Laid Off ‘Frozen’ Animators Get Cold Shoulder


IATSE Animation Guild Local 839 business representative Steve Hulett has revealed that some of the union’s members have been snubbed by Disney Animation Studios, according to Deadline. The Mouse House reportedly issued a generous bonus to its workers in celebration of the success of its Oscar-winning blockbuster Frozen — the highest-grossing animated movie of all time — but animators who were laid off after the film’s completion were iced out of the celebratory largesse.

“I’ve heard [current employees] got 10 weeks of their weekly pay as a bonus. Everyone at the facility got the bonus, even if they didn’t work on it,” said Hulett. “Some of my people worked on the whole picture to the very end and then they were laid off, and they’re not getting the bonus. It just doesn’t seem right.” The union rep added that when he spoke with a Disney labor relations executive about the issue, he was told that the bonus “was because of Frozen but not about Frozen.”



  • James

    that Disney labor relations executive, makes absolutely no sense. give the animators their bonus that they deserve!

  • EWE

    Great picture to go with this disappointing news.

  • Paul Manchester

    Disney needs to think a little bigger. The animators who make the magic are a big part of the reason the film was a success. It is not like Disney can’t afford it. They need to appreciate the animators as much as they appreciate the paper pushers.

    • Paul Manchester

      I’m speaking as someone who actually cares a lot about Disney and their history- I grew up on Disney- I just think they can do better than this type of behavior.

    • that is correct

      If the studio didn’t exist, neither would the animator’s jobs.

      • Nicole

        Their jobs for Disney wouldn’t exist. Maybe instead they would have worked their magic for a company that would treat them better.

        • lisak

          All the studios are the same.

      • Mark

        It is simply a running clock now. The days of animation being done in North America is coming to an end. The quality can be still be maintained using much less affordable labour in China, Taiwan, and India. Vietnam is up and coming. Within ten years, there will be ZERO large-scale animation work done in North America.

        • ananimator

          As an animator working at a studio that is colloborating with other studios in places such as China, India or Korea, I can tell you that this is simply not true. The animation coming from these studios often has to be redone by our studio here, or we struggle through days and days of drawovers.

          • Thomas Fisk

            Because when you are slave labor in a 3rd world country why should you care about the end product? People tend to forget this fact.

          • ananimator

            Can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic and implying that they shouldn’t care because they are paid so little, or they should still care despite what they’re being paid. Either way, I’m not trying to bring wages of these countries into the discussion. We all know they’re paid crap. What I’m trying to argue is that work will not disapear from North America and go exclusively to China, Korea etc because the quality is not being matched.

        • Spacedad

          With rare exceptions like the amazing Rough Draft (a studio in S. Korea – they work on Korra), outsourced animation tends to be very poor quality and in need of more fixing when it comes over than anything else. The fact of the matter is that you can train up artists in-house to be faster and far more efficient AND pay them good wages locally – there’s no shortage of great talent & art workhorses out there in America, just a shortage of jobs.

          PS – there is a direct correlation between happy well-paid artists and efficiently produced high-quality art. It’s amazing how much this principle is overlooked or maliciously discarded by studios. But then, the people running the studios often are businesspeople, not artists – they only see the numbers, not the spark that makes people sit up and take notice of something special.

        • F U D’sneyye

          You really are living in a fantasy world (created by Disney perhaps! ) if you beleive that. Haha – you are so naive. if you look at the quality out there and also the fact that so much work done outside has to be redone back in the states due to quality issues, you would realise that there is something VERY WRONG with your theory.

      • GS

        So they should start their own studio like Don Bluth did with 2D back in the day.

        • John Michaels


  • lisak

    They do this for any studio bonuses. The bonus is from the studio not from the show. Anyone working at the studio at the time of the bonus is included. While I do not agree with them not getting the bonus, what mr. Hulett failed to mention was that the people that were laid off may have received a bonus from another movie that they did not work on. I have friends that were hired after “wreck It Ralph” ended but received the bonus for that movie period even thought they were hired for Frozen and never touched the “Ralph” film. The people that were laid off are what is called “run of show” hires. they are not people that have been at the studio for years and were just cut they knew that they were hired just for this picture. It was not just pencil pushers that got the bonus, basically everyone with a social security number at the studio received the bonus, from pencil pushers down to the coffee man.
    i would like to know why the union rep is complaining in the media instead of in talks to change the process with the studio. This union doesn’t do anything to help the employees ever!

    • ituri

      An entire animation staff of 800+ people were hired just for Frozen, and immediately fired after it was done? You’re joking, right? That is the *problem* being represented here. The animation staff should be moved to a new project when an old one is finished, not kicked to the curb after suffering through crunch time.

