Saturday, April 23, 2011

Studio Roundabouts

I've kept up my normal pace of studio visits over the past few weeks. Last week was DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Film Roman. In a moment of idiocy I started to drive to Fox Animation Wilshire the day the President was on the west side of town, but reversed field quickly when I encountered heavy traffic in Hollywood. (Stupid is as stupid does. I should have known better.)

Here's a broad-brush look at a few of our signator studios ...

At Walt Disney Animation Studios the morale is better, but then, the people with bad outlooks were cut loose a while back so it's not surprising. There are several projects in development, and directors will be pitching new movie ideas to Mr. Lasseter when he comes down from Emeryville.

A staffer informed me that my speculation about Reboot Ralph going into production earlier because its release got moved up was wrong. I was told that Reboot's production schedule and production start dates (with attendant hiring) are pretty much the same as before.

At Warner Bros. Animation, staffing is steady and creeping up, and the optimism of studio employees isn't bad. As one said to me the end of last week:

"I've been here now almost a year, and I'm happy with Warners. I think my project will go on for awhile, so I'm okay with the direction we're going. It's good to be working ..."

DreamWorks Animation is pretty much status quo: Many ongoing projects, although people have been moved around to accommodate some schedule changes. No big layoffs and morale continues strong.

Film Roman works on The Simpsons, Beavis and butthead, Dan Vs. ... and Spider Man (for Disney/Marvel). Staffers voice some frustration over tighter budgets on Yellow Family episodes, but Fox has to make up thos big paydays for its above-the-line crew somewhere. (Sarcasm showing.)

Bento Box continues work on Bob's Burgers and multiple episodes of new series Allen Gregory.

As I told an IA person several days ago, it appears that union animation production is on a steady ... and even gently rising ... course. Certainly it's doing gangbusters commercially, so that's a good sign. Whether hiring in Southern California accelerates, we'll just have to wait and see.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that a company as big as Disney is getting outproduced by a teensy one like Dreamworks. What was it at last count again? 24 movies in production by Dreamworks, while Disney's still awaiting the final word from Overlord Lasseter to see if they could possibly get another one into the pipeline after Reboot Ralph?

Anonymous said...

Ahhh yes, but the midget jeff kaztemburg will greenlight ANYthing.

Anonymous said...

You really don't want to start using physical characteristics to describe these guys do you...especially the way John looks these days...?

Don't be a douche bag.

Anonymous said...

He's certainly got better taste than the midget, and people respect him more. And NOT just to his face.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear John likes everything he tastes.

Time to move on Pixie. Find a fan-site where masturbation isn't frowned on

Steve Hulett said...

Oh my.

Anonymous said...

King of the Elves is after Reboot. Fact.

Floyd Norman said...

If I didn't know better I'd think Disney was being run by that character from the old "Amos and Andy" show named, "Lightning."

He moved and talked really sloooooow.

Anonymous said...

If I didnt know better, I'd think Floyd is an armchair quarterback who talks like he knows everything, yet hasnt stepped foot in Disney Animation for years. And if put to task, couldnt come up with a selling idea if his life depended on it, much less animate it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Annon 10:34!

With your analogy/insult, a guy who played twenty years for the NY Mets couldn’t have a valid opinion about the state of the team, because he never managed them?! Foolish and embarassing comment.

Anonymous said...

Ditto @ 10:34,

What the hell was that?

Anonymous said...

Backbiting and insults. Another classic Animation Guild Blog Post comment section.

Anonymous said...

No, its the human condition. Its the classic "I know better than you, sonny" attitude that Floyd constantly flaunts around the internet with.

Times have changed, and what worked back on The Jungle Book doesnt work anymore. It's a harsh criticism, but I tend to agree with it.

Point being, employees of Walt Disney Animation Studio read this blog and see constant criticism from Floyd about the studio they pour their hearts into everyday. Have we ever met the guy? Seen him? Does he even know what happens in this building? Does he know the awesome lineup of films this group has been slaving over since Tangled?

Does he even care what we think when we read that he thinks we're nothing but a bunch of slow-talking idiots? No. He just blabs away, ignorantly.

So I guess it's not so cut and dry who the foolish and embarrassing comments come from.

Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to say that Floyd’s comment about the Sloooooow pace of Disney's animation slate is valid. It's valid when you compare it to DreamWorks, where they have a FULL TIME, hands on, head of the studio…as opposed to a part time, boss. As great as JL may be, he is not even close to being full time. I wish he were.

Anonymous said...

