Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Few Words About Salaries

Salaries in animation land.

What a lot of people don't realize is, historically they were never high. Take the 1930s, for example. Entry level positions at Disney started at $15 a week, pretty low even in the midst of a Depression.

Dave Michener, a Disney animator, story artist and director who started at the Mouse House in the mid-fifties, told me he had to keep his night job managing a gas station when he began work as a Disney in-betweener to make ends meet...

My father was once berated by a short-lived Disney employee: Why do you people stay here at such lousy salaries year in and year out?! I don't get it!".

The reason for many was "loyalty to Walt", also the country-club atmosphere of the studio. It certainly wasn't the gargantuan wages. Woolie Reitherman once allowed as how he'd gotten rich from Disney stock-options, not the company's weekly pay-check.

But with weekly pay-rates in mind, let's take a short trip back through animation wage minimums in TAG contracts through the years (and remember, most everybody's weekly salaries were pegged to these collective bargaining agreements, particularly before the go-go '90s):

WEEKLY SALARY - Animator - Background - Layout - Story

1976 -- $351.56

1980 -- $501.48

1985 -- $764.84

1988 -- $848.84

1994 -- $1,043.44

1996 -- $1,107.00

2003 -- $1,341.76

2008 -- $1,489.96

It's difficult to remember, but in 1976 $351.76 was more than enough to live on. Rents were a couple hundred bucks a month; houses could be bought for fifty or sixty grand. Seems like almost another universe.


Anonymous said...

This seems like a perfect time to encourage our ranks to fill out that wage survey that just arrived and share your info. Every time I negotiate a weekly or a freelance board rate I reference this information and wonder why more surveys aren't returned.

For storyboards I'd broaden the survey to include weeks for rotations on staff jobs and turn around times for freelance boards.

We all benefit from this shared knowlege and I again encourage everyone to send it back in.

Anonymous said...

Adjusted for inflation:

1,281.01 1976
1,261.87 1980
1,473.82 1985
1,487.74 1988
1,459.84 1994
1,462.89 1996
1,511.97 2003

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.
I don't know how accurate the "inflation adjusted" wages are, but it looks plausible.

Yes, everyone should definitely fill out the wage survey. What the hell-it's anonymous. I plead guilty to tossing it in the trash on at least one occasion as junk mail but I've filled it out more often than not. It is worth it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I really get the idea of inflation there ?
are we talking about the inflation in the LA area ?

Salaries have been multiplied by 4.x but I don't think a decent house today cost only 240k
It sounds to me that somehow we lost some buying power... isn't it ?

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