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Author Topic: Overseas outsourcing of Animation
FlipBook
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No doubt this is a subject much discussed.
I,as a 15 year veteran of the Biz am now considering bailing out of the industry and going back to school to attempt a completely different career path.Precipitating this is the increased off-shoring of animation primarily combined with the race-to-the-bottom of the salary scales.Modeling and other disciplines do not seem to be as effected yet but this is only a matter of time it would appear.

It seems many production houses are happy to contribute to the long term destruction of the nations wealth base through the short term gains they make using cheap foreign labour.Of course,when you off-shore US jobs,you off-shore US income and US GDP. How is this a good thing?

Anyone else out there thinking of jumping ship career wise?


[Fixed typo in title]

[ June 12, 2010, 10:39 AM: Message edited by: Charles ]

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CavePainter
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In a word, YES.

Many artists on this forum could probably give you a hundred instances and anecdotes of warning signs looming on the horizon. Honestly, most artists in the animation business are holding on by their fingernails to their careers right now. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably not being forthcoming about it. I have friends that are brilliantly talented artists, and they have extended periods of unemployment every single year. Watching this business evolve and dissolve over the years- its incredibly tough. To bring those reasons up is to restate the obvious- something that everyone seems to know in the back of their head, but nobody wants to talk about.

The writing is on the wall. When you see even companies that are doing spectacularly well, like Pixar, outsourcing work across the border, you gotta think nothing is sacred anymore in the anim biz. Sure, Pixar will tell its employees that they're only doing the work that the studio doesn't want to do- like tv commercials etc. And thats true- NOW. But thats how it always starts. In less than 5 years, that outsource studio will be working on scenes from theatrical features, too. (Wanna bet?)

The Simpsons is obviously a massively profitable money-making property, but even that show just simply cannot be done profitably here in the states, we are told, even though they sell Simpsons syndication rights, DVDs, tshirts, pencils, drinking cups, underwear, toys, etc etc etc etc.

The only thing you just have to repeat to yourself is that you, working in the animation business, are absolutely not alone. The shame sht is happening all over the whole Western world, in every field that is not a service industry, and not just in America.

Its so bad, people call you cynical just for bringing the subject up. (Apparently we aren't even supposed to talk about it- we just keep working). I certainly can understand that... its really tough to talk about-

"Well, I don't care about that stuff. I just wanna animate."

Well, you SHOULD care. Someday you won't have a job.

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Greg B
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FlipBook, let me reiterate my stand on why the outsourcing occurs. It may hurt a bit but we humans need the bitter with the sweet.

I got into animation not only because I love the art form and technologies and artists, but at the time years ago I had several properties optioned for film. I had executive decisions with the studios if the properties would be 2D, live action, CG. The studios often laid out that the work force for production costs would be outsourced. I disagreed and found Animation Nation where I could see the other side of the coin. Here I met hundreds of people whose works I've admired my whole life. However, on the executive side of the coin I got a chance to see what the larger corporations had to deal with in regards to the American work force.

No doubt the talent and genius is here. However, the liability was so overwhelming investors, most of which were foreign, declined to boost a project if we used American workers.

Why? Can we spell UNION? How about frivolous lawsuits? Multiple layers of discrimination problems? Sick time, violence, drugs, alcohol, insurance?

The amount of liability was so overwhelming no one in their right minds would hire Americans. Five minutes into negotiations you're surrounded by sharks. Now that I've gotten to meet many animators here unfortunately I can see why. There's that small percentage of a-holes who ruin it for everyone else. They lie in wait and natter and backbite other people. Gossip and slander one another and studio staff. These creeps take kindness for weakness and run when the goin' gets tough.

It can be said just about every industry in the U.S. are plagued with these problems. Your overhead is so chewed up you hate to even propose a project.

Add to that many artists who refuse to take any form of administrative responsibility so they can just get paid, buy a new car and a condo and party, you have an industry that "ate itself from the inside out" not the other way around.

Until professional animators can overlook their own selfish directives and work as a group, seek investments, do the business studies, mediate equitably, you'll continue to get devoured.

