Re: Disney Ramblings

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By MaggieWill
March 26, 2004

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My experience in animation is a bit dated since I escaped some years ago, but my recollection is that the attitude at Disney's has generally been "screw the animators" and the attitude from the Animator's union has been "screw the production houses". If jobs have left this once-thriving center of animation for outsourcing overseas, it isn't because the animation overseas was better or worse, but because it was at least affordable. Much cheaper to send a master animator to Japan to oversee a project than break the bank paying animators here with Local 839's demands of premium pay for its not always premium talent pool.

At my studio, we rarely got anything but mediocre talent from the gang on Lankershim, although out of deference to one of its founders who worked in our studio at the time, we cooperated as much as possible by underwriting the cost of joining the union for the talented animators we brought on board to do the hard stuff. The union didn't train our people--we did--then we paid for the privilege by sending the union its ransom.

Once, during a union audit, one of the union auditors even attempted extortion by offering to cook the books in exchange for a hefty "personal loan". When there were rumors that the animators were going to go on strike, I called Local 839 and told its president that since we already paid our animators way over union minimums, I would agree in advance to sign whatever they asked. Imagine my confusion when, in the interest of "solidarity", the union struck us anyway. I'd agreed to all their demands in advance, but I had to drive to my studio through picketers carrying placards reading, "UNFAIR TO ORGANIZED LABOR!"

Needless to say, the animation houses without so much clout as Disney never benefited from their association with the union. It was just the cost of doing business in L.A. It's no wonder that so many of the small animation houses went under or left the country. A screw-them attitude from the big employers matched by an equally take-'em-for-all-they've-got attitude from the artists is not conducive to a thriving and competitive industry.

Since the '70's and the '80's, animation has turned into something else entirely. Hand animation is a dying and expensive art. Like really good fast food, FINDING NEMO satisfies animation audiences, anyway, but I can't help longing to taste once more animated entertainment with the wit and artistic brilliance of "What's Opera, Doc?"

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