Did The Animation Studio Behind SAUSAGE PARTY Mistreat Their Animators?

– by Joseph Medina

As someone who has popped in and out of the film and entertainment industry at the lowest of levels, I can attest to the fact that there's a lot of shady stuff going on. This is one of the few industries where you can get away with not paying your labor force because, frankly, there are thousands of others who are willing to work for nothing because of a glimmer of hope that it'll put them on the map.

While I've only had experience on the lower level, indie side of things (as well as a few tangential industries, such as anime dub work and post-production facilities), this is a problem in Hollywood that goes all the way to the top. It's easy to look at today's biggest blockbusters and shake our heads, thinking "I can't believe they spent $200 million on that." The fact is that producers and studios are always looking for a way to cut corners and thereby cut costs, and it's often the folks at the very bottom who get the shaft.

As such, it comes as little surprise to hear some stories pop up about SAUSAGE PARTY, the recent R-rated animated comedy. While the animation in the film isn't at, say, a Pixar level, it's a fact most are willing to forgive once you realize it was made an an unbelievable $19 million budget. For reference, Pixar's latest film, FINDING DORY was made for a reported $200 million, according to TheStreet. That means that Pixar had more than ten times the budget of SAUSAGE PARTY.

So how'd they do it? Well, recently, on the website CartoonBrew, there was an interview with he film's directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan where they addressed that very question. There was nothing too revolutionary in the interview itself. It was pretty standard "we worked hard" type of stuff that one can expect when making any film -- because, yeah, making a movie is hard.

However, you don't really notice anything really bad until you reach the comments. At the top of that section is a comment from someone going under the name "Uncredited Supervisor," and here's what they had to say about working at the Canada-based Nitrogen Studios:

"The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free. If you wouldn't work late for free your work would be assigned to someone who would stay late or come in on the weekend. Some artist were even threatened with termination for not staying late to hit a deadline.
"The animation department signed a petition for better treatment and paid overtime. When the letter got to Annapurna they stepped in and saw that artist were payed (sic) and fed when overtime was needed.
"Over 30 animators left during the coarse (sic) of the production due to the stress and expectations. Most of them left before the paid overtime was implemented. This was met with animosity and was taken as a personal insult to the owners. Their names were omitted from the final credits despite working for over a year on this film."

Another commenter, under the name "Another Uncredited Animator" followed up with this:

"Almost half the animation team was not credited. The team believed in this film and poured their hearts and souls into it. Despite this, more than half of it was not credited. You can see the full team on IMDB, which contains 83 people (and I am certain there are some missing). The film's credits, however, contains (sic) 47.
This was Nitrogen Studio's first animated feature and no pipeline had been set up. It was an extremely rocky production. The studio management had little knowledge on how to proceed and the film could not have been made without the hard work of experienced artists. The production went over a year of what was originally projected due to poor organization. The team had to fight for fair compensation and a lot of the artists needed to quit due to unfair practices and poor management. The studio had lost such a massive portion of the team by the end of the production (more than half) that they had to resort to hire (sic) recent animation graduates to finish the film. What we currently see in the credits are the students as well as animators who have stayed until the end of the production, and a couple who have left the production. Most of the animators who are not credited have been on the show for more than a year and a half, which is most of the production time. These are the people who have worked hard to set the style of the show and have their work used as promotion for the film. Nitrogen has been trying hard to hide this from the producers so I doubt that Seth Rogen even knows this. I hope that this can help get the word out."

Here are a couple more stories Dorkly found in the NeoGAF forums:

"-They fired the CG Supervisor mid production (one of many supervisors who got fired during the show) because he would say "we can't do this in budget" to Greg and Conrad's ideas. Which by the way both were the worst directors I worked with and had zero direction or vision. Their idea of directing was "lets throw sh*t at a wall until one sticks" so you would waste a ton of work until it gets approved and sometimes that would get unapproved in the future because they were in a bad mood.
-There was always this weird rivalry between the directors. Mostly with Greg because while Conrad was a co-director on a bunch of DW movies all Greg has under his name is the THOMAS THE TRAIN ENGINE episodes nitrogen (sic) did and he felt like he had to prove he is the top dog. He would get SUPER mad when he walks into dailies and finds animators talking to Conrad before he is in the room. He actually fired an animation supervisor over this."

It's very important to note that none of these stories have been verified. While one can go to IMDB and check on the credits, it's a bit more difficult to actually count the credited animators in the actual film. Thus far, there have been no names attributed to these animators, so it's impossible to tell if they're being truthful or not.

That being said, given the industry, I have very little trouble believing all I've read. As much as I love the content Hollywood pours out, very often, it's a shady race to the bottom when it comes to vendors and studios itching for paid work. Let's just hope that if this is true that the animators in question get the pay and recognition they deserve.

hat do you think of all this? Do you believe the comments of unfair treatment and unpaid overtime? Let us know in the comments down below!

SAUSAGE PARTY is in theaters now!

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