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Bad Ideas

Amid Wage Theft Scandal, ‘Wired’ Calls Ed Catmull A ‘Big Hero’

To accompany its fawning story on the success of Walt Disney Animation, Wired is promoting John Lasseter and Ed Catmull as “big heroes” on its cover (Big Hero 6, clever huh?). While this may not be as bad as the time that Vogue (also from Wired’s publisher Conde Nast) called the wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad a “rose in the desert,” it’s still bad.


Catmull’s central role in the animation wage-theft cartel have led to multiple lawsuits, which are just getting underway. His actions allegedly robbed thousands of employees of wages and career advancement opporutnities not just at Pixar, but also Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Digital Domain, Lucasfilm, and Imagemovers, among other studios.

Somehow “big hero” doesn’t sound right for someone who may have spearheaded one of the largest acts of criminal wrongdoing in animation history. Let’s wait to see if he can first clear his name before dropping superlatives on him.

The full fold-out cover from the new issue of "Wired."
The full fold-out cover from the new issue of “Wired.”
  • Dirty Laundry Day

    the sisters look like they finally found their sugar daddies

    • They look like gangster’s wives.

    • Don’t tell the fangirls or they’ll ship it for eternity.

    • Pennyjpie

      Naturally, those two and that tiny one above them made them a loooooooot of money. All they need is Mator carrying a trailer full of cash. XD

    • Tom

      I’ve never understood that expression on the promo art for that character. Makes no sense at all.

  • More like, “low criminal of deepest guilt, of maximum arson’s and resource”. Watch and ward him with all of thy skill.

  • starss

    Why bring the cartel into this? Is that really warranted in a story that’s really only about journalist sensationalism?

    • AmidAmidi

      Somehow “big hero” doesn’t sound right for someone who may have spearheaded one of the largest acts of criminal wrongdoing in animation history. Let’s wait to see if he can first clear his name before
      dropping superlatives on him.

    • Lori

      The cartel needs to continue to be mentioned in stories like this and beyond. There seems to be a rush to defend Catmull and those other higher ups who have played a major role in that, and a cover like this does nothing to help in bringing to light what their criminal wrongdoing is and what it means in the long term. And while it shouldn’t take away from the artists who worked on BH6, I think that what we as artists in the animation industry need to do is to demand more from those in positions of power where we work.

    • bob

      No it’s intentional positive press used as a red herring amid the lawsuit they are currently involved in. It’s typical politics.

    • RCooke

      No. The only “sensationalism” is the attempt to sweep such reputation destroying illegalities and under the table with self written pr puffery.

  • Tim

    Yikes, that lascivious look on Elsa’s face…seems like she wants some of that sweet Catmull lovin’. Disturbing.

    • Kirby

      With all this ‘Tude injected into to covers characters I’m surprised Catmull isn’t doing it himself.

  • akira

    uh, how many great movies were they “behind”? i’m thinking: cars, cars2, frog princess, bolt, what else? are they taking responsibility for pixar’s recent drought ? isn’t lassetter the reason people like chris sanders and glen keane left disney? is that what “Bringing back the magic to disney” is?

    • bob

      I’m on board with being being disgusted about the wage theft stuff… but simply stating the underwhelming movies they were a part of doesn’t dismiss the great ones they helped create before they went all darth vader.

      To be fair… Glen Keane is old and rich. If he was in any other field he would be retiring… so unless he has specifically told you why he left Disney, maybe don’t assume?

      • Mesterius

        Sorry, Glen Keane is rich?

        • bob

          His salary wasn’t small….the old school Disney guys were not hurting in the money department… Part of why the wage cartel happened. Some people had 7 million dollar contracts. Rich enough to retire happily…I’d say so… oprah rich? No…

          • Despite all the money Disney makes, I doubt any animator could ever be Oprah rich, unfortunately for the rest of us :)

          • bob

            I can’t tell if you’re reiterating one of my points or if you misunderstood what I was saying. . I’m definitely not saying animators are oprah rich………….

          • Hankenshift

            Lasseter, an animator, is Oprah rich.

    • Tim Tran

      Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Frozen, Wreck It Ralph are amazing successes. u just mentioned everything a long time ago.

