Down and Out in Orlando: Impending Disney Layoffs Hit Hard

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Old 12 December 2003   #1
Down and Out in Orlando: Impending Disney Layoffs Hit Hard

Quote:
"ORLANDO - When Craig Grasso was a little boy, he saw Bambi and knew right then what he wanted to do when he grew up: work on Disney animated films.

"And I wasn't thinking I wanted to draw Bambi," Grasso says. "I was looking at the backgrounds and thinking, I want to do that."

As Jiminy Cricket sang in Pinocchio, dreams come true. For 10 years, Grasso has been an artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida. He is part of the team that made Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and the latest Disney animated release, Brother Bear.

He and his wife, Jodi, a freelance graphic designer, live in a handsome house in Orlando that hums with the chatter of four kids. Daughters Sable, 31/2, and Eden, 9 months, play with a rag doll version of Woody, the cowpoke from Toy Story, as their father talks.

Grasso, an intense, articulate man who looks a decade younger than his 40 years, says, "The Florida studio is the closest you're going to get to what Disney's dream was originally.

"You talk to anybody (at the studio), and they expected to be here for 30 years."

But now he is watching the only job he ever wanted fade to black. On Nov. 14, production was halted on the Florida studio's only project, A Few Good Ghosts.

David Stainton, Disney president of feature animation, told about 250 employees of the studio, located in the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, that they would be paid through Jan. 12.

"Stainton told us they're keeping their options open," Grasso says, "that there was no final decision about the animation studio.

"But we were encouraged to seek other employment."

This year, Disney closed its feature animation studios in Tokyo and Paris and laid off more than 100 staffers in its California and Florida studios. Animation desks from the California studio that were relics of the days of the Nine Old Men, Walt Disney's legendary animation team, were auctioned off in December.

The Disney empire was born 75 years ago when an animated mouse first strutted across movie screens in Steamboat Willie. Disney produced the first animated full-length feature film when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs whistled while they worked in 1937, and the company parlayed its animated characters into theme parks to become one of the giants of the entertainment industry.

Now the company seems poised to turn its back on the art form that first made its fortunes: 2-D animated feature films.

That stance is a major reason for the very public rift between Disney chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner and board member Roy E. Disney, who until his resignation Nov. 30 was the only remaining Disney family member involved in running the corporation. (He is the nephew of company founder Walt Disney.)
"

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Old 12 December 2003   #2
I feel for them all and it makes for a gloomy Christmas. This business (2d and 3d animation) is pretty unstable though, and it's hard to reconcile it with having kids and owning a house.

I have a wife, two kids, a house, and only 5 months more employment before my current project wraps. I am the main provider for the family. So the future is always uncertain. I don't know anybody who thinks they have a job for the next 30 years. Except perhaps teachers in public education and government employees.

So, the best thing you can do is save all your money while you are working, cut your costs to the minimum, and hope you can survive the downtime.
 
Old 12 December 2003   #3
Click here to read about the good old days of animation!
 
Old 12 December 2003   #4
just picture these guys demo reels .." so uhmm you animated pinochio ? good uhmm... and uh where do you see yoursefl in 5 years ? Can i kiss your drawing hand ? "
 
Old 12 December 2003   #5
Disney is almost dead.
Heres to the animators finding better jobs elsewhere.
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Old 12 December 2003   #6


Excellent link.

Last edited by MarkCurtis : 12 December 2003 at 01:40 PM.
 
Old 12 December 2003   #7
I read a book in the past that didn't shine the greatest light on Disney. Probably happens in all corporations. But the difference was Disney was an artist at heart. He understood animation and would take chances. He did things for the final movie not just to satisfy stockholders. He wanted to satisfy himself.

It used to be the dream of most artists animators to work at Disney. I can't imagine thinking that now.
 
Old 12 December 2003   #8
On one hand yes I feel terrible when any company decides to do mass layoffs like this. And it's really shitty that they do it over the holidays, but this does remind me of another societal shift in the way people work. Remember when those hundreds of thousands of typists back in the 70's/80's were almost put out of work because all the sudden this little box with a keyboard and mouse came out? They were either forced to learn a new medium or find a new job.

