Animating with a Smile! The Happy Producers are on a mission to make well-being the talk of Toon Town

Viriginie Lavallée & Louis-Philippe Vermette

The animation industry is known for creating fun and innovative content while implementing new state-of-the-art technologies. Our productions make worldwide audiences laugh, dream and have the time of their lives. We have been blessed throughout our careers to work on some of our favorite shows and films, winning awards, and enjoying just how cool our jobs are.

But over the past few years, we have realized that the behind-the-scenes of production does not always match the level of fun and happiness we see on the screen. Quite the contrary. Work conditions have been deteriorating, and more people are quitting the industry, searching for better life-work integration and a better environment for their mental health.

While content is king and creativity is revered, a third axis of production has been put aside: the well-being of the human behind the computers. And if we think about it, how much animation would be produced without the artists’ and managers’ daily work and inspiration? None.

Yet burnout, harassment and toxicity are more present than ever — and even normalized to a certain extent. The human issues are becoming more apparent, and resource retention and building trust within our teams is more challenging than ever. It can be hard knowing where to start to create the change we want to see.

That’s why we founded The Happy Producers: to help our peers turn animation industry-specific challenges into innovative solutions and processes to prioritize well-being and lower stress. We believe it starts with cultivating a leadership and management mindset that creates psychologically safe work environments and builds a positive, long-lasting company culture.

Happy Producer: Not an Oxymoron

While the industry has mastered the artistic intentions and technical tools to create limitless content, it is time to integrate that it is not only what we do that matters but who we are while creating that content. Remember your passion and enthusiasm when you first started in the animation industry? What if we could have that level of love for our work all throughout our career?

Creating psychologically safe work environments means having healthy social dynamics within our teams. It means that you can make a mistake without fear of getting shamed or fired for it. It means that our differences make us stronger, and that it is okay to ask for help and support.

In our many years as producers in the animation industry, we have been told to smile less, to scream more, to make our team stay at the studio all night and to lock the front door so that no one could get out before the shot was delivered.

But, we refused to conform. And as a result, we have delivered hundreds of thousands of shots on time and on budget to happy clients with happier teams!

What we do is important, but it’s entertainment. We are not putting our lives on the line! But by changing our attitudes towards each other and making well-being our number one priority, we can save the lives of our colleagues. Let’s never lose another member of the animation family to suicide because of the bullying we all witness and tolerate.

Where to Start?

Can you change your supervisor’s mindset or your client’s attitude? No. But you can practice self-awareness, embody the work culture you want to see and lead by example. By cultivating a growth mindset, expressing gratitude, putting in place boundaries and strengthening our active listening skills, we can create the change we want to see. Prioritizing these human skills is contagious, and you would be surprised how much our colleagues are yearning for them and want to implement them, too!

So, the next time someone screams at you at work, the choice is yours. You can scream back and be part of the problem. Or you can show a better way to lead and create true change. It all starts with you.

Character, compassion, consistency and commitment compound into well-being and safety at work. And the ripple effect can truly change our industry culture for the better.

If you’d like to be a happy producer, we are here to coach, teach and support you. Together, we can build the animation industry of our dreams.

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