Thursday, August 06, 2009

Disney Animation Studio Departures

I walked through the Disney hat building beside the big freeway in Burbank for the first time since my Florida adventure, dodging lightning bolts.

The layout crew for The Princess and the Frog has now almost entirely departed, and their old space is now occupied by digital ink-and-paint employees ...

Upstairs, the P and F animators now work on other projects (again, this is mostly: there are still a few bits and pieces being polished.) I walked through the cleanup crew's area and all the desks were empty and the personnel gone -- my first reaction was: Bummer that the jobs are over. Wish I could have seen everybody one more time. A staffer down the way told me:

"Cleanup artists last day was Friday. Everybody packed up and moved out, now there are now just a few people scattered around working on shorts ..."

In contrast to the 1990s, when shows overlapped and staff was retained year-round, today the end of production means the end of employment.

(The studio actually had a modified version of this business model in the 1960s and 1970s, when core staff stayed on payroll and assistants, breakdown and inbetweeners received pink slips at the conclusion of work for whatever feature was going on at the time ...)

With luck, The Princess and the Frog will be a rousing success and more hand-drawn features will get made.


Anonymous said...

You know, I don't see how you can achieve a consistent quality in animation if you don't have a core crew that's always on the premises. This business of letting animators go and then rehiring them is just plain nuts. I guess the days of the Nine Old Men really are over.


Justin said...

Bob Iger has nothing to do with this. If anything you should blame Michael Eisner. The reason that there is no show for artists to roll onto is because nothing is ready in story yet.

The story development process has undergone a complete overhaul from the old Eisner regime to the new Catmull/Lasseter regime. It takes a while to identify capable directors and let them develop their ideas into a story that is worth making. Hopefully in a couple of years there will be enough stories ready for production that there will no longer be a need to let artists go.

Anonymous said...

Greenlight "Fraidy Cat".

Anonymous said...

One of the saddest things is HOW they let people go... they were told at the beginning of the process that there would be performance reviews and they would be judged at the end of the film based on PERFORMANCE. Yeah right-- there were no performance reviews until the very end when they were trying to decide who to keep. And in the animation department chances are if you were not a lead, apprentice or rough inbetweener you were going to be let go. Leaving obviously, the large majority of the animators being let go. And a very talented group at that. It had NOTHING to do with performance, which I find sad and disappointing.

Anonymous said...

animation crews are, and have become very much like live action crews, the only difference is an animation gig lasts longer.

Anonymous said... many of the 2D people are left? I mean, cmon they didnt let Goldberg, Deja, T Dan and the likes go, did they?

Anonymous said...

T Dan, was let go. This shows you the level of idiocy that they were dealing with-- not sure on the number, but it was a lot. But as stated above, it was mainly journeyman animators. And worse yet, entire crews have been or will be desolated at the completion of the film. So, I suppose the animation dept. got lucky in some ways (with the most people being kept from that department), but certainly not in the way they decided on who to keep.

Anonymous said...

T. Dan let go...but they've kept many of the trainiees who made good? Is that correct?

I'm happy for the new people-they got a dream job, worked their asses off and most of all did great work.

But have no delusions about exactly WHY relative newcomers are kept on now while veterans with established union pay rates are let go without another thought.

Steve, what do the recent school grads/trainees-people working under 3 years in the business-paid versus what a veteran animator or assistant makes?

And btw it's not the fault of the directors or other production staff for this but the want-to-please administration of that department.

Anonymous said...

Who is T Dan?

Tim said...

T. Dan is:

Anonymous said...

I believe Deja was put on hiatus as well (think of it as an extended vacation). Thankfully, Glen is still there directing animation!

Anonymous said...

yes, this was NOT a production (Producers) or creative (the directors) decision. This came from above them-- whoever that is. And no, not John and Ed.

Anonymous said...

T-Dan is quite the animation force!
I feel silly I didn't know who he was!
Tahnks for the info!

Anonymous said...

Re: layoffs

You gotta be effing kidding me. I was the one asking about T Dan.

What a shame. Surely there's something John and Ed can do about this type of aggressive layoffs, but probably not. If the shot-callers are skeptical about 2D films, then I guess they arent willing to part with the salaries to keep animators around waiting.

I never understood that, because if there's nothing for them to work on, tell them to get together for 6 months and make a short of whatever the hell they want! You never know what golden nugget they'll come up with that'll be a huge hit and bankroll Disney for the next 10 years. At least, thats what I would do. Invest in creative talent

Fuck man. Good luck T Dan and all the other poor souls who got handed pink slips.

Fun With Mr. Future said...

"tell them to get together for 6 months and make a short "

Good idea. Anyone remember Eric Goldberg's "Rhapsody in Blue" project ? That was a great "downtime" project that kept a lot of the crew busy while waiting to roll on to another feature.

Anonymous said...

there are a lot of great animators in many studios that are hired on for the project. lets just hope the film is a success and we can all get hired on for another project so we can make it more constant again.

Anonymous said...

Eric Goldberg's "Rhapsody in Blue" project ? That was a great "downtime" project that kept a lot of the crew busy while waiting to roll on to another feature.

Didn't make any money. Lasseter & Catmull don't care about talent unless they've chosen it.

Fun With Mr. Future said...

[Rhapsody in Blue] "Didn't make any money. Lasseter & Catmull don't care about talent unless they've chosen it."


Do the shorts made at Pixar "make money" ? Have any short films since the 1950's really made any money ? That's not the point.

A short can be used to test new processes and hone the artistic skills of the crew between feature projects, not just to make "busy work" (that's not what I was suggesting). They didn't really work the bugs out of a paperless pipeline on that Goofy short How To Hook Up Your Home Theater made prior to Princess and the Frog. Maybe another 2D short project with the mandate to make a paperless pipeline really work (in a way that is truly user-friendly to traditionally trained animators) would have been a smart way of retaining the staff as well as innovating technically. Actually I think they did keep some of the staff on for an extra few months to do a short that will go out with The Princess and the Frog, but obviously that one short project wasn't enough to hold on to the majority of the PATF crew.

As to the point that "Lasseter & Catmull don't care about talent unless they've chosen it" I can't speak to the veracity of that statement . What exactly do you mean they don't care about talent unless they have chosen it ? Do you mean that Lasseter & Catmull didn't fight harder to hold on to the 2D staff of Princess and the Frog because those people were not considered to be their people ? (therefore they were considered expendable ?)

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