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by Ken Pellman (archives)
April 8, 2002
Ken comments on the recent layoffs and changes in Disney animation.

The world of animation has gone topsy-turvy, a green ogre has reached the crown first, and hundreds are being cast out of the castle.

Here we are again. If you've never read a Kenversations™ before, there's no need to worry. Kenversations™ is usually a whole different animal each month. Still, I strongly suggest that you read through the other editions that are archived here if you like this edition at all. Come to think of it, you should read through just about everything that is stored up on this site. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Kenversations™ is where I pontificate, speculate, blabber, reminisce, gush, and gripe about almost anything Disney related. Speaking of griping…

Honey, I Shrunk Walt Disney Feature Animation

The Pink Dip… I mean Slip
Times change. Tastes change. Things change. Technology progresses. Business moves on.

A job with a publicly held entertainment corporation can easily be here today, gone tomorrow. One day, you can be helping to give life to one of the most profitable characters the corporation will ever slap on a T-shirt, and the next minute, you could clearing out your desk.

The numbers have been crunched. The "boffo" determined it. "Wall Street" wants to see a slimmer operation. Times are changing.

You look across the street and see an executive walking by who has been in the same position for seventeen and-a-half years, who has either sent away or let go of dozens of good executives under him and thousands of creative, talented artists, and now it is your turn.

It has been clearly demonstrated that the masses are willing to spend enough money on an inferior animated product - whether it is in a theater or premiering on video. Why should you be kept around, producing a more expensive product when the same money could go into to making many times the amount of the less expensive product?

Furthermore, films made using a newer medium are doing very well, while films made using the medium you're familiar with are only doing "okay" or "not-so-good" as of late, relative to their cost to produce. You would have been willing to move to the division of the company working in the newer medium, but it was shut down. Staying where you were kept you on-board for several extra months. Besides, it would have taken retraining to make the move.

You hear the echoes of your parents' voices from many years ago in the back of your mind: "You're a very good artist, but all but a few artists can't make a decent living. Why don't you take some more biology classes and look into medical school?"

What will your spouse say? What about your kids? What about the health plan?

You're one of the best in the industry. You were serious about art in high school. You looked for every opportunity to learn about animation. You struggled to make it into the right university, and worked hard to polish your portfolio. All of those all-nighters. All of tedious hours spent on repetitive drawings to sharpen your skills. All of those difficult sessions slaving away at life drawing… well, some of those sessions weren't so bad if it was a lovely coed who was…nevermind.

You hit the pavement, pressed the flesh, paid your dues, got experience where you could. You were persistent, you were determined. Finally, you beat incredible odds to land a position with Walt Disney Feature Animation, and even then you still had to prove yourself.

But you were there. You were part of the team, part of something you had dreamed about, had wanted so badly for so long. You were now part of the same legacy as the "Nine Old Men" and other greats like Ub Iwerks, Fred Moore, Norm Ferguson, Ken Anderson, even Chuck Jones and Don Bluith, and so many other ingenious, creative, talented, high-skilled people.

Sure, there were slow times, times you were frustrated, times you wished you were somewhere else, but something would always happen to remind you that there were thousands, if not millions, of people who would love to sit where you were sitting. You poured your heart into making magic, making a high-quality product that would be cherished for generations; something you could show your great-grandchildren some day and say "I worked on that," and be proud to see your name in the credits.

You spot a copy of the internal job bulletin listing open positions throughout the corporation, and give it a look just for the heck of it. There are plenty of openings for Financial Analysts and people with experience in sales, but nothing you are suited for. You don't feel like working for a television station in Bristol, Connecticut. You don't have a law degree.

No, there is no place for you at Disney anymore, and those offers to jump ship to Dreamworks or Fox are long gone.

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