This entire thread is pretty damn embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Disney is a corporation, not a church.(Especially since Walt died 45 years ago). Stop worshiping. Shame on you for getting on Floyd's case. At the end of your career you'll wish that you had accomplished all that he has. I would pay attention to every word he says. I'm getting fed up with arrogant young assholes who think that ten years ago was ancient history. Treat people with the respect you would expect at that age and get that chip off your shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Disney is also the artists who work there. So when people lambaste Disney and throw all sorts of generalizations and rude comments around about Disney, human beings hear it and take it personally. This has nothing to do with worshiping Disney.

And I've done plenty in my career to be satisfied, thanks. And its funny on one hand you say "dont worship" and yet, on the other, we should hang on every word Floyd says? I dont think so. I'm sure he has wisdom to share, but all I see and hear is a grumpy old man acting like a know it all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insults. I didn't say "worship" Floyd, I said respect him. Why, because he's earned it.

When people criticize Disney, (or any studio, for that matter), it's understood that they are criticizing management, not our colleagues. If they are criticizing the work or film, the criticism is usually very clear and specific. You flame all over Floyd for making a wisecrack and I'M grumpy? Your hypersensitivity is way over the top.

Anonymous said...

I wish I was still in my 20's - back then I knew everything...

Anonymous said...

A) I didnt insult you. Where is the insult?

B)"When people criticize Disney it's understood that they are criticizing management" Is it?

C)I'm not responding to this comment alone. Years of comments and blog posts etc etc. Its the proverbial straw, if you will. Unfair, I know.

D) I dont claim to know everything, but I call bullshit when I see it. You dont have to be "30 or over" to know that.

Anonymous said...

Does he even care what we think when we read that he thinks we're nothing but a bunch of slow-talking idiots? No. He just blabs away, ignorantly.

Read what Floyd wrote without the bias in your eyes. He did not, and never has, criticized the rank and file animators and artists at Disney. His comment was about Disney management, and their lack of decisiveness and urgency, not the creatives who are just following orders as best they can.

It seems like all you want is knee-jerk boosterism. I know that's what the current management at Disney expects, but that's hardly part of a healthy corporate environment. Be proud of the work you do, and let management answer the criticism of their inadequacies for themselves.

Steve Hulett said...

It seems like all you want is knee-jerk boosterism. I know that's what the current management at Disney expects, but that's hardly part of a healthy corporate environment.

Funny, I talked to a Disney supe a while back, and he talked about how the projects are better and more exciting, that people are more hopeful, that things are really turning around. HAVE turned around.

And I agreed with him, to an extent. But I kept pointing out "The company keeps laying production staff off, and there's nothing in the production pipeline."

And finally, after a bit of arguing, he admitted that yeah, there's not much in the production pipeline and a lot of people have been laid off. And I said that if that's the business model, then that's the business model. But I keep hearing managers say that it's not, that they want to retain staff and make the division "employee friendly."

My only point to the supervisor was, if the company is doing X then it should say it's doing X. Better that than doing X and yet keep saying (year after year) that it really wants and plans to do Y.

moses said...

I had hoped Lasseter would treat artists better. But artists keep getting the pink slip while managers get to stay at Disney. Someday it's gonna be nothing but managers at disney, like cockroaches after the armageddon.

Anonymous said...

His comment was about Disney management

Which is also artists.

I know my whole reaction/conversation might seem extreme to the new readers of this board, but Floyd has been bad-mouthing Disney for years, and it gets old. Especially when there's great signs of improvement (after a treacherous amount of years) yet Floyd is silent about that.

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrassed and ashamed to be member of this union and the blog it manages.

Anonymous said...

And yet you posted.

"Look ma, I'm embarrassed!" Go wallow in shame somewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Which is also artists."

No it's not. You're like a kid in a schoolyard. You think that if you keep repeating yourself, you don't have to explain. Exactly how are artists management? Explain, if you can.

Floyd's opinions of Disney are based on personal experience, from the inside. He worked for the actual Walt Disney, the man. I would say he knows what he is talking about.

Who are you, that you are taking this all so personally? Are you a family member? Are you a troll, saying things just to provoke? Why is no one else disturbed by Floyd's comments?

Anonymous said...

Artist management= supervisors, department-heads, and studio leadership from every discipline, including modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, story, and directors. Are you really so naive to think that only producers or some suit make all the decisions? People in those roles can make real, impacting change. And if you worked there, you might notice that they have.

Floyd is, sadly, one of the only public voices of Disney Animation. (I seem to remember when he drew those caricatures about the Rapunzel name change, it made big press). And unfortunately, he is woefully under-informed about the goings-on at the hat building. And it just so happens he was wrong about the name change

Lots of people are annoyed with Floyd, within the industry, and on this blog. Just ask him about it. He's stuck his foot in his mouth a bunch of times. I just happened to strike a nerve here and am being singled out.

