It's been a roller coaster year for animation.
Up at some feature studios. Down at some television animation studios. (And it changes month to month.) Walt Disney Animation Studio, after laying off much of its The Princess and the Frog crew last summer, hired animators, compositors, lighters and others as it ramped up for Rapunzel at the end of 2009. Universal shut its doors. Warner Bros. laid off part of its freshly hired staff when show development had a major hiccup. (Warners plans to rehire artists at the end of this month.)
Today I talked to an animator who's been struggling. He was laid off months ago because he wasn't able to keep up with quotas, and he's now working outside the industry.
That's the story of many animation veterans: the studios are increasingly demanding, and artists need energy and stamina to keep up. And companies are walking back higher salaries. Last week a DreamWorks staffer told me:
"Friends of mine came over from Imageworks after getting cut loose. They like DWA, but they were making three thousand a week at Imageworks, they're making hundreds less here. Sony just wasn't going to keep them at their old rates. Sony doesn't have the work ..."
Sony Imageworks, like other animation studios in Southern California, hires when it needs talent and lays off when it doesn't. With the exception of DreamWorks Animation, the business model now in force across the industry is "project to project." That operating philosophy is reflected in the revised charts below ...
Employment of TAG members at TAG shops, January 2007-January 2010
Employment picked up in the first seven or eight months of 2009 (as we reported back in October), with a majority of the new hires at DreamWorks and ImageMovers Digital; since then it's dipped a bit due in large part to the shutdown of Universal Animation Studios and the temporary layoffs at Warner Bros when Laff Riot was shut down for retooling.
Employment at TAG shops by studio, January 2010
The figures in square brackets are the number of people employed at each shop. The Disney number is inclusive of both Walt Disney Animation Studio, Disney Toons, and Disney Television Animation (aka Disney TVA). It includes people employed both under the TAG contract and the IATSE/TTL agreement -- which TAG represents.
(You will note that a few large studios dominate, with several small studios having narrow slices of the chart. It's been this way since TAG was invented in January, 1952.)