Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ann Daly: How DWA Works

DreamWorks Chief Operating Officer opens up about how the company paddles along:

Jeffrey Katzenberg, our CEO, along with several key management executives, charts the direction of the company. We have a very good development group responsible for finding material, either by developing it internally or [through] outside pitches. Artists are encouraged to actively participate in sharing ideas for development. Jeffrey has the final say, as does our head of creative, our head of development, and of course, having the commitment of the director or producer of the film ...

The thing about DreamWorks, they've consciously worked to develop a corporate culture that stresses stability.

Hiring people long-term. Free commissary lunches. The fountains and ponds. The whole place has an ambience most studios don't duplicate. (Walt Disney Animation Studio's hat building, with its open spaces and hanging bubble lights and central coffee bar goes some of the way, but nothing really compares to the DWA campus. And WDAS abandoned that "long term employment" model a couple of years ago, although they give some lip service to re-instituting it "sometime in the future.")

Some people run the place down -- and DreamWorks certainly brought a large wish list to TAG's 2009 negotiations -- but I would say the company has fairly high morale compared to other cartoon shops in Southern California. People just like the idea of knowing they'll have a job ... oh ... three months from now.

Funny how that works.


Hannah Barbontana said...

Who's their Head of Bodily Function Jokes Department?

That guy is a keeper. Brilliant stuff he comes up with.

Dysitopic Enuciator said...

Steve, it's WDAS please.

It took me a bit to figure it out. I was goin' DreamWorks Animated Studios?

Walt Disney Animated Studios doesn't begin with the second word. How about we just call DreamWorks Animation WA?

Anonymous said...

Alright....settle down Pixies.

Anonymous said...

I've known artists at both Disney and Dreamworks for a very long time now. The morale at Dreamworks is very high right now. The friends I have working there are for the most part, very happy. With the work and the studio.
Unfortunately the morale at Disney is at a low. Pay cuts continue and the continuing threat of a lack of future hangs over the crews heads.
Friends being constantly laid off has also had an effect.

Anonymous said...

Dreamworks does let people go...make no mistake about that! But it does seem to have a happier vibe than the other D-house.

Steve Hulett said...

Walt Disney Animated Studios doesn't begin with the second word. How about we just call DreamWorks Animation WA?

You're right.

I'm so old I can remember when the whole company ... animation division and all ... was Walt Disney PRODUCTIONS.

Anonymous said...

Is Ann Daly that red-haired old broad that towers over Jeffrey Katzemburg? MAN she's a terror.

Anonymous said...

Is Ann Daly that red-haired old broad that towers over Jeffrey Katzemburg? MAN she's a terror.

No and no.

Anonymous said...


Does everything posted here have to instantly descend to the level of jeers and negativity ?

Steve posted something positive about one of our major animation studios, where it seems that at the moment morale is fairly high and long term employment (such as it is in animation now) is more the norm than elsewhere. This is a good thing. Hooray for Dreamworks Animation . I hope they keep it up. Why run down Dreamworks so much ?

That morale thing counts for a lot. Maybe the management at Disney should remind themselves and take to heart something that Brad Bird said a few years ago in an article that ran in the McKinsey Quarterly:

Brad Bird: "In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale."

Justin said...

Morale was pretty high on Bolt and Princess and the Frog. At the end of Bolt they announced the layoffs and wage reductions which pretty quickly killed morale. We'll see if morale is able to rebound on Rapunzel.

Anonymous said...

and there is PDI/Dreamworks Animation in Redwood City with 500 employees. Not just the Glendale studio. fastidiously maintained ponds and fountains.

Although doing well, DWA DO let people go and early this year, many in the company were either forced to go on sabbatical or strongly encouraged to do so, as there was only one feature on the 2009 release schedule. So yes, the future looks bright, but the non-franchised films need to do well.

Anonymous said...

Is PDI also under a union contract, or just Dreamworks in Glendale?

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