Friday, December 05, 2008

Holy Macaroni

Back when I was a lad working at Disney, the economy outside the Disney gates was really bad. Ten percent unemployment. High interest rates. An unpopular President.

The year was 1982. And from the vantage point of a steady job at 500 S. Buena Vista Street ... and my own general cluelessness ... the bad times seemed far away.

This time, it doesn't.

Job losses [of 533,000] in November were the steepest since December 1974, when 602,000 jobs were shed, and much worse than the consensus on Wall Street for a 340,000 reduction.

In addition, job losses in recent months turned out to be worse than previously reported. October's loss was revised to 320,000, originally given as a 240,000 loss, while September's drop was revised to 403,000 from 284,000.

That meant 199,000 more jobs were lost in September and October than initially thought and the total reduction in U.S. nonfarm payrolls for the last three months was 1.256 million, with almost 2 million jobs shed in the year so far.

In fact, this time, it feels very close to home.

... [E]ntertainment companies to fall victim to the economic crisis include NBC Universal's Spanish-language TV unit, Telemundo, which reduced its workforce 5%. Lionsgate, Hollywood's biggest independent movie and TV studio, last month cut 8% of its workforce. Walt Disney Co., which reported a 13% drop in fiscal fourth-quarter net income, is considering major belt-tightening moves across all divisions, including its Burbank studio, ABC network, cable channels and theme parks.

Analysts believe the cutbacks are far from over: Other media giants, including Time Warner Inc., whose assets include the Warner Bros. movie and TV studio and cable giant HBO, and smaller entertainment outfits are continuing to look for ways to reduce overhead and other costs.

So far, animation employees have been luckier than many.

As of today, we have 2,536 artists, technicians and writers working under TAG jurisdiction. By historical standards, this is a healthy number, but a large segment of our working population has employment guarantees only through the end of their shows' television order, or run of their current feature. Beyond that, it's mostly project to project, and the odds are good the next job will be elsewhere.

Here in 'toonland, our employment levels will depend (as ever) on what kind of cash flows our work product creates. Out in the wider world, it appears that both cash flows and jobs are rapidly disappearing, so perhaps we should be grateful there is still a semi-robust market for animation. God knows how long it will last.


Floyd Norman said...

As an animation old timer I’ve taken this ride before. As bad as things have been in the past, we’ve always managed to muddle through.

Today, things seem particularly bad, and I can’t help but wonder when the next shoe is going to drop -- on us?

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing animated features have done pretty well this year then, regardless of how the economy has gone.

Kung Fu Panda has been a monster worldwide with over $600 million. Wall-E, as bad as people make it sound, still managed to make close to $500 million (should pass it when it opens in Japan). Madagascar 2 will make a healthy profit, Horton Hears a Who made close to $300 million (with only a $85 million budget according to and Bolt seems like it will do decently as well.

Let's hope this continues next year.

Anonymous said...

lets keep hoping for Bolt.

Anonymous said...

The number of employed members is interesting, but may just be a reflection of the current CG boom. A significant part of that number are imported CG specialists. More interesting and more significant would be the number and/or percentage of unemployed union members. With that number, we will really know what's going on. Enough with the rose-colored glasses. Sometimes you sound like hired all these people yourself.

Anonymous said...

How could he determine who is unemployed? Many of them may be working at non-union studios, or moved on to different industries.

He could perhaps tell us how many union members have been laid off in the last year, for example.

Anonymous said...

The bush economic downturn is shameful, and could have/should have been avoided if we'd not had a "president" as at sleep at the wheel as when he was when terrorists attacked America on 9/11. Glad he's gone, but wished he'd be tarred and feathered too.

And I've certainly not heard anything but GREAT things about Wall-e. It's the single best reviewed film of 2008 and hast made a ton of dough--and sold more toys than any recent animated feature except "Cars." In all, a bigger moneymaker than any other film of 2008, as well (theatrical, merchendising, dvds).

Anonymous said...

Assuming what, That a year ago there was 100% employment? Non-union studios also keep track of their full-time employees. It's a simple math example. Only counting lay-offs is useless. It's as phony a statistic as the government's only counting people collecting unemployment insurance. Anyway, an approximate number would still be useful, especially considering the priorities of the incoming administration

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's having a problem with Wall-e being Time's #1 Movie of the Year:,30583,1855948_1863826,00.html

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