      • Winnie the Pooh was a great film, but monetarily I don’t remember it being a great success; I seem to remember it making less than Bolt, and Bolt wasn’t exactly one of their top grossing films.

  • Dave

    Aside from the wage suppression scandal, it’s surprising to see Winnie the Pooh featured as one of the characters on the cover , as an example of how they “brought the magic back to Disney” . That lackluster Pooh movie was one of the biggest blunders Lasseter and Catmull made , virtually assuring the final suppression of traditional hand drawn animation at Disney (or maybe that was really the plan all along , I don’t know whether to trust these guys when they professed their great love of and support for hand drawn ) .

    • I liked the Winnie the Pooh movie, so I disagree with you about the quality of the film. It also has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So I think it’s more a matter of taste. Not that your main point isn’t right. The problem wasn’t that it was “lackluster” (your words), it was that it was aimed at a VERY narrow audience: preschoolers and their parents (and a few animation geeks). Due to the smaller audience, it was never going to be a blockbuster like “Frozen”.

      • insert name here

        The main reason that nobody went to see it in the theater is that there is already a bunch of Pooh 2-D animation out there, and nothing about the new movie looked especially different from what had come previously. They probably figured that it was popular enough to be a sure thing, but no parent is going to make the trek out to the theater when they probably have five or six Winnie the Pooh videos at home already.

        • Dave

          Exactly. So who couldn’t have predicted that “meh” reaction from the general public ahead of time ? But the big heroes (geniuses) thought what Disney hand drawn animation really needed at that critical moment in time was another retread of Winnie Pooh ?! (again, an enjoyable little movie for what it is , well animated , everyone who worked on it did a good job, nothing against it … except that there was no reason to do another retread of the same old thing , no better than Pooh’s Heffalump Movie or The Tigger Movie and to the non-discerning average viewer not even much different than all the other direct-to-video Pooh stuff. )

  • Todd DuBois

    Not so sure I’m on board with this one. It is one thing to question when / if Wired will spend due attention to the lawsuits, but the operative words here include “alleged” and “may have”. If superlatives are premature, so too is a stance that presumes guilt when the legal dispute is far from being near done playing out, let alone decided.

    In the meantime, the fact does stand that the Disney / Pixar fusion led to an essential creative kickstart at the company, which is what Wired’s article is all about. I don’t expect or demand media to willfully not discuss that for the duration of however long this legal mess lasts. However this affair turns out, that achievement exists and will stand as significant.

    • AmidAmidi

      America’s legal system isn’t really about deciding guilt or innocence when it comes to corporations. In the first Hi-Tech litigation suit, Pixar and Lucasfilm settled out of court without admitting guilt. You can read about it here: https://www.hightechemployeelawsuit.com/faqs/

      The current lawsuits may play out in a similar manner manner and there may never be a verdict, guilty or otherwise, but thanks to Catmull’s deposition from the earlier case as well as Pixar’s internal documents, we already know that they engaged in illegal behavior.

      Also, the point of the piece wasn’t about whether Disney’s achievements are significant or not (they probably are to some extent); it was specifically about the idea of labeling Catmull a “big hero” when he’s negatively impacted the livelihoods of thousands of industry workers.

    • RCooke

      “Alleged” in this case is most certainly not “premature.” The facts are admitted, legally recorded, and only partially settled, and cannot be be factually disputed. Your “feelings” about the matter don’t count. Facts are just that.

  • jonhanson

    What amazing journalism here. What he and the others allegedly did should be the big news, not some puff piece. And I say this as someone who would have counted both of these men as personal heroes a year ago.

    Also kind of bizarre to see Winnie the Pooh on the cover since it’s more advertising than the movie got before its release.

  • A Guy

    Is using the word “amid” in a sentence like that weird for you when it’s your name or are you used to it?

    • GW

      In elementary school I knew a kid whose name was Will and he got flustered when me and another kid used the word ‘will’ in a sentence.

  • DangerMaus

    Must be a typo. I’m sure that should have been a ‘Z’.

  • Kevin

    Make no mistake, these two men established great films and studios and have capital in stimulating Disney animation for this decade, but in the wake of the scandal, I can see why this article should have been put on hold. I’m sure it’s a good read on the good merits on what these two have done as creative visionaries, but all the while, those darker shades of the anti-poaching occurring under the surface. I don’t think we can discount the positive achievements of these men, but so close to the scandal the title is pretty unnecessary although it does well to promote “Big 6.”

