurrect this animator-vs-animator pissing contest.


This is exactly the kind of crap clique tribalism that drove a wedge right though the middle of WDFA. I'm not going back to that shit, not for a second.


Yes, we've got to get the pay to a level of parity. You can say that without trashing fellow artists.

Anonymous said...

...but he is correct. The studios are filled with "computer puppeteers" and not animators.

I don't have a problem with CGI per se, but when the majority of the studios are flooded with them and the short sightedness of hollywood studio execs continues so egregiously in that they think that the public ONLY wants to see CGI animation... what is being set up is the bottom falling out of the industry. Just like it did in the nineties when the epic musical animated movie was the only thing being made.

When the public loses their appetite for CGI animated movies whose main selling point is that they are "a visual feast of realistic computer animation" we're going to have a town filled with unemployed cogs for a big studio machine that doesn't want them anymore. You might think CGI is the greatest thing to hit this town. I'm saying that the verdict isn't in yet. They went overboard with it. People still want to see drawings move.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I see several people are longterm unemployed, and very, very bitter. Perhaps you should've tried harder to learn Maya.

The studios are filled with "computer puppeteers" and not animators.

Funny, the best hand-drawn animators don't feel that way, so you should take that as a sign you're probably wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, anonymous asshole.



wow- such language. looks like somebody got their far less talented feelings hurt.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps you should've tried harder to learn Maya."

Said the photographer to the painter.

Anonymous said...

Said the employed to the obsolete.

Anonymous said...

To those making the "less talented" claim:

Disney currently has a full hand-drawn crew working on a traditional feature right now in their hat building. This crew includes animators, layout, BG, effects, and yes, cleanup, inbetweeners, and assistants.

They picked highly talented folks to fill those spots. But it sounds like the whiner on this board didn't have what it took to make the cut. Maybe this poor person should reassess their own skill level before branding others working in animation as "less talented."

Anonymous said...

...and stop-motion people arent animators either. I think their technical job description is "Plays with Toys" and are paid with cheetos.

Here's my perspective from the years Ive worked in this industry as a feature animator. I typically see traditional animators lack polish skills and animate in a very disorganized manner which causes huge technical problems for the TA's. Whereas CG animators sometimes have less posing ability than traditional animators. But typically, BOTH CAN animate very well.

Also, I'd wager a guess that 75% of all CG animators could earn a living as a traditional animator if necessary (these people CAN draw very well, at least in my experience).

Point is, it all comes down to the individual. Some CG animators are great draftsmen, and some are not. Some traditional animators are good at CG, some suck at it. But the bottom line is: an animator is not defined by whether or not they can DRAW. its whether or not they can ANIMATE. When I animate in CG, I draw every single frame. I just use a computer to do it. But every frame is carefully crafted nonetheless.

I think the reason you see such a higher amount of CG animators these days doesnt have to do with the EASE of animating in CG (please, cmon)...it has to do with the fact that the industry is growing because tickets are still selling. There are 4 major hitters these days instead of 1 (sony, pixar/disney, dreamworks, bluesky). Therefore, more schools offer animation curriculums, and more artists take an interest in it (who would, under different circumstances, might pursue careers in other artistic industries)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe some of you think its takes more talent to animate traditionally then with a computer. That is so insulting to cg animators its ridiculous! I've done both and they are both equally hard in different ways. Some cg guys can't draw very well, but they animate beautifully on the computer. I've also seen a lot of 2d animators that draw very well, but have terrible 3d animation. Honestly I think sometimes 2d animators can hide behind their drawings and disguise the fact that maybe they aren't the best animators. With cg there's nothing to hide behind. You're either good at moving that rig around or your not.

When people say things like this about cg/2d it really just shows an ignorance for what animation is, and how each process works.

Anonymous said...

these anti 2d artist comments from cg guys are disgusting. there is a sick "all is obviously right with the world because i am on top right now attitude" from these people. You'd think that chicken little,meet the robinsons, and bolt were blockbusters by their attitudes. you might still be on the gravy train now, but you might be having to take a flight to india before you know it where non-skilled labor is cheaper than the non-skilled seats that are being expensively filled here.

