DreamWorks Eyes Shanghai

California animation studios have had satellite studios in Asia since the 1980s, when Disney operated out of Japan and Hanna-Barbera had Fil-Cartoons in the Philippines. It’s the same today, only the names of the companies have changed, like Lucasfilm with its studio in Singapore and Digital Domain in India. Now, according to this Reuters story, DreamWorks is aggressively pushing forward with its plans to launch a studio in Shanghai, a development that we first reported last September. The new studio, DreamWorks East, could be up and running by January, and its first feature is slated for 2015. DreamWorks and a consortium of Chinese companies will invest up to $2 billion over five years in the joint venture, and the studio will also develop theme park rides and distribute films.


  • Someguy

    The deindustrialization of America continues…

    This is obviously terrible news for the workers of the American animation industry, great news for owners of American animation studios, and questionable news for new workers of the Shanghai animation studio (will they be functional slaves, or will they make a living wage?).

    The only “upside” for America that I can see, is that it will force more people off the fence that they’ve been sitting on. The really interesting thing to know would be how much corporate tax relief studios… excuse me, I mean job creators…like Dreamworks and their parent company currently enjoy.

    SG.

    • wgan

      functional slaves? making a living wage?
      you obviously haven’t been to Shanghai, have you?
      I’m sure they will get paid well (not as good as western standard of course), thanks for the worrying for the third world country workers, I dont expect some whingy this early, but boy the first reply, can’t you guys have a break? again, if you are good enough, you shouldn’t been worrying about outsourcing, besides, they will only target Chinese domestic market which means huge and closed (according to the policy), they’ve got pretty to do without taking more jobs out of your hands, seriously, stop whinging! if you have to blame, vent on the globalization, all right?

      • Someguy

        I have been to Shanghai, actually, but thanks for coming out.

        Now as to my point, there are workers in China who are functional slaves, ie. they are prevented from striking by the state so they can’t fight for higher wages and they need the money to live so they can’t leave. So while they are not technically an enslaved workforce, one can argue that they are held in place by state violence, which is how modern slavery was, and is, accomplished. And if you have a choice between working under brutal conditions for many hours, with little rest, and for little pay, or starve to death, many would argue that is a false choice. Honestly, this is so obvious, I really don’t know why I have to explain this.

        Now you might not care about any of this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

        In my post I was perfectly clear (so I thought) that they might get paid a living wage, or they might be exploited. Yes, not everyone in China is working in a sweatshop. Yes there are improvements in living conditions for many and an increase in the minimum wage. Also, there are parts of Shanghai that are damn near perfect and put many western cities to shame.

        So, are you saying there no sweatshops in China? Are there no suicides at factories that make Apple products because the people would rather be dead than continue under those brutal conditions? Perhaps you imagine that companies outsource to China because they love Chinese food, or because they want to help Chinese people have a better life. I really don’t get it, I’m not even being sarcastic, I’m honestly baffled that this is a point of contention.

        But maybe you’re right, why care…excuse me, “whinge” about third-world workers, I mean it’s not like they matter. I mean, I could be writing about John Lasseter getting a star on the walk of fame. I mean that’s really important stuff. And it’s not like Canadians or Americans would ever be exploited by the corporations and the governments. What could we ever possibly have in common with workers who don’t have a union and have to work for a wage that keeps them just scraping by, regardless of how profitable the company gets. Nope. No similarities at all.

        Also, if you believe that Dreamworks is going to build a studio overseas, train the staff, and out of the goodness of their heart they will never use ANY of that low-cost talent for their North American wares, I have a bridge for sale. I am curious as to this “policy” that you mentioned, that will prevent this from happening.

        Also you say, I shouldn’t care about the outsourcing, but I should vent “on the globalization”…do you even know what globalization means?

        And, I have to laugh about your outsourcing line. If you think only bad, lazy, decadent, “entitled” Western workers have something to worry about from outsourcing, buddy, have a nice life.

        SG.

