Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Noontime at Circle Seven

I was at the Circle 7 Animation Building -- the once-but-never-again production site of "TS3" -- at lunchtime today. A group of employees, both clerical and animation, were attending a meeting with Employment Development people (EDD) prior to being laid off... Now don't think this is a bitter post from a bitter labor representative (moi) trashing the Big Mouse. Because it isn't. Actually, I think Disney has done a pretty damn good job placing those people who found themselves high and dry when John Lasseter and Ed Catmull cancelled the project. In fact, compared to the brutal treatment that traditional animation staff received at the hands of a previous administration four years ago, what's going on now is gentle and enlightened. A handful of staff down on the first floor related that Ed Catmull had come through the day before and answered questions. They said he didn't come in with a speech, but only to answer questions. Which he did. (Amazing. I've dealt with Disney Administration as a Disney employee or Animation Guild rep since the 1970s. And trust me, this is about as good -- if not better -- than execs have ever been.) I only talked with the downstairs group for a few minutes, then I ran upstairs to the separation meeting. Twenty or twenty-five clerical people and a half-dozen animation guild members were there getting information about unemployment benefits and state training programs from state and county EDD staff. I got up for a couple of minutes and gave a short spiel about Animation Guild medical and pension benefits, also the various training that we offer. After the larger meeting broke up, the animation guild group had a discussion about jobs that were available and what industry trends seemed to be. I explained that, thanks to my background artist father, I've been around the 'toon business my entire life, and the one thing I know about it is that it's always a roller-coaster. When the animation does well commercially, employment is up. And when animation does poorly, employment nose dives. I related how my father survived the Disney Animation bloodletting of 1958 when 80% of the staff was cut loose...and how a lot of those artists ended up at a new studio called Hanna-Barbera the following year. I promised to check the studios I knew about and see what job openings were available, then get back to them. The mood of the meeting was hardly jovial, but few people were overly depressed. Most seem to believe there are other jobs out there; I know that I do. I know I'll assist them every way I know how.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to the big mouse in the way they made the best of a bad situation, and I'm hopeful that the employees cut loose will find jobs elsewhere. Overall, the animation job market seems to be improving with each passing month, so all is not that dark.

I'm still amazed that people went for a project that had very little chance of ever happening. I tried to warn those who would listen, but what else is new?

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