I'm on my third go round with developing my comic book properties. I'll publish them, get studio offers as usual but this time I can't hold back any. It's cost me a massive fortune because I felt the American worker should come first, but this time I figure I'll make a fortune and put my money where my mouth is and reinvest my capital in training artists here how to do business on a big scale. It may help or not. Bottom line is something's gotta give if the 2D industry in the U.S. is going to maintain the legacy it's built over the past 100 years.

Be cause or be effect. Only two choices.

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Greg B
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Forgot to say, CavePainter, right the F on!

Here's another problem. The investment capital isn't there anymore like it used to be. People have a tight fist and will only put their money down on something they feel is a sure bet.

With the economy collapsing all around us, yes it is, the only recourse for you guys is to bind together, do it better, cheaper, better. Without solidarity you're screwed.

Me, I'm like Capt. Kirk, I don't believe in the no-win scenario.

As far as CG animation goes, it won't be long before the amount of people needed to do a feature will be dropped down to about half a dozen primaries. The processing power and memory power of computers is about to literally take a quantum leap.

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Easy Zee
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Flip Book, I totally understand where you're coming from. Outsourcing is a huge problem in animation, the auto industry, customer service, and many other jobs.
I disagree with Greg B, animation artists should not have to learn the business side of the industry. That's not our job, that's why studios have producers and accountants and production managers. I doubt it. I also disagree that the cause is unions and lawsuits. Here in Canada we do not have a union and outsourcing is as bad or worse than the states. The studios will say that budgets have shrunk so low that they have no choice but to outsource. Garbage! We have cut out so much overhead with computers; no more cel paint, cels, an army of cel painters, clean up artists, paper, photocopy machines, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, peg bars, line testers, cameras, camera lights, film, splicing equipment, audio trackers, and so on and so on, the excuse of expense does not work. With digital programs like flash and toonboom, one person can do what it took 10 people to do 20 years ago, in a fraction of the time. So why are studios outsourcing? A part of the reason is waste. There is a lot of waste in animation, wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy.
Another reason is schedules. They force these ridiculous schedules on the artists just to squeeze shows out as fast as possible. I've seen productions squeezed out that don't even air until a year later. Why not take that whole year, pay your employees a decent wage, don't crank it out and ship it over seas just to get it done fast.
Look at the credits on the Flintstones or Woody Woodpecker, or a Bugs Bunny cartoon. There's only a couple dozen people working on it, not an army of 500 low paid Asian sweat shop animators. They did it back then without all the shortcuts computers allow us today. All it takes is a couple dozen well paid animators with a reasonable schedule to make a show, if you do it right. There is no excuse for outsourcing.
Pay a dozen animators $60 000 a year, instead of 500 animators 3 dollars an hour and you can keep your productions entirely in house, with no outsourcing.
On the bright side, over the pat few year I have noticed a trend that productions are being done in house more and more, thanks to digital animation programs like flash and toonboom. Schedules are still too tight, so these studios are often farming the work to other local studios instead of over seas.
It's a tough living, I wish you peace and prosperity and happiness, Flip Book, on whatever road life takes you to next.

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SNAKEBITE
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Amen Easy!

It always seems to come back to mismanagement.Mismanagement of talent, funds, production, you name it. Huge ammounts of budgets going to management alone?? The fundamental issue that motivated Charles to make this site.

But I have to disagree with one point. For this exact reason. To solve this exact problem. We have to learn business.

Now this doesn't mean this consumes us. Nor does this mean everyone will learn business. But we most expose ourselves to business and its fundamentals. To be able to weigh things more efficiently. To be able to pick a job with healthy business plans and projections, how their production pipeline is constructed, plans of marketing and distribution, for those of us who just want to be employees. Why would you not want to know these things? These issues concern your future as someone who just wants to draw. If your environment is unhealthy then how will you realize this reality of just drawing.

So I want to learn more business so I can have more control of the big picture. Even if one day that means I get to hire people. I will hire people to do the stuff I don't want to do. Not because I don't know them, but because I choose to draw.

