Thursday, January 02, 2014

2013: Animation Guild Lows and Highs

The year just behind us was something of a run-away train: The first quarter of '13 saw DreamWorks Animation layoff 300+ employees, then hiring 80 new staffers for their television toward the end of the year. ...

We saw a similar pattern at the Disney family of studios (Walt Disney Animation Studios; Disney Toon Studios; Disney Television Animation): Diz Co.'s feature division hired a lot of separated DreamWorks Animation employees in early Spring as the push to finish Frozen reached a crescendo (and then came layoffs in early Fall as the picture wrapped). Disney Toon laid off employees at the end of the year as the Tinkerbell series of features abruptly ended, while throughout the year Disney TVA launched new series and hired more staff.

Television animation in general was robust throughout the year. Fox Animation continued with its Macfarlane series American Dad and Family Guy; Over at Film Roman, The Simpsons was picked up for another year and Spider Man was an ongoing project, while Bento Box continued to be one of Fox's studios of choice, producing Bob's Burgers and Murder Police.

Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network continued to create new and continuing series, and mid-year The Animation Guild negotiated a CG contract with Nick to cover its CG employees. Negotiations were not easy or quick, but a large negotiating committee of focused Nick employees got the job done.

Warner Bros. Animation saw its series orders shrink even as it continued to produce a number of Direct-To-Video features. And smaller studios like Wild Canary, Robin Red Breast (Titmouse), and Starburns Industries became sub-contractors for cartoon shows the conglomerates chose not to create in their wholly-owned studios.

What often escapes notice is that overall guild employment as been strong for some time:

TAG EMPLOYMENT -- 2008-2013

4th quarter 2008 -- 2,376

4th quarter 2009 -- 2,545

4th quarter 2010 -- 2,698

4th quarter 2011 -- 2,622

4th quarter 2012 -- 2,741

4th quarter 2013 -- 2,924

So as of today, membership rolls stand at an all-time high for the guild. We have come a very long way from the late 1980s, when active members totaled 700. But then, animation is no longer the brackish backwater it was in 1987 and 1988, when the only companies making animated features were Disney and Don Bluth Productions, and television animation consisted of inexpensive syndicated series and Saturday morning cartoons on network television.


antecedentless said...

Since there is quite a bit of crossover between VFX/animation and the likes of EA, Activision, Sony Computer Entertainment Of Amerca, Armed Service Games of America (SEGA us), etc, many studios within artillery range of LA, I wonder if there is any guild representation within the interactive entertainment industry, or could there be?

Steve Hulett said...

In the past, we have mounted campaigns without getting much traction. I've met with employees from EA on multiple occasions, but we never got a lot of representation cards.

I think employees would be better off under contracts that offered pension and health benefits, but to date, most game employees have elected to soldier on without them.

Anonymous said...

I do wish as well that game studios would get on board but the truth is that most game studios has a very young staff so they believe that their jobs will last forever or they are receiving health care coverage and think that is well enough. I currently am working at a game studio and how I miss the union shops. At least I am fully vested and have in around 12 years of union time but each year I am here is one more year that I am not building up for my future through the union. Also, hands down the health care coverage through the union is the best and cheap. Currently have great health care through my wife's employer but at a cost of $300 a month for a family of 4.

Steve Hulett said...


If you can swing it, try and squeeze in a few more years of union work. You might be able to qualify for retiree health benefits.

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