Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AT DreamWorks TV Animation

I visited DreamWorks TV Animation, headquartered (as of Monday) high in a Glendale California skyscraper next to the 134 freeway. The studio has a splendid view of the entire San Fernando Valley. ... .

The new studio is nicely decked out: Big circular work areas with modelers and designers working at their flat screen monitors, executives and show runners in offices on the outside walls. Studio top kick Mark Taylor is one former Nick staffer among many. Jeff DeGrandis, longtime producer on Nick's Dora the Explorer, is now a supervising producer at DWTVA. As staffers told me:

"We're going to be doing a bunch of shows with 78 episode orders. Most of them are CG but a few will be hand-drawn. It will take us five years to do the 300 hours of programming that Netflix wants to do. ...

When I walked through, there were only a couple of board artists working, but this makes sense because few scripts have been written. (Management is still choosing show runners.) I expect that having a major new studio in the L.A. mix will help stabilize ... and raise ... salaries for artists. It's already had an impact on wages as various Nick artists have decamped to DreamWorks TV Animation and Nick has boosted salaries to motivate people to stay.

(Shades of the Disney-DreamWorks Animation wrestling match in the middle nineties. This was when Michael Eisner told Disney Feature execs to "do what you have to do to keep people from going to work for Katzenberg.")

My prediction: Wages will edge up as more studios fight over the finite number of skilled, experienced board artists and designers populating Southern California's animation industry. Nickelodeon's ratings have rebounded, and competition has gotten hotter. Disney is adding series, Fox is increasing work, and Nick is producing new series.

And the artists required to create this new work are going to be in high demand. It won't be precisely like the go-go nineties, but unless I have my head stuffed entirely in my large intestine, there will be more tv animation employment in six ... twelve ... or eighteen months than there is now.


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