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Animators who were laid off by Walt Disney Animation Studios following the completion of its Oscar winner Frozen were left in the cold after the studio handed out some big bonuses, according to a leader at the Animation Guild.
Steve Hulett, business representative at IATSE Local 839, told The Hollywood Reporter that he has received complaints from animators who reported that Disney handed out bonuses to those currently working in the division — whether or not they had worked on Frozen. A Disney Animation employee told THR that the bonuses arrived on Thursday, amounting to 10 weeks pay.
The complaints arrive at a time when visual effects and animation artists are fighting for better working conditions. Frozen is now the top-grossing animated film of all time, having surpassed $1.1 billion worldwide.
Hulett acknowledged that bonuses are discretionary, but added, “my issue is philosophical” and that it’s “morally bankrupt” to not give the bonus to those who worked on the entire picture.
Disney Animation was contacted for comment on this story but had not yet responded.
“I called the studio and talked to an exec,” Hulett related, explaining that he was told the “studio policy is people working in the division, whether they worked on the picture or not, get bonuses.” He outlined this exchange in a blog post on the Animation Guild website.
For some context on Disney Animation bonuses, Hulett related that in the 1990s, “a lot of people were getting [big] bonuses at Disney,” following the success of animated films such as Aladdin and The Lion King. “At that time, nobody was getting laid off. But now the production model is they ramp up to get the pictures out,” he said.
More recently, Hulett relayed that he heard that bonuses of a three-week salary were handed out at Disney Animation following the release of Tangled, which made nearly $592 million worldwide after it debuted in 2010.
A Disney Animation employee who worked on Frozen — and is still employed by the studio and received the bonus — told THR on Thursday that Disney is a “great company. … It’s such a pleasure being treated with respect, and I believe the bottom line on the film reflects that.”
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