Remember to Call the Hall!
Call The Hall

President Emeritus Sito Speaks

Steve Hulett / January 25, 2015

Business SavvyDreamworks / no comments

Mr. Sito today on his facebook page:

With the layoffs at Sony and Dreamworks, some animators fear this is “the End of All Things”. But layoffs are just another part of being in animation. I was laid off many times. When I first arrived in LA, the biggest, stablest studios were Hanna & Barbera, DePatie Freleng, Filmation and Filmfair. Today all of them are footnotes in film-history books. And we are still here. And Animation went on. After the failed strike of 1982, so much work left town, a recession, Disney’s Black Cauldron in trouble. Everyone thought that was the end. And we are all still here. And Animation went on.

The lesson is, don’t put all your hopes in any one studio, but always in your own talent, and in your fellow artists. They will always be there for you when all the promises fail and all the fancy talk doesn’t pan out. Your best job security is in your fingers, and in the respect of your peers. They’ll never let you down.

Twenty years back, animation was roaring much as it has in recent times. Minimal CGI then, but lots of employment, and salaries were high because studios hadn’t gotten into the wage suppression thing.

But even then, I was advising new talent that came into my office to:

1) Work hard on your craft. (You have lots of competition.)

2) Know that you will always need to upgrade your skills, not matter how good your are.

3) Play well with others and network.

4) Understand that you won’t be spending your career at one studio.

5) Have many arrows in your quiver. (If you have a freelance career outside of animation, so much the better. You can be more selective in the animation jobs you take.)

My father was in animation from the day I was born until my twenty-fifth birthday, so I always had some awareness of the roller coaster nature of the cartoon business. When I was ten, 70% of Disney’s animation staff was laid off, and Disney was THE cartoon studio at the time. Happily, the rising young giant Hanna-Barbera absorbed a lot of the talent that was cut loose from Walt Disney Productions, and creative lives went on.

In 1962, the industry rebounded, only to fall off again as some H-B shows failed. And there was a twenty-year stretch of seasonal television employment, geared around network television’s Saturday-moring cartoon schedules.

In the 1970s, the veterans at Disney retired, and a new generation took over. In the ’80s, new management under Katzenberg and Eisner revamped the studio’s animation. At the same time, syndicated animated series enjoyed a brief surge, and t.v. employment spiked.

But it didn’t last. By the end of the decade Filmation was gone, H-B had cut back, and the Animation Guild had an all-time low of 700 active members. Then Disney found its footing, Warner Bros. Animation and Stephen Spielberg found each other, and the business took off like a rocket.

It’s been orbiting ever since, and animation is now one of the most lucrative sub-sections of the movie business, but that doesn’t mean that the trajectory is ever upward. As Mr. Sito says, cartoon studios come and go, and now DreamWorks Animation has hit a rough patch (in much the same way that Disney Feature Animation was, ten years back, on the metaphorical ropes.)

In the end, every artist, writer and technician must depend on hard work, talent, political skills (aka “the ability to get along with co-workers and management”) and friends to propel her/him through a career. There’s really no other way it can be done. Certainly nobody can depend on the studios they work for.

< Back to the Blog