Friday, January 30, 2015


Standing by the tree on the right, with Adam Ely, who helped me land the interview at SIGGRAPH

Well today's the final day for a vast number of my co-workers.  The shockwave of closing the PDI branch is still being felt.  PDI alums across the industry are posting alumni-photos in a show of support.  Down here at the Glendale campus we did the same.  Crazy to see how many of us got our start up at scrappy PDI.

Having been at PDI, I know what a precious environment that was for everyone, and how close-knit that studio was as a whole.  Breaking that up - where Shrek was born and saved DreamWorks Animation - is heartbreaking.

Today we're losing some amazing talent and some rare friends.  The cuts were across the board.  Senior artists, executives, promising recent hires...a huge trove of talent that will now get disseminated to other companies and locales.

My department, which had 29 people in it this summer, is down to just 19 - if all of the PDI people decide to move (which is unlikely).  It's just a tough time in the industry, and at least DreamWorks held off longer than most.  But there's just not enough work to go around anymore.  Most folks are having to look to new cities or countries for work - or just get out of the industry all together.

Wish there was a silver lining to end this post on.  But times are just rough.  Even though I feel fortunate to see what DreamWorks 2.0 will become, I just keep thinking about all my co-workers (and their families) and hope everyone can land on their feet...

Friday, January 23, 2015

End of an Era

Well, the clock finally ran out on DreamWorks Animation.  After losing money on a string of misses (Penguins, Peabody, Turbo, and Guardians), something had to give.  Everyone at the company could feel it.  Shows in production were getting low on shot inventory.  Rumors were swirling that other shows were having some make-it-or-break-it screenings with Industry heavyweights.  We saw a fairly significant layoff happen right before the holiday break.  Many other co-workers were already leaving for other jobs.  So it was almost a relief to see a last minute company wide update show up on the calendar (around 1am the day of).  Something was up.

News had broken the weekend before of impending layoffs leaked from some "unknown source" in DreamWorks Management.  So by this point layoffs are a given.  Estimates in the press and around the lunch table are from 100-250.  One report thought 400, but that seemed pretty high.  But some rumors started to filter in about even closing PDI.  And the first reaction is, "hell no - how can they do that?  They created Shrek!". you sit on the though, and look at it from a financial standpoint, a new reactions surfaces "oh crap, that makes some sense".   Started to hear that Katzenberg was going to give the address from up at PDI today.  Oh crap.

And sure enough, a grave, and heavy-hearted Jefferey gave a humbling and shocking quick speech (read from a script, which is uncommon).  500 layoffs.  Down to 2 films a year from 3.  Closing PDI.  Apologies for letting his eye off the ball.

What followed was silence.  Folks started to slower leave and a few muffled conversations began.  Many just stayed outside at tables and discussed all the unknown details of what we just heard.   The reaction at PDI must have been crushing:

Just want to put this down, but I guess I'll never I forget it- On Thursday afternoon, when JK finally said the words "PDI will be closing it's doors", the sound, the weird exhalation, it was a physical thing, like the last breath of a huge animal. Jen said it best, it was like the spirit just rushed out of the place and was gone.
- Brian Newlin on PDI Alum Facebook Page
Now it's wait and see time.  Folks will have meetings within a week to find out their fate.  Everyone is beginning to handicap themselves and everyone else's chances of staying or going.  It's a strange time.  My work on Trolls is on hold for a bit while everyone picks up the pieces.  Strange times...and this industry just became a little harsher and cold today.