2d artists built this industry-
show some respect!

Anonymous said...

these anti 2d artist comments from cg guys are disgusting.

Huh? Reread the thread. Things went offrail when someone suggested CG animators were "less talented," disposable, and not "real" animators. That is the kind of rhetoric that is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

but you might be having to take a flight to india before you know it where non-skilled labor is cheaper than the non-skilled seats that are being expensively filled here

(s)He's right. Exactly what happened to 2d. 4d anyone?

Anonymous said...

As an editor who has worked on hand drawn, Flash & CG animated shows I just have to say this:

There are the same amount of retakes for all of them!

You're all animators. You all give life to still images. It doesn't matter what tool you use. There are strengths & weaknesses to each tool used. It's good that you're proud of your work, but get over it!

Anonymous said...

I must say I am really looking forward to Disney's return to 2D. They have the best CG studio already working for them. If they can fire up the traditional engine, it will be a nice compliment to their films.

Anonymous said...

The 45 hour week (40 hours of straight time and 5 hours of "guaranteed overtime") doesn't mean you have to work 45 hours to get full pay. It only means that in an overtime situation, you have to work 45 hours of straight time before you start earning time and a half and I may be wrong but that is only in effect during a 5 day week. If a Saturday is worked you get time and a half regardless. (Is this right, Steve?)

It basically saves the studio a few bucks because they ALWAYS get themselves into an overtime situation but that's usually during the last few months of production.

The thing is, it would seem that the studio can afford to be out "those few bucks" and not suffer that greatly where as being out those few bucks would hit the employee harder.

Anonymous said...

...oh, and what it ultimately is designed to do is reduce your hourly rate which means that, again, in an overtime situation, they actually pay you time and a half based upon that reduced rate. For example: if you make $2000 per week on a "45 hour week", your rate is not $50 per hour, it's actually $44 per hour. So when they pay you overtime, they're actually paying you $66 per hour instead of the $75 per hour like what you would normally get.

At least that's how I've come to know it. Steve, can you verify this?

Anonymous said...

"Thank you anonymous asshole"

What I like about that is you have an anonymous "A-hole" calling another person an "A-hole" for being anonymous. That's awesome.

Plus, all this person did was state their opinion and did so sincerely and honestly without intending malice and look what happened. It caused someone to compromise their dignity by resorting to profanity.

It just goes to show that some people have no self-control when it comes to something that hits them deep.

You know this is a good topic for discussion and it's one for those who can remain dignified. The fact that is placed here is probably wasted and untimely.

With regards to the "ease" of CG animation, as a 2d animator who has done 3d, in my experience, CG is easier. The standards are not as high to get an acceptable performance in CG as they were when I was doing 2d. Cg requires more concentration where as 2d is more labor intensive. The hardest part of working in Cg was dealing with the politics.

You can't deny, those of you who are actively participating in the business that there are politics that weigh heavily on whether or not you have a 2d background or not.

Granted, in 2d we did have our politics but they always seemed to be based on how well you performed at work (drawing skill, acting ability and footage). Today's Cg politics seemed to be based more on how well you behave and whether you have a cool Blog or not or even how tech-savvy you are. Things that really have nothing to do with the work at hand.

The ability to be able to survive in a political climate such as this is a skill in and of itself (Why, they should have a separate union for that!)

Talent is subjective and in these times, the end seems to justify the means. As far as getting heated up over it, for some it's a matter of insecurity and for others it's how secure they are with themselves.

Anonymous said...

...75% of all CG animators could earn a living as a traditional animator if necessary...

75%?!!!

I thought it was 85%! What happened?!

Anonymous said...

"Granted, in 2d we did have our politics but they always seemed to be based on how well you performed at work (drawing skill, acting ability and footage). Today's Cg politics seemed to be based more on how well you behave and whether you have a cool Blog or not or even how tech-savvy you are. Things that really have nothing to do with the work at hand."

