Friday, May 08, 2009

Pixar in Vancouver

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Pixar will be opening a studio in Vancouver.
The studio will hire 75 to 100 people, most of them Canadians, and will make all of Pixar’s three-dimensional, computer-animated short films, which usually run three to five minutes. All Pixar theatrical features will continue to be made at its main studio in Emeryville, Calif., which employs almost 900.
This is not the first time that Disney (which owns Pixar) has set up in Canada. Earlier, Disney opened two studios, one in Vancouver and one in Toronto, to produce direct to DVD sequels. Those studios were both closed during the period when Disney was shedding studios (in Florida, Japan, France and Australia) at a dizzying pace.

At present, anything that increases employment opportunities is a good thing. However, past experience shows that satellite studios tend to stay satellites. Rather than regard the satellites as minor league teams, where talent is developed and then moved up to the majors, the satellites are walled-off as facilities for lower budget work. Disney already has two studios turning out cgi features and there's no shortage of cgi family films. Furthermore, with rumours that John Lasseter is treating Pixar's studio more favorably than Disney's, it's unlikely that a Vancouver studio will be allowed to compete on a level playing field.

The reason for the new studio is convenience and cost. Vancouver is fortunate to be located in Pixar's time zone, but the other incentives are the cheaper Canadian dollar and various tax incentives.

No doubt that the people hired will have opportunities to learn techniques and sharpen their skills. They'll also have a credit that will improve their future job prospects. However, no one should apply to the Vancouver studio with the hope that it will be doing features. Where many artists see Pixar as their ultimate destination, Vancouver, at best, will be a way station.

(See further commentary by me here.)

18 comments:

Steve Schnier said...

Hi Mark,
Very true. The satellite studios remain just that, satellites. Although Disney's Orlando studio which I believe was intended for "display purposes only" wound up as the main production site for Lilo and Stitch. So, stranger things have happened.

And the crew jackets will be awesome.

Anonymous said...

let the digital dog and pony show begin!

Anonymous said...

yep - what mark said . . .

JPilot said...

I wouldn't downplay the advantage of having the Disney or Pixar name in your resume, no matter where the studio is located. Even long after the Canadian Disney studios shut down, employers will still favor recruiting an ex Disney Toronto applicant over any other just as qualified and experienced prospect who worked for lesser known name brand studios. Do you see a trend for the opposite? I don't.

Erica Pitt said...

Things in Vancouver have slowed down quite a bit recently...

When I first graduated back in 07' it seemed like there were more jobs than people to fill them, and now we're hanging onto every job we can often times with a few months of unemployment in between contracts.

Even if this studio turns out to be a way station, it's still work coming into Vancouver (which we really really need right now). A lot of talented people are out of work.

I'm hesitantly excited about this news, but excited nonetheless.

Mark Mayerson said...

JPilot (Jean to those who know him), I agree with you completely. The Canadian industry is so star-struck than any big U.S. company name on a resume, even if it's from the branch plant in Canada, raises an applicant's status. That's a sign of the Canadian industry's insecurity and it doesn't speak well for us.

While Pixar-Vancouver will enhance sombody's Canadian prospects, I suspect that the majority of people applying will have their sights set on the big show in Emeryville. I'm afraid that most of those people will be disappointed.

Thad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Nethery said...

Just to clarify something that was posted earlier:

"Although Disney's Orlando studio which I believe was intended for "display purposes only" wound up as the main production site for Lilo and Stitch. "Disney's Orlando studio was certainly intended for display purposes, but was also always intended to be a working studio , not for "display purposes only" (that's what they have there now in the shell of what used to be Disney Feature Animation Florida) .

Not only "Lilo & Stitch" , but the feature films "Mulan , and "Brother Bear" , along with numerous short projects were made at the Orlando studio. (along with the never completed combination hand-drawn/cg animated feature called "A Few Good Ghosts" aka "My Peoples" , which was in active production when the then head of Disney Animation , David Stainton , abruptly decided to pull the plug on the Orlando studio in late 2003. )

Anonymous said...

Mark i kind of find it weird that you talk about studios as givers of succes. Like any other skill you can do up it's all about timing, who you know and where you are in the world plus the personal factor determination etcetera that will determine how easy you will get acces. Plus on a deeper level is Pixar THE place for succes? Good work is done in more places. Plus the fact it's paradoxical that you on the one hand criticise them for they're business plan and otherwise praise them for being THE place!

Anonymous said...

One question: how do we apply/where do we send our resumes?

Daniel said...

It is reason for locals to get their hopes up. Before this news there was less of an opportunity to land a job in Emeryville as easily. Working on shorts would be fantastic, because the level of artistry is almost the same as their features. They are paired with the features, so to me there is no big difference.

The animator jobs are likely already pegged, if not most of them. There's a lot of Canadians working in California that would likely make the move to work in their home country. Unless they know something about the studio we don't.

What do you think?

ted said...

To answer Daniel's question about animator's moving up to Vancouver to take those new jobs:

In order to qualify for the oh-so appealing tax credits (which are , no doubt, a major part of Vancouver's appeal for Pixar!) a studio has to hire mainly BC residents. To qualify as a BC resident, one has to have lived in the province for at least the previous 12 months. Hooray for us locals!!
I'm pretty sure that's how it works anyways...If anyone knows different, let us know!

JPilot said...

To Ted,
Yes, tax credits favors BC residents, but no studio is bound to hire only from the province. In Ontario we have hired many BC people if they were skilled and met the Canadian Citizen criteria. I was hired in Ontario out of Quebec myself. The residency tax credits apply to your address of residence on December 31st of the previous year.
If Pixar hires for their Vancouver studio in the fall, come January 1st 2010 everyone in the studio will be BC residents and counted in for the provincial tax credit.

JPilot said...

Everyone who moves to BC and get a home address there by December 31st that is.

Chris said...

Mark is right people, as with most animation gigs, they are usually temporary. This studio will probably(almost certainly) only hire experienced character animators who display a solid understanding of animation principles on their demo reel. Doesn't matter where you worked in the past - a demo reel which displays quality work is all that matters! No studio will favor you because of where you worked in the past if your work doesn't back it up. It really is all about the quality of your work and your ability to get along with others.

just check my blog for more info...

Anonymous said...

According to the news articles, the vancouver studio will not be producing shorts, but rather "short-form quality" work from "legacy" characters in "theme parks, DVDs, television and theatrical" for "several different divisions" of Disney.

spokeshave said...

I've worked at four satellite studios, Disney UK where they tried to find things for us to do. Even though the LA studio was struggling too get Little Mermaid finished. Universal/Amblin london was probably the only time they offered the whole studio contracts to move to the new Dreamworks studio. Warners and Vancouver for Dreamworks; the only lucky part is if they close the studio some people sometimes get moved to the main studio....

Justin Morison said...

"The reason for the new studio is convenience and cost. Vancouver is fortunate to be located in Pixar's time zone, but the other incentives are the cheaper Canadian dollar and various tax incentives."

...took the words right out of my mouth. I'm also with Erica Pitt on this one too. Hey Erica give me a shout.