Disney Cuts Jobs

posted on by Christopher Macdonald
Disney cutting 15% of Animation staff

According to the New York times, Walt Disney has informed 250 of it's 1500 animators that their jobs were being cut or their contracts not renewed. Since 1999, Disney's animation staff has already been cut from a high of 2200 employees and contractors down to today's 1500 and following this announcement down to approximately 1250 employees and contractors, by May 2003 no more than 1000 animators will be left. The cuts are being primarily made at Disney's animation facility in Burbank, California.

While speculation around the internet, and supposed inside information is that Disney has recognized that "traditional animation" is dead, Disney's official statement is that their current employees do not have the necessarry skills to produce animation in the coming years. "As I look at the future film slate," stated Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Animation, "The skills required for films that are coming out in 2006 and 2007 is different than the skill set of the core staff now." According to Mr. Schumacher many of the remaining employees will be undergo retraining.

In addition to the staff cuts, Disney has cut it's animators salaries by as much as 30%, 50% in the case of contractors, from their high in the late 90's when competition from rival animation studios such as Dreamworks and Fox forced Disney to raise salaries to keep its talent pool.

What isn't officially stated is how different Disney Animation will be in 2006, will the historic studio abandon traditional animation in favor of 3D animation similar to the boxoffice hits what its partnership with Pixar has produced (Toy Story, Monster's Inc.) or is the studio merely updating its skillset in order to be more efficient at creating traditional 2D animation, or some mixture of the two?

Given the recent salary cutbacks and the fact that the North American feature Animation industry has been less profitable in recent years, with some movies not making their expected profits (Atlantis) and others struggling to even break even, it is also possible that Disney's layoffs have little or nothing to do with animation technique and more to do with cost saving.

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