    • Matt Sullivan

      Just anbother attempt to DESTROY the American animation industry. Get ready guys. Soon there won’t be ANY jobs. We REALLY should start up a bunch of ARTIST driven animation companies. Seriously. FU*CK this studio-driven push to cheapen our industry and push artists OUT of the process. We’re already second banana to wirters ( studios they treat the writers like GOLD and we’re just…the labor.)

  • http://www.jinhienlau.com jinnaboy

    investments, theme park rides, globalised industrialisation, all these boardroom committee buzzwords can’t hide the fact that its just big companies with ridiculous profit margins and million dollar bonuses for their CEOs utilising cheap labour overseas. Lucas studios has been in Singapore for over half a decade now, has it announced any projects that would bring any form of creative growth for the hundreds of singaporean talents working under it?

    no, all they get to do is inbetween and churn out hundreds and hundreds of episodes of “THE CLONE WARSSSSS” . It is a place where you go in to have your creativity crushed because you are given the most monotonous and robotic of things to animate and you will hit the glass ceiling soon because the “creative” positions like storyboarding and script writing process are all handled state-wise. theres a more colloquial term for such operations… “sweat shops”

    china used to make animations like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp99Frk9EV0

    after 3 decades of “open market” where it was relegated to being the anime industry’s inbetweening bitch. it considers this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8yJfjjJ5Tg

    to be representative of what it has to offer as animation as a nation/culture.

    a sorry, sorry state of affairs.

  • Benny

    So long Dreamworks RFT’s.

  • Dario

    This is celebrated by those who earn money with dark business. China… I mean, this is by far the biggest contradiction of the US moral. Supporting, keeping quiet and getting involved with a country whose best business is to slave their workers.

    When you read the inscription “printed in China”, “manufactured in China” in any “the art of” books, or any Disney printed publication, you must be aware that behind that book or object there was an employee who for sure works more than 16 hours a day. Just check the video “Child Labour in China: Tiny Hands, Silent Voices” (YouTube), just to give you an example.

    In the field of animation it’s similar in the sense that employees there are paid just a few coins, but they never show up in the credits!

    But this is also happening in developing countries, like in Argentina (my country). Lousy animation studios (lousy in comparison to the big ones in the US), deal with the early stages of development, and then they send the animation work to China and India. Isn’t that stupid? Where’s the passion behind this work. I know many colleagues who would work for very little money just because of the passion we all share. I just can’t understand executives lack this passion.

    I don’t like China’s government, either it’s society for many reasons involving violence, censorship, commerce, and lack of solidarity, but what should bother people is the lack of international concern about this issues and how we’re creating unemployed workers worldwide thanks to China’s business.

    What are we doing in our countries? Instead of hiring our talted people we need to make MORE money by paying people who can’t even relate to our culture?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Such a talky subject here I take it. I hardly think much of it anymore since I’m sure we’ve dug the hole deep enough NOT to fill it back up again.

  • Brad Constantine

    How do you say “that sucks” in Mandarin?

  • embarrassing.

    Dreamworks should be embarrassed by this latest OUTSOURCE venture. Try to sugarcoat it with whatever nonsense excuses you did when you set up your OUTSOURCE STUDIO IN INDIA… But its still just Jeffery and his Board of Executives being CHEAP. They don’t care about quality, as evident in their features and TV shows….All they care about is the bottom line and the dollar. Outsourcing to your Mud Hut in India didn’t save you enough money? Now you have to outsource to China?
    If the wake up call didn’t go out to the Animators in Glendale and Redwood City from the India venture…. Hopefully you’ll see the writing on the wall with China.
    Your days are numbered. And the irony is that the studio that currently employs you is asking that you go TRAIN YOUR REPLACEMENTS.

    • Skeptical

      They don’t care about quality, as evident in their features and TV shows…

      If you believe that is true, then why would DreamWorks’ films be so successful? If DreamWorks really didn’t care about quality or about their crew, why does a flood of talent from other studios keep going there? Why would Katzenberg have kept investing his energy and money when things weren’t going well during the first five years of the company?

