I thought it would be appropriate to start the year out, not with a review but rather a news piece. The Animation Guild’s (TAG) contract expired leading to negotiations in November and December last year with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.
The talks were put on hold after nearly a week of negotiations and are expected to resume soon.
What are the members of TAG asking for?
To be paid fairly.
Animation writers are typically paid a fraction of what live-action writers are paid. Things are even worse for writers for shows on streaming platforms. Due to laws surrounding new media, writers (and creators) of streaming shows, can get paid significantly less than those on cable.
According to Cartoon Brew, minimums for live-action writers, who are covered by the Writers Guild of America, are at least double that of those covered by TAG own: $3,964 to $5,059 per week, in contrast to $2,064 in animation. Also, a rookie writer on their first working for a live-action series will make more than a seasoned animation writer.
The negotiations also include better deals for the other members of animated show crews. Across the board crews on animated shows are paid less and treated worse than the crews on live-action series.
Most animated shows are getting production orders for “one season” but release it as multiple seasons. This means less money for everyone who works on the show “never receive pay increases for second and third seasons because internally their contracts are only for a single season.”
This isn’t even getting into the fact that most animated shows are staffed by freelancers – even the writers’ rooms. This means that these writers are paid even less and they don’t necessarily get to stay long enough to develop characters and stories in the same way they would if they were full-time staffers.
A few freelancers on a show is fine – but when you have a show that’s heavily plot-focused and filled with lore, having a room full of freelancers is a detriment to telling a good story. Some shows are lucky; Infinity Train had a proper writers’ room but so many shows do not.
In general, people in the animation industry often get the short end of the stick. Not only are they getting paid less, have less vacation time, and are given shitty contracts but they also don’t receive the same privileges that live-action staffers do.
There is a whole complicated situation with the live-action Lion King and the staff of the original movie. You can read it here. But basically, even if you create a story and characters for animation — you may not receive credit or residuals if that gets adapted to live-action.
But again, these are only for shows made under TAG, which is most shows. Popular adult animated comedies –Family Guy, BoJack Horseman, The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, etc – are covered by the Writers’ Guild of America, which means they’re paid like live-action staffers.
I’m worried most people won’t care about the negotiations – because they think these animation writers shouldn’t have gone into the profession if they wanted to be paid more or negotiated better from the start (?!). I’ve been on dates with two guys who had this train of thought – that the animation industry professionals are being paid what they’re “worth.”
They, of course, aren’t getting another date from me.
Animation as a medium should be more valued – especially during a pandemic when they’re the only entertainment industry able to continue producing content like before; there’s a lot of flexibility to animation and I hope that continues after the pandemic.
I really hope that this makes those on the other side of the negotiation realize just how undervalued and overworked these people are.
Negotiations should start later this month.
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