Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

What better way to depart the year '14 than reviewing what happened over the last twelve months ... as we watch an animator in action? ...

A lot of creative (and employment) ferment went on inside the animation industry during the year.

The L.A. cartoon business hit an all-time high in employment
. The Animation Guild had 3400 artists, writers and technicians working under its jurisdiction. Feature employment was up and down (Disney hired more people as Frozen rocketed into the stratosphere, while DreamWorks Animation continued laying off artists as some of its features under-performed)*. TV animation was percolating merrily with lots of new and continuing series.

Yet while cartoon work was up overall, wages were remarkably stagnant. (This is in sharp contrast to the 1990s, when wages marched upward in lock-step with rising employment. Hmmm. It couldn't be that there's some kind of collusion going on or something?) Our corporate overlords are nothing if not honest, upright, and law-abiding. So banish thoughts of conspiracy from your suspicious mind.

Inside the Guild, President Nathan Loofbourrow departed (due to a new job in Montreal) and TAG started upgrading its website. We successfully organized some of L.A.'s non-union animation work and continued campaigns to organize other shows. We started planning for 2015 contract negotiations.

Globally, lots of animation was happening. In Japan (to cite but one example) the animation industry rose to new heights:

... [T]he market for domestic and foreign animation in Japan reached 242.8 billion yen (about US$2.03 billion) over the course of the year 2013. According to the Media Development Research Institute, this is a record high for the industry, topping 2006's 241.5 billion yen (about US$2.02 billion at current exchange rate).

The market increased for the second year in a row, up by 4.2% from 2012. ...

There were over 100 features produced in the far-flung corners of the globe, and animation continues to be a strong profit center around the world. California passed its own movie and visual effects wage subsidies, the better to compete with the hand-outs of Free Money taking place in Canada, Britain, France and other places.

It's hard to predict what 2015 will bring, but maybe we can forecast that:

1) Television animation will continue to prosper.

2) Animated features will go on getting made in large numbers (because many make money), and

3) Employment will remain robust, even as studios strive to pay as little as possible.

Lastly. We wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year. If your 2014 was rocky, we hope you enjoy nothing but smooth sailing in 2015. And if the year now departing was great, we want the new one to be even better.


* DreamWorks Animation is a study in contrasts. The feature division laid off hundreds of employees after "Rise of the Guardians" failed to turn a profit, and laid off more feature employees in the second half of 2014. At the same time, DreamWorks Animation TV continues to expand and hire personnel as it increases production on its huge Netflix slate of shows.


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