What the writer’s strike means to animation

Unless you live underneath a rock, you’ve been seeing a lot in the news lately about the television writers’ strike. Most of the time when I’m looking for information about the effect the strike is going to have on the viewing public, the thing that keeps coming up is the possibility of Lost being disrupted. Or Scrubs not having their season finale.

All of that is good and well (or not, I guess), but it doesn’t really tell the average person what impact the writer’s strike might be having on the animation industry, if any. After all, the strikers are in a different union, right? Right. Sort of.

Of course, writers do tend to stick together. If you’d like to read animated writer Steve Marmel’s brief but eloquent view on why you—the television-viewing consumer—should care about the WGA strike, go here. A small taste:

Most of what I do isn’t to entertain you. So I don’t expect you to care that I don’t get another penny. In fact, considering how shrill Cosmo’s voice is, and how often you hear him say the same lines repeated on Nickelodeon, I can only imagine that you probably think I owe you money. Fair enough.

But most of the people who are on strike are the people that DO entertain you. 24. Sopranos. Scrubs. Lost. Heroes. Shows like that, for people like you, that are interested in stories instead of watching B list celebrities skate, dance, date or lose weight. (Not a fan of reality, btw.) I’m not going to bore you with percentages, or residuals history. I’m not. I’m just going to ask you:

Don’t you want to reward the people who are getting into this to entertain you? The human adult?

As for the very real ramifications to the animation industry of the current strike, keep your eyes on The Animation Guild Blog. Two recent posts of note, in particular…

… first this one:

Yesterday, board artists, designers and directors got the word from management that their employment on Family Guy and American Dad could end at any time. The show runners — members of the WGA — aren’t coming into work, so there is only so much production work that can be done.

And it isn’t very much.

The upshot (per the crew) is that the axe might fall within days, or weeks, or certainly by early 2008. Writers’ assistants were given notice in the past twenty-four hours (this was confirmed by Fox Labor Relations).

… and also this post yesterday on the next eight months in animation:

As I write, many smaller, mostly non-union animation studios are not exactly going full throttle. Over the past two months, various animation artists have called to say: “Man. Things are sloow out there! What’s happening?! I’m usually picking up a lot of freelance, but man. There’s no-thing.”

Now. I’m not totally sure why this is, except that a lot of studios that usually subcontract from the majors aren’t getting the usual number of jobs. One of the big studios, to cite but one example, had a CG feature being done by a sub-contrator here in town, but that show has now been pulled back for reworking and the crew has been laid off until further notice.

Yeowch.

Things are afoot here, that’s for sure. Read the full articles for more information (particularly that last one, which runs through all of the major animation houses and channels individually), and hold on tight.

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