January 22, 2008

Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad Layoffs

January 11, 2008. Fourteen artists were laid off today from Family Guy.

The staff had taken its particular script as far as it could. And with no revisions by writers on the immediate horizon, it's off to hiatuses of indeterminate length ...I found these things out when I walked into the studio this morning and talked to FG crew.Lots of stoicism, black humor, and gritted teeth all around. One staffer asked me who I blamed for the long strike. I said: "The AMPTP, mostly. But there's probably blame that can be ladled out on both sides." I brought up, as I usually do, the subject of leverage, and having enough of it to get what you want. (An old theme.)

The crews of Guy/Dad are departing at about the same rate .. and pace ... as The Simpsons and King of the Hill staffs over the mountains at Starz Media. Some left in December, others depart in January and February, and the final groups exit in March. An artist scheduled to bail out in March said: "I was lucky enough to get on the last show written before the writers went out. Won't be very many people in here when we finish."

My morning was spent at what used to be the Film Roman studios ... and is today known in many circles as the House of Homer and Marge. Work on The Simpsons series is slowly, steadily winding down ...

As each unit working on its respective show completes that episode's animatic (storyboards on a digital reel), work for those artists is finished, since no revisions can take place without the writers. And so it's layoff time.

The designers told me they have about two weeks left, then it's "adios" until the WGA strike is over. So who's hiring out there?" a couple of artists asked me. I gave them a short list of candidates and wished them good luck.

Naturally I get lots of questions about "how long will it last?" "What's the news?" Sadly, I don't have any. I can speculate with the best of them, but I've got no hot information and am basically as ignorant as a freshly-hatched chick.

Some of the speculation directed my way was how hairy the future work load might be if, at the end of the WGA strike, Simpsons artists have to rush to finish the old, half-completed season while also working on a new order of episodes. "If that happens, it'll be just as crazy for us around here as it was last year, with the feature and series going at the same time."

One director wondered aloud if this might be the one time when TAG writers were happier to be IA than WGA, since at least they're working. I said: "You'd have to ask the writers. Everybody probably has a different opinion."

Courtesy of Steve Hulett at TAG Blog.

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