Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Animation Biz Over the Next Eight Months ...

... which of course is a prediction based on facts currently known (and projected forward) ... my astounding powers of deduction and logic ... and my Aunt Alice's crystal ball ...

As I write, many smaller, mostly non-union animation studios are not exactly going full throttle. Over the past two months, various animation artists have called to say: "Man. Things are sloow out there! What's happening?! I'm usually picking up a lot of freelance, but man. There's no-thing."

Now. I'm not totally sure why this is, except that a lot of studios that usually subcontract from the majors aren't getting the usual number of jobs. One of the big studios, to cite but one example, had a CG feature being done by a sub-contrator here in town, but that show has now been pulled back for reworking and the crew has been laid off until further notice.


Why that part of the biz has been as slow as it's been I have no idea, since it's not my area of expertise. Maybe some 'toon markets are over-saturated. Maybe some co-production financing has dried up. Maybe suppliers expect to get rolling after the first of the year. I'll be an optimist here and say that all things equal, there should be a reversion to the mean after the holidays and business should pick up. But the honest answer is, I don't know.

Where signator studios are concerned I've got more solid information, so here it is.

Sony Pictures Animation is hanging onto staff as it retools some of the shows it has in the pipeline and decides where it wants to go as a production studio (the trades have reported that half of Sony Pictures Animation/Sony Pictures Imageworks is -- or soon will be -- up for sale.)

Warner Bros. Animation is as slow as I've seen it. Some of the administrative staff that's been there a long time has received pink slips, and I'm told there is one DVD feature in the pipeline with another possible.

DreamWorks Animation is cruising right along, hiring some development people, working to complete Kung Fu Panda, putting new projects into development.

Fox Animation and Starz Media are soon to shut down their four major Fox series because of the writers' strike. Artistic staff has not yet been laid off on any of them; some shows will keep crews busy into early next year ... but others not. A sizable number of people will be unemployed when all the shows shut down, and there's no way of knowing how long the enforced hiatuses will be.

Disney Toons continues work on the Tinkerbell direct-to-video features, with another couple of projects going into work. The crews on these features aren't large, but the work is steady.

Disney Television Animation has a half-dozen series. Late last week a staffer on Tigger and Pooh told me that he'd be working until next summer, and was delighted with that. ("Longer stretches of work are not a problem, believe me.").

Disney TVA is run by the Disney Channel -- which is currently red-hot because of its slew of live-action series. Trouble is, live-action production will come to a screeching halt as live-action scripts run out. Which causes me to speculate whether more animation projects will be put into work to fill the gap. (Speculation is a fine thing. Doesn't mean schnay, but it's a fine thing.)

Disney Animation Studios will be hiring crew to work on The Princess and the Frog sometime in the first half of next year. Bolt -- due for release at holiday time in '08 --has a lot of footage to polish to a high, digitized sheen, so I'm guessing it hires more people next year as well.

Universal Cartoon Studios has shuttered the long-running Land Before Time and continues with the popular Curious George, delighting the tots on PBS.

Summing up, more staffing at congloms like Disney, layoffs of indeterminate lengths on the Fox shows, and hopefully a pickup at smaller studios and sub-contractors as 2008 rolls forward.

The caveats here: Nobody knows how long the writers will stay out (and that affects animation at two studios), and nobody knows if SAG hits the bricks next summer.


Addendum: And what's happening at Nick and Cartoon Network? (Since somebody asked.)

Cartoon Network is slow right now, but as a manager told me mere minutes ago: "We had some live action slotted for next season, but if the writers are out a long time, who knows? Maybe animation will go in there ..."

Right now CN has a partial second season order for its successfully-launched Chowder, it's wrapping up the Class of 3000 Christmas special, and Flap Jack, Ben 10 and Foster march onward. Outside of that, the pantry is somewhat bare ...

At Nick? The place has seven series* in various stages of work, a couple of new pilots, and Avatar might come back after some retooling ...

There now. I've overcome my earlier brain fart and covered most of the bigger studios.

* Mighty Bee, Fairly Odd Parents, TAC, El Tigre, Penguins, Mi Hao Kai Lan, Sponge Bob.

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Anonymous said...

what about Nickelodeon?

Anonymous said...

What about Cartoon Network?

Steve Hulett said...

See the Addendum.

Unknown said...

el Tigre got cancelled last week, didn't it?

Steve Hulett said...

el Tigre got cancelled last week? ...

Checked. Yep, it's cancelled and now wrapping up.

C.M.B. said...

What about Rough Draft Studios? They've been working on the Futurama direct-to-video movies which, if I remember, are all WGA. The third movie, Bender's Game, was being written by Patric Verrone, and he was also serving as co-executive producer for the whole series.

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