Why the Boom and Bust In Animation Employment?


There seems to be a consensus among studios or the powers that be that mandates how productions are ataffed. No, this has nothing to do with ability, skill, gender makeup or anything like that. Rather it’s how animation employment levels tend to ramp up for a production and are then reduced as said production makes its way through the pipeline.

I raise this issue because someone likened it to being a construction worker. I.e. once the building is built, it’s time to move onto another job. That’s only partly true though, because even construction workers (unless their self-employed) aren’t fired from the overall firm. Instead, they’re simply moved to another contract that the company has.

The benefits are obvious, hence the reason it’s a widely instituted practice in construction. Contractors save money (and boy, do they like to save money) by not having to constantly hire and train workers. Their admin overhead costs are lower too, since they don’t require a large HR department to sift through resumes and file all the necessary paperwork. Lastly, they save a ton of time, because they already have a skilled workforce in place. All they have to do is manage it’s deployment.

An animation studio should be no different. the different productions are the different jobs, and a studio in the 21st century does not have the right to exist if it can’t manage it’s slate of productions so that crew numbers are constant.

What I fail to understand is that as a studio, your output ought to be constant. Sure a feature film requires a massive amount of manpower, but if you’re constantly releasing films, can’t you allocate resources to provide for a seamless transition?

It’s an even more critical issue for TV shows, which are in production year-round. Staffing up and down for a TV show is a ludicrous way of managing your team.

While there may very well be tax and wage benefits to hiring and firing, that is only because the rules of the game are set that way; to the detriment of the people actually playing.

Some of the greatest animators had very long and very stable careers with one or two studios and both parties were all the better for it. The concept of a job for life has vanished in recent decades, the notion of steady, dependable employment lasting more than one season or production should not be a rarity; indeed it should be standard.

2 thoughts on “Why the Boom and Bust In Animation Employment?”

  1. This is the major reason why I never worked on a television cartoon since 2008. My life is decidedly less enjoyable because of it and I feel like I’m in a lose-lose situation no matter how I try to fix it.

    1. I’d certainly believe it!

      It’s widely known that independent contractors have lower job satisfaction and the reason has been identified as being the short term nature of their contracts and the frequency with which they must adapt to a new environment. Relationships take time to form, and not giving them the time to develop results in isolation and lower job satisfaction as a result.

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