Thats my vision for me at least...I'll tell you how that works out.lol

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Greg B
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Look, I'm not going to debate this subject any longer. After ten years it's like beating a dead horse.

Bottom line is, educate yourself about your industry or get a hard m'effin' lesson from the School of Hard Knocks.

In the School of Hard Knocks there are only two polarities of grades: live or die, win or lose.

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SNAKEBITE
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Repetition is good, Greg. Every one of us who gets it needs to repeat it over and over again. It's not a debate, it's reality. I for one hate it, administration and business takes a big chunk of my life and it's hard to get back in the just drawing routines and stay motivated. But to me it's the big picture so you do the sht you don't wanna do.

ESPECIALLY since I talk a lot of smack about how people in the industry are doing business wrong. So either put up or shut up, right? You don't like the way things are? then change it. Flip it. I know its easier said then done. But pretending like just wanting to draw is gonna get everyone to see it your way is even a longer road.

These companies will not get they are fuking up. They are not gonna get they are mismanaging talent, budgets, productions because it works for them. The people who are supposedly screwing it up for the rest of us? They still make money, so the point is lost on them.

You have to prove your points. You have to go out there and make something happen where investors start to see the sense in investing outside of the usual suspects.

If not, be prepared to be handled by the usual suspects and be happy with what they give you.

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CavePainter
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Im onboard with Snakebite on this one... we simply have to be more involved with the business side of animation production. Like it or not. I hate it too, but you know what? A fool is doomed to failure. The reason many artists feel powerless to do anything about their situation is they don't understand the first thing about what goes on in the rest of their company. I'm still learning... but I'm definitely making the effort.

One chief reason why management makes idiot decisions is because they don't know ANYTHING about what artists do. they don't get the pipeline, they don't get the software, they don't understand what makes something successful, and another similar project a failure- and they cant tell a good script from a bad script. These are the people that see a Pixar film make 200 million and they think its only because its 3D. They really don't have a clue. I've had dozens of conversations explaining to "creative" producers the difference between a mistake that takes an hour to fix and another mistake that will cause problems for months. (Sometimes they actually listen!) They don't know what we're doing anyway, so they don't grasp the problem to begin with. Of course they are gonna make poor choices and expensive mistakes.

On the flip side, same goes for artists. You're doomed to be powerless unless you make an effort to learn what goes on outside your cubicle. Maybe then you can make more educated choices about your career and someday maybe YOU can grab the steering wheel for a change.

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SNAKEBITE
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Amen

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Greg B
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A few years back I met a fellow who had worked for several big animation companies. He was on the skids as he hadn't worked in several years and was getting on my nerves about getting him a job.

After chatting with him over several days I realized the dude had no sense of responsibility or courage. All he wanted to do was sit behind the scenes and do a cushy job even though his talent was exceptional. He was an exceptional duplicator, in that he could duplicate things but his ability to produce something intrinsic was his foible. Basically, he was a chicken.

Klingons do not like chickens.

However I noticed many people who just wanted to 'draw' or 'animate' or 'color' and take no part in the industry or community. I have no time for people like that. Nature does not reward cowardice. Balls up or ass up are the only two decisions you have in life. Prey or predator.

Some of us don't have that courage, I can see that, but in this case this dude would whine and gossip about other people he worked with and that smelled like cheesy rat bastard and I cut him off.

Sometimes your worst enemy is the person in your own group, race, religion, or family.

That said, I'm sure there's a tally of successful artists who took the helm. We might not realize they're artists like us because they don't show off but are more noted as directors or musicians in the industry but still have that illustration knowledge behind them.

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Greg B
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Oh, my final word is something I saw on a sistah's t-shirt the other day while visiting cousins in Compton:

"No Bitch Assedness!"

It may not be grammatically correct but it sure says it all.

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tstevens
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You have to remember that budgets have decreased with the rise of technology. In the commercial world prices have dropped dramatically in the last twenty years. Jobs that we use to produce for $30,000.00 back in the eighties are now being produced for less than $10,000.00. Even though we have fewer people working on things with lower overhead we also have a higher cost of living, more competition, and other animation houses that are willing to make zero profit just to get work.

