November 07, 2008

Rough Economy

It's been a bad year for animation in our country, literally a year ago this time contracts and projects all over Canada in particular began closing up, which is the nature of the business, EVERY year around this time studios either shut down, or begin operating under low power or temporarily lay off their artists until funding for the next season or the next project comes through the following Spring. Often studios can have smaller projects overlapping and sustain their artists even through mid-winter.

This time last year it looked like there was no end in sight to the amount of work flowing in, both internally from various broadcasters and distributors in Canada to plenty of service work from U.S. executives and various studios. 2006 and 2007 were VERY busy years for many small and large Canadian animation studios, there was an actual shortage of animators and artists seemingly from the east to the west coast, the large volume of work seemed bountiful. Then the mortgage crisis, the writer's strike, the economic crisis, people paniced and began seeking less expensive alternatives to producing cartoons.

From the cganimation blog:
Over the weeks, I've been talking with a lot of people who've suggested that we are in a pretty slow animation period. Maybe it has something to do with the economy, or something to do with the time of the year, or even perhaps how many new youngsters have come into the field and overloaded the few positions that seem to be available. My take is that it is a little bit of everything.

Now that Bolt has been finished over at Disney, they have let go of a few people. Many of those are still looking for work. Of course others have successfully moved to another project somewhere else, but the pickings are sure leaner than previous years.

Unfortunately this can lead to studios taking advantage of artists. The more desperate people get for work, the less pay they'll take or the more they'll bend over for employers. A friend and previous co-worker from years ago asked me to look at a contract he was asked to sign from the folks at Reel FX. He thought it seemed weird and after checking it out, I agreed. Most of it seemed boilerplate, but some of it was a little curious and over the top. Certainly asking for more than your typical LA contract. In these times, I'm assuming they're getting away with it. And considering how a lot of people are really needing the work, companies can get away with some really oddball things.

Although the commercial work may slow, the film world shouldn't be too impacted for too long. After all, movies are a little more resistant to rough economic times. Sure, they'll get hit too. However, the worse it gets, the more people like to slip away from reality for a couple of hours.

Before long, Disney will ramp up for their next films and Imageworks will eventually get back into the game. DreamWorks continues to be steady and things will only get better as new studios come into play.
Now that the obvious has happened and the projects that were sent overseas last spring are now already bouncing back with many problems due to falling behind schedule or having major quality issues, I predict it won't be long until work begins to trickle back into the hands of Canadian studios, the state of the economy is a whole other issue that is hurting the industry as a whole.

All we can do is wait.

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