One of the constants during my time as business representative is newbie artists knocking on the office door wanting to know the best way into the biz, then the best way to advance.
I meet and talk to everybody, because unlike when I was a snot-nosed know-it-all at Disney who actually knew little (but hadn't figured that out yet), now I'm happy to share my great wisdom* with all who ask ...
But the industry is constantly changing (duh), and the paths to glory keep multiplying.
... In recent months, shorts from filmmaking neophytes have seized the imagination of some of the town's biggest names, who see them not just a calling card for new talent, as they previously did, but the basis for hot, multiplex-worthy material.
... Top producers have expressed interest in turning "Alma" — a dark, impeccably executed short with Tim Burton overtones from an in-the-trenches Pixar employee named Rodrigo Blaas — into a big-budget animated feature. Patrick Jean's "Pixels," a playful ode to classic video games, is also attracting attention from industry players who want to turn it into a theatrical film. ...
When I dropped into Walt Disney Productions at the tail end of the "Nine Old Men" era, the animation hierarchy that had been there for decades was breathing its last, and a new generation was stepping up. But if you'd been a young animation or story artist getting hired at the Mouse House in, say, 1954, the best deck chairs would have been occupied and the premium dance cards filled out, with nobody interested in changing the status quo. (Frank Thomas and the rest of the gang were disinclined to give up their positions at the Top of the Heap, no matter how talented newcomers might have been. Nothing new or novel about that. It's the way most human beings operate.)
Studios have a way of constructing glass ceilings after their "start up" years, the employees in supervisory positions defending their territory doggedly, and then it takes a major management change ... or an act of Congress ... for employees further down the ladder to claw their way to the top.
Ruling cliques still sprout up at various animation houses, but (with exceptions) inner circles tend to shift and change a bit more often than they did in older, simpler times. Maybe it's the accelerating sweep of technology, or the instability of executives at the top of the pyramid. Maybe it's the conglomerates' paranoid thirst for fresh faces and ideas and the ability of YouTube to supply them.
Whatever the reason, I doubt that you'll see forty-year runs for animation staffs at a single studio much before the next millenium. Twenty years, maybe, but not forty.
* Hulett's wisdom is surpassed by any number of other folks, but I'm accessible by phone ...