According to industry sources and other published reports, Walt Disney Co. is planning cuts in both jobs and salaries at both their Burbank, California and Orlando, Florida Animation Feature studios. Coming on the heels of Disneys recent announcement of company-wide layoffs and staff reductions totaling 4,000 employees, these cuts further illustrate the fiscal realities of both the increasing cost and decreasing profitability of the studios current animated feature production unit. While the exact number of cuts has not been announced, Steve Hulett, business agent for Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839, estimates that the layoffs will number between 160-230 people out of 1,000 in Burbank, based upon departmental cuts ranging from 19% to 59%. Inside sources say they have been told that salaries may be slashed between 30% to 50% at both the Orlando and Burbank feature facilities. However, at present no layoffs are slated for Orlando. Disney president Robert Iger, in a recent L.A. TIMES article, said that all Disney units, including animation, are being asked to come up with "efficiencies" to better manage profitability. Among the areas under review are staffing and compensation levels as well as marketing and production expenses. In the article, Iger denied that the animation division is retrenching, saying it has "a full slate of films planned through 2006." A Disney representative assured AWN that, Disney animation isnt going anywhere. It is the lifeblood of the company from films to television to theme parks to publishing to theatrical productions. It should be noted that it now appears Disney will be moving toward an ongoing production level of one feature film every two years from each of the Burbank and Orlando studios.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.