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The Bubble Bursts: Disney Plans Cutbacks in Animation

24 Apr, 2001 By: Press News

The Walt Disney Co. is planning major cutbacks in its feature animation unit with dozens of jobs to beeliminated and salaries to be slashed by 30% to 50%, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Times reported Tuesday that Disney executives over the past two weeks have held meetings with department heads, animation supervisors and directors to discuss the high labor andproduction costs associated with animation.

Disney president Robert Iger told The Times that all units, including animation, are being asked to devise "efficiencies" to increase profitability. He denied that the animation division is retrenching, saying that it has "a full slate of films planned through 2006."

Without commenting on pay cuts, Iger acknowledged that the competition that drove up the salaries for animators a few years ago has dissipated.

The success of the The Lion King in 1994 generated more than $1 billion in profit for Disney and lead other studios to seek workers for newly started animation units.

The recent meetings with employees in the animation department made it clear that cutbacks are on the way, said Steve Hulett, business agent for Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839.

"They're not fingering anybody at this point. But they're saying: 'Here it comes. The tsunami is coming,'" Hulett said.

It is unclear how many animation jobs may be lost. It is estimated that Disney has about 2,000 animation employees at its facilities in Burbank, Orlando, Fla., and Paris.

Disney already is cutting 4,000 jobs companywide in an attempt to boost profits and to appease stock investors.

The company lately has been favoring animated films with smaller budgets that have the potential to reap bigger profits. In one recent meeting, executives noted that The Tigger Movie was made at a cost of $6.5 million, but grossed $45.5 million domestically, $28.3 million internationally and generated $78.8 million in video revenue.

Disney executives also said in one of the meetings that the last traditional animated feature that performed well at the box office and in ancillary markets was the 1995 release of Pocahontas.

Disney will release the animated film Atlantis in June.

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