Monday, May 04, 2009

Riding the Studio Circuit

Anybody who checks in here with regularity knows I overview the studios I visit. Anybody who's checked in here lately knows I've had fewer studio reports than usual.

There's a reason for this. I don't have much new, exciting and/or different news to report. Like everyone is still working on the same projects they were working on a week ... or month ago. And everyone still bends to their Cintiqs like their livelihoods depended on it.

So what I'm doing this time around is thumb-nailing some of the 'toon factories I've ambled in and out of during the recent past, giving you a few schematic, non-comprehensive impressions:

Cartoon Network -- I'm informed that two series from CN's shorts program have now been greenlit for six half-hour episodes each ... and a third greenlight might be in the offing. Chowder is coming to an end, but Flapjack and Adventure Time continue in production; a newer adventure show is in advanced stages of development, over in the skyscraper on Glenoaks.

Disney Animation Studios (aka the hat building) -- the P and F crew is happy to be working; resigned to the reality that there is no permanent tenure. When the picture gets done, the company will likely seem many to the door. "We get that there's no long-term employment. They hire us when they need us."

The Disney Sonora building (home of part of Disney TVA and Disney Toon Studios) -- Disney TVA Sonora is like being in a sparsely populated mining town in Arizona. Once it was busy, but now? Not very much. A few holdouts from My Friends Tigger and Pooh, but as one of the stragglers said to me: "We're gone in a couple of months now ...". And all the cubicles for Mickey's Clubhouse are empty, all the lights switched off.

Upstairs at DisneyToon Studios there's a different story, and a different vibe. Not that it's a beehive of frenetic activity, the atmosphere is a lot more ... I donno ... laid back than that. Maybe it's the potted plants and the soft lighting, the soothing, dark green walls. But as one of the Tink artists related:

"Right now, this place is a little island of stability compared to a lot of the business. We've got our schedules, but we know we're going to be here awhile with the "Tinkerbell" pictures. They're like long-form t.v. episodes, and we know we're going to be doing several in a row ..."

DreamWorks Animation -- Overall, there's better morale at DWA than many of the other studios through which I shamble, but morale is a relative thing. At every studio there is low, medium and high morale, but you can scope out the overall tone of the different places by knowing which group of artists and technicians is the largest. (Is it the happy crowd? The gang of malcontents? It's always shifting ...) DreamWorks is in relatively good shape because the bulk of staff has long-term employment. Sure, there are issues with flat-lined salaries, but longevity counts for something in these perilous times. And it doesn't hurt to have back-to-back hits.

Film Roman -- the crew is finishing up the last season of the Yellow Family and starting the new. The tighter schedules and budgets, previously theoretical, are now starting to weigh on the artists. Whether the new parameters set by upper management will hold is ... still to be determined. (Oh yeah, there are other productions going on at FR, but the main action ... and largest crew ... is The Simpsons.)

Warner Bros. Animation -- much improved, thank you.

Summing up: feature animation staffing is holding up along with box office grosses, though few delude themselves that the situation is permanent (because nothing is.)

T.V. animation staffing is better than it was, but still not great. And no matter what section of the business you're in, the cascade of dollars has long since stopped.


Robert Moon said...

Are there any news to report on pixar?

Anonymous said...

they are non union.

Ed said...

Any news from the Wells building?

hungry said...

Any news on the hotdog vendor at 56th and 3rd ave?


Anonymous said...

Dreamworks has impressed and duly noted, pixar has pretty stable employment as well.

Steve Hulett said...

Any news on the hotdog vendor at 56th and 3rd ave? ...

Sales are up. Ptomaine is down. Thanks for asking.

(But don't trust the grilled onions. They're dreadful.)

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