This sounds like Disney's way of bringing people up to speed with a new medium, albeit a very disheartening and cruel way of doing so...
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Old 12 December 2003   #9
Quote: Originally posted by MartinGFoster
I feel for them all and it makes for a gloomy Christmas. This business (2d and 3d animation) is pretty unstable though, and it's hard to reconcile it with having kids and owning a house.

I have a wife, two kids, a house, and only 5 months more employment before my current project wraps. I am the main provider for the family. So the future is always uncertain. I don't know anybody who thinks they have a job for the next 30 years. Except perhaps teachers in public education and government employees.

So, the best thing you can do is save all your money while you are working, cut your costs to the minimum, and hope you can survive the downtime.


S'truth!

I tip my hat to you sir. I'm one week from such a gap myself, and I couldn't imagine having a family in this boat with me, let alone a mortgage.

That being said, were I a 2D animator, "Toy Story" would have been sufficient warning for me to upgrade skills and put the financial shields up. Even if the 2D style undergoes a revival in the future, the new NPR rendering techniques just might bury the old methods for good, from an economical standpoint.
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Old 12 December 2003   #10
I was actually just at MGM a week ago and took the animation tour. The walk through with the windowns looking down into the studio was a sad sight. Desks were cleared off and the place just looked deserted. The guy there said all the artists were just on a break after working long hours on brother bear but it was obvious many had completely cleaned out their stuff. I hope the studio can find a way to get back on its feet.
 
Old 12 December 2003   #11
I think this is a good warning for 3d guys as well. 3d is surging just like 2d did in the early 90's. There is a chance that feature 3d animation can hit a down period as well. Its so important to keep your artistic skills sharp. After taking to a few 2d guys they say it is still not as bad as it was in late 70's early 80's
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Old 12 December 2003   #12
What is Pixar thinking?? Rumor has it that they are opening a 2D animation division, so, like they don't know where to find REALLY talented people? If I was doing the hiring at Pixar, I would get in touch with everyone Disney shat on, and hire 'em NOW!
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Old 12 December 2003   #13
Quote: Originally posted by mattregnier
On one hand yes I feel terrible when any company decides to do mass layoffs like this. And it's really shitty that they do it over the holidays, but this does remind me of another societal shift in the way people work. Remember when those hundreds of thousands of typists back in the 70's/80's were almost put out of work because all the sudden this little box with a keyboard and mouse came out? They were either forced to learn a new medium or find a new job.

This sounds like Disney's way of bringing people up to speed with a new medium, albeit a very disheartening and cruel way of doing so...


I don't buy that analogy. When photography came along, did all painters have to be retrained to use cameras? 3D should be the death of traditional animation no more than photography was the death of painting.

It's appears to me to be a "monkey see monkey do" situation. Haven't business leaders yet learned to Zig when others are Zagging? Some smart studio out there should be snapping up all this amazing talent in readiness for the inevitable 2D "renaissance".
 
Old 12 December 2003   #14
Quote: Originally posted by Fasty
I don't buy that analogy. When photography came along, did all painters have to be retrained to use cameras? 3D should be the death of traditional animation no more than photography was the death of painting.


You're right about that. Photography didn't really replace all Painters. Nor did the advent of Quark get rid of all Layout and Graphic Designers. But there is one thing that I don't think people are looking at with this.

The transition, and popularity of 3D is going to drive salaries way, way down from what they currently are. I feel sorry for those kids spending $70,000+ going to college to learn the 3D trade, because I feel that soon entry level jobs are going to be very low in salary, ie $20,000 a year.

What do you think will happen when 3D becomes a lot more automated? How many people will be out of jobs then? This world is a scary place sometimes.

I'm not trying to bring everyone down, but I just want others to see that because 3D is so popular today, that may not always be the case. In 10 years it might be some of the 3D studios doing all of these layoffs, in spite of all it's past glory.

Just some food for thought.
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Old 12 December 2003   #15
I dislike hearing about salaries decreasing in 3d. We need to be on a united front to stop this from happening. I think we suffer enough with the costs of schooling! grrrrrr

I'm sure some organization has already started a union(?)
 
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