Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Red Hot Animation Markets ... And Hotter Wage Disputes

The Hollywood Reporter informs us:

As expected, animation is becoming the hottest genre among the streaming giants. On Wednesday, Netflix announced a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for Paradise, P.D. ...

[The series] becomes the latest adult animated comedy to land a straight-to-series order as streaming giants including Netflix, Amazon and Apple are all making aggressive plays in the genre. At Netflix, it joins the recently announced Tuca and Bertie, ... and a roster that already includes critical favorites Big Mouth and BoJack Horseman. Apple recently made waves with a two-season order for Central Park, from Bob's Burgers creator Loren Bouchard and Josh Gad. ... The animated musical features a star-studded voice cast. ... And Amazon is also diving into the adult animation drama, teaming with BoJack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg (also behind Netflix's Tuca) for Undone, its first half-hour animated comedy series.

Adult animation, sources say, is poised to explode as the next hot genre as Netflix and fellow streamers look for the next big thing after aggressive plays in scripted and stand-up comedy, among others. While animated series can be a challenging nut to crack creatively ... they are more financially attractive than scripted fare, where salaries for top stars continue to escalate. Animation also transcends demographics and is useful in streamers' bids to have something for everyone.

For the artists and writers who do the work, the explosion of animation on streaming video platforms (aka "the internet") is a mixed blessing.

On the positive side, the plethora of new shows provides jobs for board artists, screen writers, designers and cleanup artists. Thanks to the various streaming services, employment in the Los Angeles cartoon business has climbed to new highs.

On the negative side, for Subscription Video on Demand (the fancy name for what Netflix, Amazon and others provide) there are no salary minimums, even for union work. The "New Media" clause of union contracts stipulates budgetary tiers for streamed animated shows before higher wages kick in. The problem? Tiers in the animation guild contract are keyed off of live action rates, and cartoon budgets are far lower, so the triggering points for better pay are never reached.

With more streamed product created each year, the "low wage" problem is becoming acute. Three years ago, both SAG-AFTRA and the Animation Guild swallowed the vaseline sandwich of New Media "anything goes" salary minimums to reach final deals. But in 2018, SAG-AFTRA is resisting the kind of New Media language it signed onto in 2015. And TAG, starting new contract talks next month, has put an improved New Media clause at the top of its agenda.

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