It’s not news that the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on the entertainment industry. We’ve faced weeks and weeks of announcements from studios about major productions getting halted. From The Little Mermaid to Shang-Chi, and Mission: Impossible 7, studios are taking the safety of their crews seriously. Given the amount of physical interaction required to put those movies to film, it’s no wonder they’ve been halted. The same goes for television productions. But what about animated series?
After all, the production process of your average network show doesn’t necessarily require interaction. Yes, studios have offices where artists, writers, and producers work, but in the age of accessible professional equipment, what impact is the COVID-19 having on the animation industry?
Any Delays In Animated TV Projects?
“Fortunately for television animation, we’ve been working digitally for over a decade now,” Director in Animation Bryan Newton, known for his work on Rick and Morty and Teen Titans Go!, exclusively told LRM Online. “When we were told of the [COVID-19] pandemic, we started to prepare everyone to work from home. Most of us have personal computers to use, and once we got the statewide order to close the studios, some people were allowed to bring their work stations home with them. This mostly applies to television 2D animation. I don’t know how feature is doing, nor 3D animation. And I would imagine all stop-motion projects are on hold.”
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So, it sounds like they at least have a plan in place. However, in spite of this, I had to ask if there would be any real delays as a result of COVID-19. Surely, studios could expect slight delays as a result of all this, right?
“Right now we’re trying to work as if we don’t anticipate any slowdowns,” Newton said. “The schedules are locked, and for our production, we have no wiggle room. We are using conference software to hold meetings, and for taking notes so we can share with those who need them. The big determining factor is if we’ll be able to keep working on all these shows if we can’t do sound mixing and recording. Once we no longer have performances, we don’t have a show.”
He certainly has a point there. While there are plenty of smaller studios that work with audio recorded in voice actors’ home studios, some still require voice actors to come in and record in-studio. So, while the current productions aren’t really affected, once they run out of material to animate, things may change.
“Personally, I think slowdowns are likely and should be expected. We need to let people deal with the evolving crisis and prioritize their own lives over productions.”
Indeed, while the production deadlines are important for studios, the reality is this is taking quite a toll on creatives. Hopefully, studios are taking this into account for projects going forward, and that they’ll take the safety and mental health of their employees into consideration.
The Future Of Animation Productions
And speaking of moving forward, I often talk about this being a pivot point in entertainment. Movie studios could take advantage of transforming the way they release their films. Similarly, this could be a way for studios to experiment with how they actually conduct their business. With employees being so productive working from home, could studios transform how high-level animated TV productions are handled?
“I think animation studios needed to move away from the ‘big studio’ mindset,” Newton told us. “Since the tools we use to produce animation have only become more accessible to anyone around the world, coming into a shared physical space isn’t always necessary.”
While Newton does think it’s possible to change the way studios do their work, the shift does come with its own concerns and issues.
Newton continued: “I’m only afraid of this because the benefit to us being together is that it is still much easier to communicate in person and to make sure no one is being exploited by work. Right now, there is no way to monitor someone isn’t doing unpaid overtime and I don’t think any of us are being compensated using for our tools (apps we pay for, computers we pay for, electricity and internet we pay for) so this might be a way for studios to make use of a situation at the artist/production workers expense.”
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There is also one other large factor that plays into this: control. When you have workers contributing out-of-office, you’re inevitably going to lose some element of control. As a result, Newton isn’t convinced things won’t revert to the status quo once the COVID-19 pandemic blows over.
“Studios still want to exert a lot of control over their properties, and if we’re all remote, then that ability will certainly lessen. That would be the main reason I think once we handle this crisis, the studio system will want to ramp back onto pre-COVID habits. We just don’t know when that will be.”
What do you think of Newton’s comments? Do you see the new production flow being a new status quo in the animation industry post-COVID-19? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!
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