And Im happy Floyd worked with "the man." But that doesnt mean his is the only opinion. I used to work at Disney too, and still have dozens of friends there. I guess I feel the need to defend it because they are working so hard to make it an awesome place again.

But I guess the "hate Disney" bandwagon is too easy a ride.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase T.E. Lawrence, "So long as the animators fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are"

Anonymous said...

People laugh at Dreamworks now. 24 projects "in production" with the plan to put out 5 animated films a year???

Remember when Disney, in the Silver Age, wanted to put out a 2D animated film every year? And how the quality started dropping after awhile, and finally it lost its mojo?

Dreamworks seems to have a plan to oversaturate the market with sub-par 3D films, such as that dopey snail movie (a snail wants to be the fastest snail in the world! Oh yeah, I totally identify) and thus bring on audience fatigue that much faster. I smell a crash and burn coming...

As for Disney, it's even more absurd. Rebooting ancient, lackluster franchises like the Muppets isn't enough, it keeps scraping around in its own crypt trying to resurrect stuff like Pooh and Tron. I mean, what the hell? Is the management up there THAT fearful? Why isn't it greenlighting something with potential, like the Snow Queen movie or a film based on Epic Mickey, which had one of the best stories Disney's ever produced?

Feh on BOTH those studios. The only animated film I'm looking forward to with any anticipation is the sequel to Despicable Me. And that's sad, just sad.

Anonymous said...

WDAS didnt make Tron or Muppets.

And last I heard Snow Queen was still being made?

Anonymous said...

I know my whole reaction/conversation might seem extreme to the new readers of this board, but Floyd has been bad-mouthing Disney for years, and it gets old.

Floyd was one of the ONLY people who called out Eisner, Stainton, and others, and he's been clear that he thinks Disney isn't living up to its legacy and its potential. He has been relentless in calling out what he sees as fecklessness and incompetence in Disney management. He's also been effusive in praising Tangled and the Disney artist's work on that film. Your efforts to conflate his critique of the top-level administrative management with the rank-and-file artistic management is way off the mark.

Recently Floyd was criticizing Disney management about the lack of a development slate. You answer with "artist management= supervisors, department-heads, and studio leadership from every discipline, including modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, story, and directors. Are you really so naive as to think that only producers or some suit make all the decisions? "

What are you trying to pass off? He's not talking about artist/managers. He's talking about the people who decide what projects go into development, what artist/managers and directors get assigned to those projects, and what gets pushed into development. Not even directors make those decisions, and you know it. There are only a few people who make those calls, and it ain't lighting supervisors and animation leads, either.

Is that really so hard to understand? Floyd was complaining about the people at the top, who have either been disengaged from really running Disney, or who have been too afraid of repeating mistakes of their predecessors. It's great that it might, finally, be changing for the better, but so far there's no real evidence of that in terms of Disney production.

As someone who has watched this from the sidelines, your pronouncements that "No one knows what they're talking about, it's all fantastic here and has wildly improved in the last few months" is something I have heard from Disney insiders again and again. It's deja vu all over again. I hope this time you're correct, but pardon me if I wait to see some real hiring, real retention, and a real slate of animated features coming from Disney.

Anonymous said...

Fine. But it doesnt come off that way. Especially to the public and potential hires. He makes Disney sound like a horrible place to work.

And read up, I never said it is fantastic there. I said its getting better.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I dont work there anymore. And I left for my own reasons (not work related)

Anonymous said...

Your wife and kids got tired of seeing you come home with "brown" on your nose every night?

Anonymous said...

Especially to the public and potential hires.

The public is going to judge Disney by the product it turns out, and for those in the public who look closely at these things, I'd be much more worried about what gets written in the business press about excessive executive compensation than the vanishingly small public readership of this blog.

And potential hires should be insider enough to be getting their info from more sources than the comments section of the TAG blog. If they aren't, well, is it really possible that Floyd Norman is responsible for fewer talented people submitting their reels and portfolios? Somehow I find that a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Very original. Tell us the one about you walking to school, uphill, both ways.

Anonymous said...

is it really possible that Floyd Norman is responsible for fewer talented people submitting their reels and portfolios? Somehow I find that a stretch.

Its just adding fuel to the fire. I guess I'm a fool for expecting better.

I can tell my opinion is unpopular, and thats fine, I'm a big boy. I can handle it. But honestly, not the only person who gets tired of listening to grumpy old men complain about the way things are and look to the past with rose colored glasses. There's a different breed of mentors I work with now who are positive, and embracing of new technologies and talent.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a fool for expecting better.

I think that's pretty much what Floyd's been saying, too.

Anonymous said...

Disney will get better, it has too. Too many years in a slump and lots of great artists still there are doing their best to try and bring the place back.

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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