If ya'll want to learn more about business you need to open a business or get involved in management. However, you'll understand the owners dilema the first time you look at your overhead and have to decide whether or not to let employees go because the company is going into the red. Just because the producers may appear to look stupid does not necesarilly mean they are. I understand all of the complaints about misuse of budgets and exhorbitant extras. However, at some point even companies like Pixar will look at their overhead and have to decide whether or not the perks are worth the cost.

Also, if you want to support a domestic animation industry you should also try to support other home grown industries if possible. There are still domestic producers of clothing, furniture, cars, and so on.

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SNAKEBITE
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I think thats a valid point with small companies. I have rolled with small business for most of my life and my career. From fashion to animation. But most production budgets for Pixar, Disney etc are huge and have not gone down much at all. Movies are still being produced at mind numbing costs...and check their pay checks, I doubt the upper management is struggling with cutting their cost.
And the ones who don't know what they are doing, with all their good intentions, only pave that road. I know lots of people who don't fit the description but the rule is the rule for a reason. The vast majority of mismanagment is based off ignorance of the process and the lack of inclination to learn...nor do most of them care to hear that they are the problem and their over inflated bonuses could fuel more innovation, more production and take care of the people they are supposedly worried about cutting.

But big business, when dealing with cut backs, don't have to make the same cut backs as small businesses. Apples and Oranges IMHO.

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tstevens
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Good points!

I have to admit that I am completely dumbfounded by the way Hollywood continues to work. My question is whether or not people who have been raised in the system can (or are willing) to change it.

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SNAKEBITE
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Only the people who create the content can change how it's all done. People in the system won't change because change means they don't make as much, they make more sacrifices and they learn new stuff revealing what they don't know. That would just create more artists seeing the truth that these guys are not the gate keepers we once thought they were.

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Charles
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To help put this in perspective, I read an article in the LA Daily News the other day concerning a 40 year old man working for Walgreens. He was an assistant manager, and told he would have upward mobility at another branch where the sky's the limit.

So he relocated his family, wife and 4 kids, to a different city, took the job at the other Walgreens, had his hours reduced after 2 weeks, which forced him to find a part time job. He then was laid off from his primary job, and with a masters degree in business administration from Notre Dame University, he's supporting his family by bagging groceries at a supermarket.

The squeeze is on for many many people in this economy.

In animation, a 15 year career is about par for the course. There's some folks out there that can keep going after 15 years, but I teach my students all the time that many of them will be moved out of the typical animation scene by their late 30s and early 40s. Not everyone, but the trend will continue and this is what they can expect from the industry in general. So be prepared, and position yourself appropriately as the time approaches.

I saw the writing on the wall in the late 90s when I realized they were hiring directors right out of school. Showing my portfolio to a kid that should've been taking my classes was part of what compelled me to go fully independent later on in my career. Fortunately I have The Animation Academy and that keeps me involved in animation without having to look for work at a studio.

When it comes to outsourcing, the same technology, resources and knowledge that's available to the animation industry in the US are also accessible to the worldwide industry and it's been that way for a long time. Animation in America is affected but so are many other sectors of the domestic economy as millions of productive jobs have left our shores.

How do we compete in animation? By being the best we can be, cuz we can't depend on our government to help or our union for that matter. I've always advocated a strong independent aspect to our industry.

Stay on top of your skills, stay on top of the technology as much as you can, remain as creatively viable and productive as possible especially between jobs, try not to make enemies in the biz, although that may be easier said than done with some of the attitudes out there, and your chances will improve of hanging in.

There's nothing wrong with a career change if that's what's in the cards for each of us individually. In some instances it may be for the best. Whatever the fates may have in store, strive for excellence in all that you do and focus on what's really important in life. Family, friends, loved ones, and never lose sight that there's plenty of people not as fortunate as us, even though we may be going through a difficult period. Just like when things are going good, tough times don't and won't last forever. Stay positive and productive, be flexible and do what ya gotta do.

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jeffnevins
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Well said. [Cool]

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Greg B
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The animation industry fell prey to the same process that has destroyed the American employment infrastructure: Predator Administrative Practices.

