I got an e-mail from a student, asking me if there was any way to be seen as successful without working at a big studio.
My answer: no.
For you industry people out there - when people find out you work in animation, what's The Big Question they ask?
A) Do you work for Disney?
B) Do you work for Disney?
C) Do you work for Disney?
D) Do you work for Disney?
I'm 50 years old, been working in animation for more than half of my life, and STILL get asked this question. For all the corporate crap that goes on at big studios, working at one means you have made it to the big leagues. And Disney is still the New York Yankees of animation studios. And like the Yankees, fans have high expectations and like to boo management.
I know this is not what a student wants to hear, but anyone seeking legitimacy in the business has either got to work at Disney, or Pixar or a combination of a couple other big but less prestigious studios. I'm talking about public perceptions here. Sometimes a small outfit like Aardman or Plymptoons breaks through, but I'm sure even they get asked if they work for Disney.
In the student's e-mail, she complained that even her fellow students felt Disney was 'the greatest thing since sliced bread". It got me to thinking..... maybe it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I had a lot of fun times working for Disney TV Animation. I got to spend a year in Australia working for them. They let me make Redux Riding Hood my way, and let me submit it for the Oscars. I worked with some great people, made lifelong friends, took part in some fun shenanigans, and made some very good money. AND could answer "yes" to The Big Question.
There was a time when, on Fridays after work, one of the veeps would have vodka parties in her office for the d-girls and any artists with enough moxie to crash a party in the boss' office. We'd have a few drinks, shoot the breeze, and just relax a bit - a nice way to end the work week. Like Mad Men, but with women.
The climate changed as they moved up the ranks. The same people I had seen half lit, joking around telling very personal stories, turned into the Manson Family of career killers. Once they got a taste, they couldn't quit firing people. Helter Skelter and Tigger, Too!
Even though a truth-in-advertising name would be Abraxas Studios, I enjoyed my time at Disney TVA for the most part. Sliced toast is great, as long as the bread is not moldy.