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.