      These studios are destroying the animation industry in North America. Very soon, the vast majority of your tv will be made in China, India, anywhere but your actual home. You might be okay with that, but the professionals in the industry who love what they do are not.

      • lisak

        That is not true at all!! Most of the crew moved on to other movies at the studio. They have 3 movies being worked on at the disney studios, they did not fire the whole crew. And they did not hire 800 people from outside the studio for the movie.

        • battlepriest

          Nevertheless, this is about people who helped make this movie who are cut out of the largesse that – as you point out – even the coffee guys received.

    • skywryter

      Even employees who receive bonuses don’t sanction this. You sound like a Disney HR flak.

      • lisak

        if you read my whole statement I said I do not agree with this!! What I was pointing out was the fact that the union rep was not stating how the bonuses work and mention that these same people that did not get the bonus for Frozen may have received the bonus for Wreck it Ralph even though they did not work on the movie. I am far from an hr flak…i hate the way these studios are run. i do not agree at all the way bonuses are given. i just can’t stand the way these union reps throw out half truths to get people wound up. I stood behind my husband who took up a collection to pay his PA for a bonus that she did not receive because her union rules states that she can’t get one.

        • skywryter

          The bonuses work however management wants them to on a case by case basis. Disney management has used them punitively and with impunity, and they’ve told me as much. There is no consistent policy and if they say there is, they’re lying.

    • battlepriest

      This union has helped its employees more than SOME employees deserve, apparently. I’m looking at you, lisak.

      • lisak

        Apparently you don’t have any friends at the studio who according to their union by laws cannot take part in these bonuses at all. The PA’s are the hardest workers I know and their union won’t let them get a bonus. I would like to know the last time this union did something to help the employees of the studios. Why do you think they didn’t all get the bonus…hmmm maybe something the union can take care of.

        Apparently. I’m looking right back at you battlepriest

  • Hillza

    Because of Frozen but not about Frozen? What does that even mean??

    • Neelu Chakravarthy Tadisetty

      he was told that ” the bonus was because of Frozen but not about Frozen.”

      Means the bonus which the people got was from the profit of frozen movie not because they made frozen movie. They mean to say that its all become commercial than artistic (killing artists life).

      “That’s what I understand. I might be wrong”

  • 3d professional

    having worked at multiple studios, i can confirm it’s pretty standard for most studios that still give out bonuses to only give them to artists still employed at the studio. some studios require you to have worked at the studio before you are eligible to receive one. disney is pretty generous, in that they include employees who have just started. however, no studio that I know of gives out bonuses to those that have left. this article is pretty frustrating, as I would expect Animation Magazine to have a better idea how feature animation studios operate.

    • ituri

      The nature of employment in the animation industry is the problem being highlighted. Why not spread out the work properly and keep your animators employed in the first place? When one project ends, they should move to a new one. Not get kicked to the curb as non-involved staff reap the rewards.

  • Jenny Sherman

    That is really sad.

  • Steve

    They were not laid off. They were ‘run of show’ animators, and knew full well that they were exempt from bonuses when they signed up for this position, complete with a pre-assigned end-date. Trying to claim they are now owed a bonus is changing the terms after the fact. Its just the typical “dragging the giant Disney name through the mud” tactic to squeeze more money out of them.

    • battlepriest

      You’re excusing very bad behavior on a legal technicality. Nice guy you are.

  • Al Bo

    The real question is whether the union people were promised anything extra based on boxoffice performance of the film. If they were promise more it should be given. However, if not, it is a mute point.

    • Mark

      It’s not a mute point. They are giving bogus money…er…bonus money to those who didn’t work on the film and weren’t connected to it in any way, but not those how worked on it from start to finish.

  • Lass gal

    You could give me 20 weeks of pay and the poor leadership there would still keep me far, far away.

  • skywryter

    It’s because we’re rich, not because YOU made us rich. Smug dehumanizing crap. Disney pocketed my Lion King bonus even though I merely moved from one Disney division to another. They gave a half MILLION to one of the directors who left the studio entirely. They often find a way to make this personal, even while saying its not personal. I was top rated in my department but treated like a serf, then vindictively by the head of animation at the time (look him up). I’ll never go back.

  • Nina Stallmann

    Man that SUCKS!

  • John Michaels

    this is messed up, but the animation industry isn’t all candy canes and cotton candy anyway, especially when it comes to Disney. Those animators will get their appreciation else where though.

  • Ed Wins

    Scumbag losers from MouseWitz

  • F U D’sneyye

    stinks- the executives belong in jail