Disney layoffs might hit city


Karen S. Kim

MEDIA DISTRICT WEST -- Walt Disney Co. officials have been

tight-lipped about details surrounding their layoff plans for 4,000

employees, but officials in a local animators’ union said Disney informed

union members that more than 30% of Disney’s animation employees will let


“It’ll have a major impact,” said Steve Hulett, business

representative for North Hollywood-based Motion Picture Screen

Cartoonists and Affiliated Optical Electronic and Graphic Arts Local 839

IATSE. “It’s just a minor downsizing -- unless you’re one of the people

being downsized. Then it’s a major catastrophe.”

Though Walt Disney Co. has facilities in Burbank, Glendale, Orlando,

Fla. and Paris, much of the animation is done on the company’s Burbank

and Glendale campuses, union officials said.

Local 839 represents about 2,000 animators and computer graphics

artists who work for Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Universal.

Several hundred members live in Burbank and Glendale, Hulett said.

Hulett said his members have been told that 47% of Disney’s

traditional animation department will be cut, from 71 employees to about

34. In addition, 33 of Disney’s 127 cleanup animators and 23 of Disney’s

41 layout artists will be laid off, Hulett said.

Walt Disney Co. officials have said the cuts will affect all 120,000

employees of the company, and they declined to comment on how specific

departments will be downsized.

“The economy is slowing, and we’ve been seeking ways to cut costs and

operate more efficiently,” Disney Spokeswoman Christine Castro said,

adding that compensation to laid-off employees initially will cost the

company about $250 million but will save Disney about $350 million to

$400 million annually. “This is just another thing we’ve decided to do.”

After Disney informed employees of the 4,000 layoffs, workers were

given the option of receiving an enhanced benefits package for

voluntarily leaving. The deadline for agreeing to the deal is Friday; all

layoffs should be completed by July, Disney officials said.

Disney officials also declined to comment on how the layoffs might

affect the company’s plans to transform its 125-acre Grand Central

Business Centre campus in Glendale into a high-tech creative campus.

“We’re not slowing down production of films. We’re releasing the same

number of animation films, because we have our slate set until 2006,”

said Andrea Marozas, spokeswoman for Disney’s animation department.

“We’re just making the business more efficient.”

Since Disney opened its studio with animation in 1923, the company has

produced animated hit movies that recently have included as “The Little

Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Mulan.” Disney’s newest

animated film, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is scheduled to open June 15.