Insights: Disney Animation Layoffs
Below are insightful posts from Digital Media FX forum posters
on the subject of Disney Layoffs. This discussion began after
of Disney slashing animator salaries became public.
Some posts have been edited for length or spelling and grammar.
Penanimate on April 2, 2001:
The cuts that come after Eisner's bonus remind me of when
the Mouse gave Mike Ovitz his platinum and diamond-encrusted parachute
for his 13 months of hard work, at the same time they were offering
2 and 3 percent increases to the front-line folks in the Florida
parks. There's a huge disconnect between the front office folks
and the rank-and-file, and animation is no exception. Even though
the output of Feature drives practically everything else the company
does (park attractions, toys, books, stage shows, etc)., there's
no understanding of this at the management level.
is a business, after all, and they know there is a lull in animation
right now. I'm sure they feel confident that if the current animator
balk at their revised salaries, they'll be able to replace them
from the ranks of unemployed professionals in L.A. and the legions
of talented wannabes currently parking cars at Epcot...
emeraldas on April 2, 2001:
I hope that Disney will realize soon how valuable the animators
are to them. All the merchandise they sell, the theme parks they
run - basically everything that makes them money - is possible
because of the animators. Without animators to animate the characters
in the feature films, there can be no merchandise for the films.
Yes, they probably make more money on auxiliary stuff, such as
the theme parks and the merchandise and whatever else they do,
than they do on the movies themselves, but cutting animator salaries
is, to me, a bit like if movie theaters were to stop showing movies
because the candy and popcorn is what makes the real money. I
realize this is a slightly faulty analogy for several reasons,
but I think the logic behind it still holds.
been making as much money as it used to lately, not because they're
paying the animators too much, but because the quality of the
films has gone down. I can only hope that Atlantis, Lilo and
Stitch, and the other films Disney's planning are better than
some of the others they've made lately. And I hope that it makes
Disney realize how valuable their animators really are.
by Fried Egg on April 3, 2001:
Doesn't Disney films make tons of money, not only through ticket
sales, but through video releases, merchandising, Happy Meals,
etc, no matter how 'bad' the movie is? Are they loosing money?
Are they cutting back on production? Didn't they promise to release
a new animated featured every year? Don't they have 3 television
stations (two cable and ABC) that carry Disney cartoons exclusively?
Did the stock go down? Aren't they union? Are they going to rely
on Pixar to take on the bulk of the animating? Something's not
Maybe a strike
is what the animation industry needs to help turn itself around.
The strike in '41 lead way to small animation studios opened by
by Penanimate on April 4, 2001:
the strike in the early 80's is what led to most non-theatrical
production moving offshore. It's a different ball game these days;
you can't compare what went on in the 40's to what's happening
the 80's strike may have something to do with this fiscal tightening.
The Tigger Movie was produced "offshore" for significantly
less than Emperor (they came out roughly around the same time).
Tigger generated more revenue relative to its cost than Emperor
did, and those sorts of things open the money boys' eyes really
Sorry to beat
the same drum over and over, but don't forget Disney is a business.
If they think there's more profit (despite lower revenues) from
offshore production, then that's where they'll head. They don't
care one whit about art quality or "legacy". Those are
quaint notions ascribed to the "artsy" types. As long
as we let them drive our thinking, the business types will always
have it over us.
by Fried Egg on April 4, 2001:
The lull in animation employment is not due to the lack of interest
or need for animation. There are more programs being produced
than ever before, including international productions, multimedia,
web, educational, commercial, and so forth. When I was in college
in the late 70s, I was told by professors that animation
was dead (how different a ball game can you get?). The strike
in '82 was about the subcontracting of television animation to
foreign subcontractors, (known as "runaway production",
which obviously they lost).
If there was
a strike at Disney, I could see more studios being opened and
a new era beginning, just as a new era started after the strike
in 41 and the introduction of computer assisted animation.
I wasnt comparing any era with another, just that I think
a strike would change animation and for the good. (Hopefully).
