Saturday, January 24, 2015

At DreamWorks Animation

Friday afternoon I was at DreamWorks Animation to answer questions. ....

I was mostly in the Lakeside building on different floors. There were groups of subdued artists talking quietly. Most everyone I encountered was waiting to hear whether they would be kept on. Demeanors were subdued, but attitudes were remarkably good. (Maybe it's simply stressed people showing a stiff upper lip, but I was impressed.)

The studio started talking to individuals who were getting laid off a week and a half ago. (At least, that's when the Guild started hearing about it.) The studio officially told us they were talking to people one-on-one after the press release was issued. From walking around, it was evident that a lot of people haven't yet gotten information about their status.

Management has told me they'd started interviews with employees the past week, and that those interviews will go through the middle of next week, at which time all employees should know if they're leaving or staying. The Animation Guild will be getting pension and health coverage information out to DWA employees the start of the week, and everyone in TAG's office will be fielding questions that come their way from DWA employees. We've already gotten quite a few.

And I've gotten asked about PDI, but the guild and IA have no contractual relationship with the Redwood City Studio so I don't know a lot of the particulars about the facility. I do know that as recently as five or six weeks ago, we were processing letters for immigration petitions for artists that PDI/DreamWorks desired to employ there.

So when was the decision made to close PDI's doors? Somebody with a lot more knowledge than I have will have to clue you to that.

I've been through a lot of hiring sprees and mass layoffs in the time I've been associated with the animation business, and the hiring sprees are one hell of a lot nicer. My father survived a big layoff at Disney in the late 1950s, my wife survived two in the early 2000s but not a third. I was was tossed out on the street in front of Filmation in 1989 along with 150 other artists, writers and executives because the new owner closed the company's doors the day after purchase was finalized.

The animation business is a roller coaster, and always has been. Market forces push it up, then pull it down. In recent times, tax subsidies foreign and domestic have distorted it into ugly shapes. Still in all, making cartoon entertainment is an exhilarating business.

I just wish it wasn't so damn heartbreaking at the same time.


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