Animation Editors Weigh Pros and Cons of Working From Home

FROZEN 2 - Still 17- Walt Disney Animation Studios publicity-H 2019
Walt Disney Pictures

Animation is an area that has generally been able to keep production moving forward amid COVID-19. Several top editors of animated features — all of whom are currently working, albeit from home — are also speculating that, post-pandemic, more filmmakers might split editing between a home and office environment.

Speaking Sunday at the American Cinema Editors-produced virtual EditFest Global event, Catherine Apple, editor of Pixar’s Onward, and Jeff Draheim, editor of Disney’s Frozen and Frozen 2, said Pixar and Disney, respectively, kept them working amid COVID-19 by providing editing gear that they picked up at the studio with setup instructions. “It’s a lot of Zoom meetings,” Apple says of how the teams are keeping in touch as they work.

Apple is currently editing Pixar’s Italy-set Luca, helmed by Academy Award nominated Enrico Casarosa (La Luna), slated for a June 18, 2021 release. Draheim noted that production on his next feature was pushed to early 2021 due to the pandemic, but he’s keeping busy in the interim with animated content for Disney+. “I’m working on half a dozen projects that will go right to the streaming service,” he reported. "There's so much that they want to finish for streaming."

Numerous panelists said voice actors are recording dialog from their homes, what seems to be a fairly consistent practice for both animation and live-action production. One area of working from home that still involves some variables is connectivity. “If my kids were playing Xbox, I could tell,” admitted Draheim. “Some days I was up at 5 a.m. just to get some bandwidth.”

“I had to call Spectrum and get a new router,” added Joyce Arrastia, who is cutting Netflix’s The Sea Beast (formerly Jacob and the Sea Beast), directed by Oscar winner Chris Williams (Big Hero Six). Still, she likes the home and work balance. “It feels easier, more collaborative,” she said, noting that production is using remote system Evercast to share work. “In some ways I feel more productive that if I were driving to the office. Of course you miss the human interaction.”

“I miss working with everyone,” Draheim agrees, adding that he would like to return to the studio though he believes post-pandemic, Hollywood won’t completely go back to its previous ways. “I think some of this is going to stay. They are already polling how many people like working from home.”

Arrastia said Netflix is also surveying employees about their remote work experiences compared with working at the studio. “I think the new normal will be a split," she predicted, adding that until then, "in some case in may depend on what the director want to do. Netflix already told us we're not going back this year."

Animation editors working in Europe shared similar sentiments. In Paris, Benjamin Massoubre (I Lost My Body) is working on two animated features, including The Summit of the Gods, a mountain climbing adventure based on the Baku Yumemakura manga. “I’m going between home and a half-day or day in the studio, then I go back to work at home and Zoom, then back office.” He added that temperature checks are required upon entering the studio.

Sim Evan-Jones (A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmaggedon) is working from his home in London on Ron’s Gone Wrong, the story of a boy and his robot, being produced out of U.K.-based Locksmith Animation and currently scheduled for a 2021 debut by Disney. “We have production meetings on Zoom, every morning at 9:15, and in an ironic way I think there’s been better communication.”

The topic entered some of EditFest’s additional sessions. Alexander Payne’s longtime editor Kevin Tent (Sideways) admitted that for an editor “pretty much everything can be done remotely… The thing that can’t be done yet is sound mixing. Pretty much everything else in postproduction could be done in someone’s garage if they needed to.”

Projected Troy Takaki (Hitch), “we will go back [to a studio], but you might have an editing system at home and a system in the office.”

Disclosure: THR's Carolyn Giardina moderated the animation panel.