Friday, October 23, 2015

At Disney Tujunga

Steve Kaplan (TAG's expert organizer) and I today did the rounds of Walt Disney Animation Studios' Tujunga Avenue studio, a large rectangular building that sits within spitting distance of the end of Burbank/Bob Hope Airport's main runway. ....

Zootopia, the picture being made inside the facility, is all but wrapped up. Animation on the last lap, along with finaling and lighting. (I watched various pieces of animation on various monitors. The characters are fuzzy animals wearing clothes. The scenes I saw were funny, so I'm making a wild guess the picture is a comedy.)

A large set of Zootopia -- the one you see behind Disney staffers below -- sits in the middle of the building. It's impressive.

Brother Kaplan and I were at the studio to update the crew about union proposals and the probable contours of the new three-year IATSE contract* that will soon be negotiated between corporate management and a union negotiation committee consisting of IA reps and Disney studio employees. We've been up at Tujunga on a regular basis, holding meetings, walking through work spaces, updating people on contract issues that have come up and what the next agreement may look like.

Employees have offered a range of proposals, but up until now they've been more focused on getting their movie out. Now that the tempo of work has slowed down, individuals are thinking more about what their latest collective bargaining agreement could look like.

* This contract is the "TSL contract", the first iteration of which was negotiated in 1999 between the IATSE and Walt Disney Pictures. (It's an IATSE contract, not an 839 contract). Andrew Millstein, then as now an exec at Feature Animation, and Disney Senior Vice President Robert Johnson represented the company in the '99 talks; reps from the IA, Cinematographers Guild, Editors Guild and Animation Guild sat across the table for the Internation Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees -- out mother alliance.

The TSL contract was designed to cover live-action visual effects employees working in a new VFX division inside Disney feature animation. Visual effects house DreamQuest Images had just been purchased by Diz Co., and the plan was to graft it onto the animated feature studio. But this corporate strategy didn't last long. Various Disney projects found their way to George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic in Northern California instead of The Secret Lab, and the under-utiilized department was shuttered after a few years of operation.

But the TSL agreement lives on as Walt Disney Animation Studios main union contract, and today most feature employees work under it.


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