... In Great Britain.
... The [British animation] industry ... is seeing talent lured overseas by lucrative tax breaks. And they complain that work is being outsourced to studios in the Far East. Earlier this month it emerged that a film produced to showcase one-eyed monsters Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the London 2012 Olympics, was produced in China ....
Their new campaign, Save UK Animation, launches in a couple of weeks' time but it is marshalling its forces ahead of the coalition government's emergency budget on 22 June. While in opposition, both parties talked of the need to support the creative industries, and Save UK Animation is compiling a dossier on the economic value of the industry to bolster its case ...
These are the times that try animation artists' souls. Outsourcing. Technological change. Downsizing of employment opportunities.
And (what a surprise!) it seems to happen in a number of countries, not just the U.S. of A.
But the problem with tax subsidies and or breaks (really pretty much the same thing) is they are almost always temporary band-aids that deliver temporary lifts in local employment and then fade away. Take for instance Canada. Our neighbor to the north has had tax subsidies for years, yet Disney animation studios have come and gone and come again. Disney Television Animation opened facilities in Vancouver and Toronto, they last three years and then closed. Now Pixar/Disney has opened a studio in Vancouver, and how long that fun factory stays open is anyone's guess.
One of the problems is that our fine entertainment conglomerates are schizophrenic: they chase talent while they also chase lower costs, and the two are often mutually exclusive. (Skilled talent has a habit of migrating to where the pay is better, which works against lower cost sub-contracting studios that want to keep pay low, the better to low-ball projects from American entertainment conglomerates.)
Then, of course, there's the problem of exchange rates constantly rising and falling. A few years ago, the Canadian looney was at a steep discount to the U.S. dollar; now it's closer to par. Twelve months back the euro was actually a strong international currency, now it's in a swoon. Added to which, tax subsidies get taken away as quickly as they're put on the books when governments are hungry for revenue.
The Los Angeles area animation industry has faced outsourcing for over three decades, yet the L.A. animation business continues to motor along. The reason, I think, is that the gravitational pull of a large and deep talent pool often trumps the ups and downs of cheap currency, cheap labor, and temporary tax breaks. Because after al is said and done, it doesn't do Disney, DreamWorks Animation or Warner Bros. a whole ot of good to make a cheap animated feature that nobody wants to see. The boy and girls who run the studios need the high grosses that quality often provides, otherwise they've got a lot of red ink ... and angry stockholders.