I would like to see smaller studios (like bitter films) get more
recognition, a greater acceptance of independent animators, and
Disney lose a hold of the monopoly they hold so tightly in their
fist. I agree it all comes down to numbers, and a business is
a business, I would like to see it spread around a little more
by Slim Shinji on April 24, 2001:
The animation division has been on the brink of destruction at
least twice before that I can think of....once in the 60's when
they were saved by Walt who "felt that he owed it to them",
and again in the 80's when Roy stepped in and saved the day. But
this time.....what's gonna happen? Will feature animation be dismantled
in favor of letting the TV division spew farmed-out productions
onto the big screen? Of course The Tigger Movie had a huge profit
margin.....they spent crap to make it! But when you spend crap,
you get crap.
by D.E.E.P. on April 24, 2001:
Disney is running itself into the ground. If they really wanted
to save the company, they'd be spending MORE on the feature animation
How can they
make any sort of profit when they lay off all of their prominent
artists and cut the film budgets down to bits? Don't they know
that low quality films like The Emperor's New Groove and
Atlantis don't make Lion King sort of profits because
they suck? And for how long could they strive on second rate DTV
sequels? Eventually, their reputation will go down the drain and
nobody's going to want to work for them at all. Maybe they should
turn to Pixar (a smart company which puts quality first) for advice
on how to run a business (and make good films)...
by Mike 2D on April 25, 2001:
I'm sure Disney would be doing a little better if they weren't
spending so much on their features. Not that I don't mind the
cool effects and newer technical aspects that they've added to
boost animation, but that's where a ton of money goes into these
features. If they'd just kick back on the budgets and set the
concentration on, oh, I don't know...the story...., they would
probably turn in much greater profits and still maintain the quality.
needs fewer Tarzans and more Iron Giants. I know that might sound
like a bad example, but even though Iron Giant was a disaster
at the B.O., any doofus who saw the film, myself included , knows
it could have been a huge success if any marketing had been pushed
on it at all. And it was cheap. The film was brought in on time
and under budget. And what was the core, heart, and soul of that
film? THE STORY! The first and foremost important aspect of any
film, regardless if it's live action or animation.
by Evil_Phil on April 26, 2001:
I'm sure I'm right in thinking without the animation department
there wouldn't be much to the company. Its animation which made
Disney what it is today. Surely cutting back on animators and
salaries is just going to lower the standards even more.
around Winnie the Pooh and the success of the Tigger Movie? No
wonder its such a success when its rubbed in everyone's faces
from the day they are born... I just wish Disney would give it
a break instead of running what were a selection of decent enough
characters and stories into the ground.
I can't believe
what Disney is doing to themselves. I've got to agree that Pixar
should be wary of the way things are going. I think that if they
did sever all ties with the company when their contract finishes
they will have enough money and talent to succeed on their own.
when DreamWorks entered the picture Disney would start to buck
up their ideas, but....no, instead they continue to belt out cheap
crappy DTV and TV versions of what is looking to be virtually
all their 'Classics'. I think they should think about what they
are releasing and when they are doing it. I think it could be
a good idea to stop trying to release a feature every year- alternate
between computer and 2D. At least that way we may start to see
films worth watching, that have a good story and are well animated.
Disney shouldn't need to be pushing for an 'classic' every year,
they have enough other areas in the company to rely on.
by bighead72 on May 2, 2001
Didn't Disney ramp up it's staff of animators in recent years
in order to meet Eisner's plan of two animated features released
If you look
at the past two years, there have been four animated movies released...
Tarzan - June
Fantasia/2000 - Jan 2000
The Emperor's New Groove - Dec 2000
Atlantis: The Lost Empire - June 2001
1999, Disney movies were released once a year all the way back
to Oliver and Company in 1988. the only variation was a
longer pause between Aladdin in Nov. '92 and Lion King
in June '94. Based on the future movie schedule, it appears that
Disney is scaling back to only one movie a year (on average) again.
Technically, they should be losing almost half of their staff
since there is half as much work to do.
doesn't really explain the pay cuts - but it seems to me that
staff cuts make sense if Disney is not wanting to produce more
than one feature a year. What would they do with all of the staff?
I guess I tend to give Eisner a bit of credit for trying the accelerated
schedule - but for whatever reason it didn't work out.
If all of
this is true, the quality of the films is NOT going to go down.
They would simply be on the same production schedule as many of
their previous movies. I think you could make a strong argument
that the quality of the films may in fact go up due to more focus
on a single movie.
a printable version of this page.
the forum where the entire above discussion, plus many more, took
to Insight into the Animation Industry.