Wow, Ive never seen that. Ive worked at 2 of the big shops, and Ive always seen politics (and cliques formed, unfortunately) over how good your shots look, not how "cool" you are. But maybe Ive been fortunate.

Regarding the difficulty factor, I think in CG, the polish pass is hard but blocking is easier. In 2D blocking is hard (and the bulk of the work) and polish is someone elses job. Also, in CG, directors feel like they can change so many things because its in the computer and you can endlessly noodle things to death...when doing the same in 2D is a do-over.

I enjoyed doing both in my career, but Ill re-iterate what others have said...animation is animation regardless of the tool

Kevin Koch said...

From above:

The 45 hour week (40 hours of straight time and 5 hours of "guaranteed overtime") doesn't mean you have to work 45 hours to get full pay. It only means that in an overtime situation, you have to work 45 hours of straight time before you start earning time and a half

This is incorrect. The 45 hour work week means you are working 40 straight-time hours and 5 hours of guaranteed overtime. This is the baseline.

and I may be wrong but that is only in effect during a 5 day week.

This part is correct. You work your 45 hours M-F, and if you need to come in Saturday, those OT hours are on top of the 45.

It basically saves the studio a few bucks because they ALWAYS get themselves into an overtime situation but that's usually during the last few months of production.

More than that, it gets them 5 extra hours of work each week BEFORE that OT situation hits.

...oh, and what it ultimately is designed to do is reduce your hourly rate which means that, again, in an overtime situation, they actually pay you time and a half based upon that reduced rate. For example: if you make $2000 per week on a "45 hour week", your rate is not $50 per hour, it's actually $44 per hour.

Nope. The situation is worse than you've calculated. That $2000/week is now divided by 40 straight-time hours, and 5 OT hours, equivalent to a total of 47.5 straight-time hours. So the hourly rate drops from $50/hour to $42.10/hour. Your additional overtime hours are now worth $63.16.

Anonymous said...

"What I like about that is you have an anonymous "A-hole" calling another person an "A-hole" for being anonymous. That's awesome. "


I notice you didn't post your name either! I called him an asshole for being an asshole, not for being anonymous. You do know that the internet was invented for just exactly that reason... the opportunity to call people assholes anonymously, right? It's what separates us from the chimps.

"Plus, all this person did was state their opinion and did so sincerely and honestly without intending malice and look what happened. It caused someone to compromise their dignity by resorting to profanity."

What I posted, read it carefully, was a repudiation of the us-vs-them 3-D vs 2D rivalry that set artist against artist. That in the past was a terrible, terrible thing within my workplace. It was a call for unity. But all you saw was the dirty word.


And without intending malice? How can anyone say that some of their co-workers and union brothers and sisters have "far less talent" and not intend malice? You'd have to be an utter social misfit to not know that that's a divisive charge.


"Talent" is a stupid notion anyway. Who had more talent, Leonardo or Voltaire? What job requires more talent, brain surgeon or prize-fighter? It's stupid. It's not quantifiable.

There isn't anyone in the building that I'd put myself over. Period. There isn't a person that I couldn't learn from.

Say that I don't have the talent of the worst 2-d guy who ever lived, fine. You're probably right.

But say that about the guy who sits next to me? Sorry, you've got to come through me first. And I'd stick up just the same for any 2d person as well. Because I'm more interested in collaboration than pissing about who's got more "talent". And those pissing contests make that collaboration that much harder.

There's only one way I'm interested in being part of the second century of animation, and that's if it requires each of us as artists to give everything we've got. And share, and teach, and learn and grow. And not live selfishly, and horde our talents. But to be generous in our knowledge and our gifts, and above all to be absolutely extravagant in lavishing our gifts on the eyes of the audience.


What matters is what you make. If I make something that fits the bill, then it's in the film. If not, then I'm out.

That's true of all of us. Screw "talent." If that's a term used to drive artists against each other, it's not a term that remotely interests me.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Site Meter