Companies years ago wanted to attract American workers because we had pride in our work. We made the best of everything but the auto industry refused to make advancements in safety and fuel efficiency. Then Japan saw that hole and plugged it and made fortunes. Predatory Administrative Practices destroyed that car industry and the greed set the pattern for shorting workers in other industries. Take IBM for example. They used to boast "a job for life". In those days once you got a job at IBM within six months you could buy 2 cars, a new house, all new appliances on the cheap and take the rest of your life off.

Then in the early 90's they pulled the rug out from under everyone. That breach of confidence and integrity destroyed communities and lives. It was the beginning of the end.

When investors override good sense for the fast money they inevitably, like parasites, destroy the host and die. Look at BP. They shortcutted on safety, hired knumbskulls, an now to pay for the damage they're going to hold dividend payments to their stockholders to pay for it all. A case-in-point to what I've been saying.

Nothing lasts forever except forever. Things change and when you don't think like an ant but choose to think like the grasshopper you get screwed. Falling into a false sense of security will do you in which is why so many veteran animators are in the stew. When the going was good they ignored history and thought it would last forever.

You gotta hit, git, and split nowadays. Stash that money for a rainy day, reinvest in your abilities and don't sit around hoping for the best. Take charge, do it yourself, educate yourself about your industry and think outside the box.

The old days of "Sugar Daddy Studios" are gone. Get over it. The days of "Causitive Creator Studios" is waiting to be born. It's the only avenue out. Survive or fall off.

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Charles
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The animation industry is actually doing pretty good compared to other sectors of the American economy. From what I can tell, most of the people I know in the biz are staying pretty busy. Not all, but most.

The problem with animation isn't the lack of work, it's the nature of the people in the biz. Something folks don't want to hear, but from my experiences, I find it to be an accurate assessment of what troubles the biz.

For example, I recently wrote about a fellow I know who's an outstanding designer with many accomplishments, was used on a freelance basis to fix designs coming from the staff of a new production, and when that part of the production was over, the inferior staff stayed on while the superior artist who was used to see the project through was let go. Nothing to do with the economy, and everything to do with the foibles of an industry that has difficulty coming to terms with itself.

Instead of fighting for something worthwhile, animation artists will get drawn into fanboy arguements about redesigned Looney Tunes characters. Instead of working for the betterment of artists who suffer from long term unemployment, our union, and I use the term loosely as they have little to do with unity, calls them "disgruntled" and takes new artists to lunch. Instead of fighting for causes that would promote the greater good of the artistic community in animation, artists would rather fight each other over issues so incredibley infantile it's difficult to imagine grown men and women getting caught up in any of it but they do.

If major funding for a project of mine were to come through, I don't think I would set up shop exclusively here. In the LA area that is. And I don't blame others who take their productons elsewhere. If you need $20 mil to do it in the US, but only have $5 mil to see the project through and you can get a quality job from Europe let's say, then why not use the global resources that are available for something like this.

Why should I fight to support an animation community or sign with the Guild when they've written us off the way they have. Why should I support a union that mocks us. I'd rather put those resources into the production and into building a system that can benefit the people I'm associated with in ways they can't.

The animation industry is unique in America, in that we are influential enough to drive entertainment like no other aspect of it, yet small enough to do something about the things we would want to change. But we have no leadership. And even when there is some leadership, the hostility towards that leadership is greater than anything that's proposed.

What it comes down to is this, animation artists really don't care. If they did, they'd be up in arms about the crap that goes on in the biz, but they don't care. They care more about a comment I would make here asking us why we take orders from people who don't draw than coming together to make a difference in our world. We could be setting the example for all of American industry. Instead, we're broken up in factions that are dead set against each other because one person believes that this cartoon is better than the other.

And all the while, they keep links to AN off of their sites and blogs because heaven forbid if the word should get out about a website that's exists to promote unity and that tries to make the animation world a better place for artists.

So if you're gonna gripe about something folks, find a subject that they can get into. Maybe it'll get some attention if it involves Bugs Bunny or Popeye.

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