  • Toonio

    Won’t be the last time Wired sides with the bad guys.

    The only thing they missed was them holding a sign saying: problem?

  • Seems like Variety at least had sensationally bad timing on this article… also, I feel like there should be more Pixar characters on the cover since, you know, they founded Pixar… but that’s a minor point compared to the main one.

    • tt

      There’s no Pixar characters at all in the pic tho. All of them are WDAS.

    • starss

      This article is not A-BOUT. Pixar.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Is there anyone out there working at Pixar or Disney right now? What is the overall company morale? I’d imagine it’s pretty low with a “every man for himself” type attitude.

    • my2Cents

      Haha, its really funny to see comments like this. It must seem like that to everybody working outside of major studios, but the majority of people working at Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks are quite content and are not running out the door to grab their pitchforks as most people outside of the studios are. This is not to say that what Ed and JL did was by any definition a good thing.

      Most studios do a solid job at taking care of their artist. even if wages could be higher, wages at such studios, specially if they are part of the union, are pretty damn good. Honestly its easy to say, “ill never work at a studio like Disney” but so many people would do so in a heartbeat if offered the chance. The hypocrisy runs so deep when it comes to being “outraged online”. The ugly truth is that most people who are very angry will not work under these studios for a million other reasons than them boycotting. I do not know who would be foolish enough to think that it could be soooo easy to get into any major studio.

  • ReindeerFlotilla

    Nice to see Amid come out so solidly in support of free market principles.

  • murrray

    Catmull cured me of ever wanting to work at Pixar.

  • Strong Enough

    its weird the world is ignoring this story. i mean this is “aaron sorkin adapting to a movie” level shit

  • BurntToShreds

    Heaven forbid someone write a piece about somebody that brings their achievements to light and it gets coincidentally published during a bunch of lawsuits that could last God-knows-how-long. It would have been unfeasible for them to just hold onto that story and wait for probably years and then finally publish it when everything’s settled.

  • Johnny

    So many punchable faces.

  • This article is a disappointing distortion, but not surprising. Big names in Hollywood trying to cover themselves with positive press is nothing new.

    On a side note, who designed that cover? Yech! It’s so overcrowded and filled with badly thrown together stock images. I can’t imagine any animation fan (or lover of cinema) putting it on their wall.

  • Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter don’t exactly share the same target audience.

  • Oliver_C

    Wired magazine, fawning?

    If it’s new, Wired will fawn over it.
    If it’s shiny and new, Wired will fawn over it.
    If it’s shiny, new and technological, Wired will REALLY fawn over it!

    All other criteria are irrelevant.

  • Debergerack

    Not to mention, it was such a blunder at the box office as it was premiering around the same time as Harry Potter and The Deadly Hollows Part 2. It totally got slipped under everyone’s radar.

  • Someone


  • djm


    Since you do run one of the most widely read and respected animation blogs in the industry, are you going to try and contact Wired? As a request from a satisfied follower, I ask you to pester the hell out of them until they consent to a response? I would love to see you engage even further into the fray.

  • Hankenshift

    It wasn’t “critically acclaimed” much at all. And it was certainly NOT “financially successful.” The claimed budget was $30 million (it was higher) and marketing was probably another 20 million. Worldwide it made only $33 million. And, worse yet, it was paired with that awful nessie short thing.

    • otterhead

      Er… you’re factually incorrect. It got a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, was one of the most acclaimed animated films of the year, and did quite well worldwide and on home video, especially. It’s OK if you didn’t like the movie, but let’s not just make things up.

    • um… 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes? Financially you’re completely right, though.

  • RCooke

    “the economics of hollywood has brought Ed down this path.”

    No, that’s complete b.s. And it shows a complete ignorance of the “business.” And it hasn’t really been taken care of, because the fox is still in charge of the hen house.

  • Marz

    Maybe at one point he was a good guy but even if you forget what it’s like to be a struggling artist, any decent person should know forcing people to work well below their pay and making sure they can’t possibly move up while you’re rolling in money is absolutely evil. if he was a good guy once he sure as hell isn’t now. He’s super villain level evil.

  • This is called the art of creativity.