Friday, April 12, 2013
Disney Layoffs, The Day After: Now What?
Yesterday, I read the news about the Disney layoffs on Facebook. With so many industry friends, industry news hits there hours before blog writers can compose an article (in my case, many hours). Facebook is live feed. And just like watching live feed of O.J. Simpson's white Ford Bronco cruising down the 405, we don't really know the whole story, but the speculation is fantastic.
People react. Of course they react. We all loved that studio and were betrayed by its keepers. This is not a new phenomenon, just the most recent. Is Walt spinning in his grave? No. His body was cremated, making spinning physically impossible. He may be churning in his urn, but spinning is out.
Walt Disney died in 1966. The last of his animation projects was Aristocats. And while the artists have kept the torch burning, the post-Walt films are Disney only in name and flavor. As Ward Kimball told a Cal Arts class "Walt's dead. You missed it." And yet, people still invoke Walt's name when corporate decisions forswear past company traditions. In what other corporation does this happen? There's no such passion for Jack Warner. Or Henry Ford. Or Manny, Moe, and Jack. Maybe there was initially, but 47 years after they're gone? But Walt was about much more than making cartoons. He was an iconic American, something the company has struggled with since his death. His legacy has sometimes protected the company and sometimes held it back. Maybe that's why they have taken the name "Walt" off of the company. They no longer feel they need permission from a ghost.
As the animation division goes, the concern here should not be for Walt Disney. He is wherever you go when you die, where layoffs mean nothing. His body of work will outlive all of us. The concern should be for the artists affected, for whom layoffs mean a lot. They lost their jobs at a company that had made them think they were lifers. "Part of the Magic of Team Disney" Remember that? Those artists have bills to pay, families to support, and now have to find new jobs. Sentimentality is the least of their problems.
As if getting laid off wasn't bad enough, there are friends and colleagues out there who cannot resist the impulse to be the first to name names on Facebook and Twitter. It's one thing for a news organization to do this, but so-called friends? Colleagues? Twitts!
When I started out in animation, the big studios were Disney, Hanna-Barbera, and Filmation. O brave new world.