What's up in Toon Town?

What's up in the American Animation Industry?

Last year was the most successful year in its history. No less than six feature length animated films were released. Five of them grossed more than $500,000,000. That's only the domestic box office and the meter is still running on a couple of them. This remarkable collection of films will no doubt more than double the domestic gross once they are distributed overseas. It doesn't take an astrophysicist to figure out what will happen when they go to video.

What did the animation artists get out of it? The most comprehensive industry wide layoffs since 1987.

Look at what's going on in television. Animation is enjoying worldwide popularity. How are the executives handling it? How do they manage the boom? By laying off entire floors of animation artists but keeping a full management staff in place. They dump their means of production while underwriting the studio's massive non-creative, non-productive entity.

It's the same old story. Animation artists bear the entire burden of a slowdown. For executives, upper and middle management, life goes on as usual. No layoffs. Year round employment. Comfortable working conditions. Private parking. Company benefits.


Because the American Animation Industry sits back and lets it happen. We accept this backwards thinking. We tell ourselves that this is the way it's always been. We delude ourselves into thinking that this is as good as it's going to get, so we'd better grin and bear it. Ride out the "breather" because there's nothing we can do about it. We don't look at the root causes of this situation. When it's brought to our attention, we just nod our heads and accept the same old excuses. We vent our frustrations in little huddles, hoping the omnipotent powers that be don't hear us whispering or we may find ourselves knocking on another studio door before our scheduled layoff comes. We go along like little sheep, not willing to flex our collective muscles to see the shepherds sweat for once.

This is silly and it is stupid. There's no reason for us as a community to accept this nonsense any longer.

What good does it do us to put up with perpetual "crunch time"? The executives get bonuses from getting us to wind up production early. What do we get? Pink slips.

What in the world does it get us to jam out three television episodes a week? How can quality be maintained? How can we grow professionally? Where's the upward mobility? Where's the reward for our hard work and dedication? How is it affecting our health?

Who is fighting for us when an employer abuses our rights? Who defends us when some pinstriped creep takes away our first aid kits and puts them on an executive floor, telling us to come and get them when we need them? How much longer will we, as arguably the most influential aspect of the motion picture and television entertainment industry today, walk about as if there was nothing we could do? What will it take for us to show ourselves some simple self respect?

Take heart. A new era is rising. The future belongs to us.

This is Animation Nation. It is an online newsletter and communication center published for the benefit of the American animation community of artists based in the Los Angeles area and our friends and colleagues around the world interested in what is going on here in the international capital of the entertainment industry. The goal of this publication is twofold: education and empowerment. Come back every day to read about what's going on and what we can do, as a community of some of the greatest artistic talent on earth, to rectify the inequity we are faced with. Tell your friends about what's going on. Educate them. Encourage each other. There's no need for us to fear what lies ahead. We can change things if we work together and use our heads. We have the talent. Let's put it to better use.

Charles Zembillas © 1999
No commercial distribution of this material is permitted
without the expressed written consent of the author.