Re: Times Article on Animators Salaries (!)

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Posted by Bruce Woodside on June 24, 1999 at 20:31:52:

In Reply to: Times Article on Animators Salaries (!) posted by Bruce Woodside on June 24, 1999 at 20:12:48:

:For some reason, the message board edited out some of the text from my previous post and turned it into mush. I'm re-posting some of this, hoping it comes through correctly this time:

:But now some of the companies that bet hundreds of millions of dollars trying to emulate Walt Disney Co. to make the next "Lion King" or "Beauty and the Beast" are retrenching, chastened by pricey box-office disappointments, runaway costs and competing animated movies.

Hmm, wonder what those runaway production costs might be? Could it be those highly inflated ANIMATOR SALARIES we mentioned in the first paragraph?

:As a result, what had been a seller's market for animators has this year turned into a buyer's market for studios. . . "It is clear that the business has gone through another cycle," said Walt Disney Studios President Peter Schneider, who oversees family and animated films. "Five years ago we saw animation salaries rise, and today you're seeing them coming down. People are renegotiating contracts, not getting raises--the marketplace has changed."

:Ah, at last a little sanity has been restored. Things are returning to the norm -- animators salaries are coming down! Thank god. I thought we were in for some rough sailing, but it looks like things are back on track! But what started all this madness? Apparently, according to the article, it was Katzenberg’s fault. He went off and formed his own company in order to start a pissing contest with Disney. And the results?

:Disney countered by feverishly renegotiating its own contracts. It paid eye-popping
sums--more than $1 million in some cases for the superstar animators--to shield them from
the poachers. Once viewed as second-class citizens in Hollywood, animators were suddenly writing their own tickets. "I was seeing 100% to 200% increases in salaries during that time. It was fabulous. I'm nostalgic," said Nancy Newhouse Porter, a lawyer with Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May in Los Angeles, who represents more than than 200 top animators . . .

:She’s feeling nostalgic. Gosh, wonder what her cut was? Elsewhere in the article, various executives are also caught waxing nostalgic, busily declaring their mea culpas for the benefit of the press. By the way, they’ve still got their jobs:

:"We decided we were not going to compete with Disney," Warner Bros. co-Chairman Robert Daly said. "We decided to stick with edgy comedies and more adventure-type movies as opposed to breaking-out-in-song musicals."

This is pretty cold comfort for those of us who were there at the beginning, urging them to follow this course in the first place. It even almost sounds like a confession of incompetence, until you read on a little further:

:He [Daly] said Warner made the mistake of carrying a staff of about 400 animators while waiting to figure out its next project. Daly readily admits that the decision to go forward with "Quest for Camelot" when "the producer was wrong and the script wasn't ready" was made in haste. Warner has now scrapped its original plans for a full-fledged
: animation studio and instead is hiring animators on a project basis.

The problem, you see, was those damn pesky animators hanging around, collecting their high salaries, waiting for a decision to be made so that they could get to work. It was annoying. The top guys at Warners had to make some kind of a decision, just to get these turkeys off their backs. So they decided to make a bad movie. That’d show’em.

:Warner's retrenchment was a major step toward putting the leverage to negotiate lower salaries and alter compensation squarely back in the hands of the Hollywood studios. Animators who once were assured of working for years at a studio under a contract now might drift from project to project in much the same way crews on live-action films work.
: "The place we're going to bring down wages is at the entry level," said Disney's Moore. "And that will also put pressure on the less-than-A-level animators to cut their fees or risk getting laid off."

: So, looks like business as usual here in Hollywood, at least according to the local press. Executives will be balancing the budgets of their films on the backs of “entry level” personnel and “less-than-A-level animators.”

And the rest of us will be busy trading in our Mercedes-Benzes for Ford Escorts. Earlier in the article, the authors noted that “ironically” Disney’s latest film "Tarzan" is “poised to become one of the biggest animated films ever.” I love irony. I think we need more of it.

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