      You can’t have it both ways. Either DreamWorks is a crap company, only interested in the bottom line, in which case you have no reason to think twice about this, or you think they’re a fine studio and are worried they’re going into a venture that could endanger that status.

      A third possibility is that DreamWorks does care about quality and they’re going to keep making films in RWC and Glendale, and they also want to take some of the money they have tied up in China and see if they can get a major foothold in the biggest emerging consumer market in the world. Perhaps it’s not either/or?

      In any event, if you think competent animators in India or China are living in mud huts, and being paid mud-hut wages, you need to do a little research.

      • Jason H

        Clearly success of a few business men must mean everything’s a-ok while everyone else rushes to the bottom in terms of wages and safety.

        That’s basically your argument.

      • Skeptical

        If I thought you actually read what I wrote, and understood it, I’d give you a rebuttal.

  • fish

    The impression I’m left with after reading that linked article is that dreamworks is creating a Chinese studio to create content for the entertainment market in China specifically. And other articles regarding the same news have said as much. I could be wrong, but if they’ve found there to be significant value in their product for the Chinese market, then why not diversify such that they have a dedicated studio to create content for that eastern market?

    Maybe some on this board are jumping to the conclusion that the chinese studio will be making how to train your dragon 2 or something?

    • http://dtoons.com/conroy Failed Art Student

      That’s what I read too. I think the article is being misinterpreted here.

    • Funkybat

      I think people are extrapolating out 10-15 years in the future. They see the “set up to create content for the local market” thing as the Trojan horse to get things up and running, get the kinks worked out, etc. Then in a decade or so there will be “mission creep,” and more and more first-tier stuff will just “happen” to be done over there. I have no idea if that’s how it will play out, but I can understand people’s wariness.

      • Skeptical

        Wages for skilled professionals in India have soared over the last dozen years. The same thing is happening in China, and it’s happening even faster. Shanghai is an expensive, top-tier city, and one of the most expensive places to live in China. Meanwhile, animator wages in the west declined after the boom in the 1990′s, and have been flat for a decade.

        It’s not hard to predict that, the way things are going, in 10-15 years wages for animators in China will be very close to wages for animators in North America. When you factor in Chinese business tendency to corruption and bribery, and the expenses of training up those animators from nothing, the cost-benefit of shipping American animator jobs to China to do high-level feature work is a losing proposition.

      • AltredEgo

        China is already training amazing classically trained artists. They may not be animators, but the national system is producing exceptionally skilled individuals. There is a huge artistic human resource there.

    • Jason H

      Businesses lie. Lucas didn’t outsource to Singapore for the ‘art style’.

  • Oren

    Lucas floated the lie that they outsourced to Singapore to take advantage of the art style prevalent in that country. Dreamworks isn’t even floating a good lie.

  • tony mccarson

    moral: money is NOT everything!

    china is a communist nation anyway.

    • http://www.jinhienlau.com jinnaboy

      what a ridiculously simplistic and downright stupid remark. YES, money TOTALLY does not matter to China , that’s why China has become the 2nd biggest economy in the world in only 20 years over their hatred of money.

  • wgan

    I’m just so shocked to see how narrow minded the so called creative industry people are

    • Jason H

      You mean about losing jobs to globalization as profits soar and as we all race to the bottom in terms of wages?

      If you think that’s narrow minded then sign me up.

  • E. Nygma

    It looks like Dreamworks is all about pumping out as much crap as they can. I thought this about them a while back but I thought they were starting to turn around with Films like Kung Fu Panda and Dragon.

    Now all I hear about them is that they found a new technology to pump out more product and ship more work off far away.

    IMHO Dreamworks is so far behind Pixar, Ghibli, and even newer Disney stuff. I would much rather watch Bolt or Tangled rather than 20 Shrek Sequels and spin offs. I really find their story telling and animation style lacking compared to the competition.

    I’ll take one great Pixar movie a year over Dreamworks quantity. (Ok not Cars 2)

  • Obo

    I love the sense of entitlement Americans have. Sorry but other countries and their people are not going to sit around being poor just so Americans don’t have to compete for their jobs.

    • John

      While Americans are becoming poor, remember karma is a bitch! You take our jobs now, it will fire back when these companies leave your country too in a few years, for lower wage jobs somewhere else. Don’t get comfortable. ;)

    • Matt Sullivan

      Obo, Americans CREATED the modern animation industry. Without our contributions, where would animation be? And wqe’re not saying only Americans should have nice jobs. We’re simply saying we worked hard to get ourselves this far and it would suck to see an art-driven business raped by Harvard businessmen.

      • Obo

        “Created” What did you create? The men and women who largely created this craft are dead. We don’t deserve special right to animation because we are american citizens.

        You can cry and moan all you want, but the rest of the world is not going to live in a bubble because you don’t want to compete.

    • embarrassing.

      So Obo… You’re content to be a bottom feeder and just wait for a Job to be taken away from somebody in the US and be handed to you…. Only because you’re Cheaper? You’re content that they picked you, not because you’re a better artist… But because… YOU’RE CHEAPER?

  • Matt Sullivan

    Here we go. This is the attempted end of all animation production in the U.S. We’re already seeing foreign animation companies credited alongside US studios. Soon there won’t be ANY American names on those credits.

    Studios will use any excuse they can NOT to pay artists what they’re worth, and now they’re even taking ANIMATION JOBS, which once required training talent and specialized skills, and are turning them over to SLAVE WAGE earning foreign studios.

    Honestly, if I were a Dreamworks employee I’d be striking, right here, right now, to send a message. No more production until you assure us you’re gonna keep animation production in the US.

  • Scarabim

    TAI LUNG!!!!!

  • iseewhatyoudidthere

    @wgan

    “again, if you are good enough, you shouldn’t been worrying about outsourcing”

    Wow, if you truly believe that, then you are pretty naive. It’s not that American workers “aren’t good enough”, it’s precisely the fact that workers in other countries will. work. for. less. Businessmen don’t care about exceptional quality. They are just fine with passable quality as long as the wages are low.

    • Jason H

      A lot of people have a ‘Just World’ Fallacy imbedded into their worldview. You think with all the information out there on the levels of crazy income inequality that this would change but nope!

  • iseewhatyoudidthere

    Again, (related to my last comment) that is if this studio is just an outsource studio and not for China’s own content. If the latter were true instead of the former, than that is not really a problem since it is pretty ludicrous to assume that one country’s taste in content is automatically compatible for another country’s tastes.

  • joe

    My god, people, calm the hell down.

    • Lily

      Why do you think this is something to be calm about?

    • Jason H

      It’s only our livelihood.

  • Samjoe

    Calm down? Is there something in the future to be calm about?

  • embarrassing.

    You all are IGNORANT to believe Dreamworks is just setting up shop in China to make movies for the Chinese Market.
    They’re doing it to CUT COSTS. And no other reason.

    The Animation Guild 839 wont step up and do anything about it, so Dreamworks is free to farm out their animation work to the LOWEST BIDDER.

    Anyone who doesn’t see that for what it is…..Dont act surprised when you’re layed off from your Job in Glendale or Redwood City.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Just like the beef over at the TAG Blog isn’t it.

    • Skeptical

      What do you propose the Animation Guild do? An illegal wildcat strike? That’ll keep the jobs here. A PR campaign attacking your largest employer? That worked well for the WGA.

      A lot of studios have tried to slash their costs by outsourcing animation to places like India and China. Despite your claims, it’s not clear that this is what DreamWorks is doing. If they are, you should know that all those other studios that have tried to make cheap feature films overseas have failed. Your Chicken Little mentality is a bit much.

    • http://www.animationguild.org steve hulett

      Embarassing:

      To bring a bit of clarity:

      The Animation Guild is the ONLY Hollywood Entertainment union to strike over runaway production. I gave up two months of pay when TAG picketed the major animation studios over the issue.

      Though the effort was ultimately unsuccessful, I felt the endeavor was worth the fight.