Matt Williames on Working at Disney Matt Williames on Working at Disney

Matt Williames on Working at Disney

If you read just one blog post this week, make sure it’s this one by animator Matt Williames describing his experience working on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. He states upfront that the piece comes from “a heart that wants to see change” and “My ONLY desire to see Disney recognize how far they have fallen because quite honestly I think we all care quite a lot about the studio that a guy named Walt started don’t we?”

He then goes on to write one of the most courageous things I’ve seen written by a contemporary animator: an honest appraisal of working at an animation studio. Matt’s thesis is that a feature animation studio should offer at least three things:

– A place with amazing films that challenge and inspire their artists.
– An environment of camaraderie (with the crew) where people are challenged and inspired to grow.
– An environment of active education and study.

According to him, Disney failed on all three counts. Watching The Princess and the Frog makes it clear enough that there are serious institutional problems at that studio, but Matt’s post adds a unique perspective to the situation. If anything, he shows that it’s just as difficult for the artists working on Disney’s current crop of films as it is for the audiences who are expected to watch and be entertained by them.

UPDATE: Matt removed the post from his blog.

(via Mark Mayerson)

  • While those three things are ideal, its easy to ask for them, they need to also allow the company making the film to make a profit. Not every artist fueled fantasy is worthy of a film or $90 million. The challenge is to find what is good and what isn’t and to have business with a sense of taste. I never liked the whole thesis that business stifles creativity and that the suits always bring the film down, sometimes the filmmaker is just not that good. That said I am not referring to the Princess and the Frog and from what Matt says it seems like he is describing PIXAR. It all goes to show that not everyone can replicate PIXAR.

  • I for one really thought things would be different with the new regime. But, so far it’s been quite disappointing-everything from the skeleton crews, outsourcing, to the movies that have been pumped out. The CG films I’d rank: Pixar/Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Disney Feature. I liked Princess and The Frog, but I don’t like what I heard about the production and the penny pinching atmosphere over there.

  • @Robert Kohr. He’s describing Disney, so he means Disney.

    It’s great for once to be in an environment where people can openly discuss that the Princess and the Frog really wasn’t that great, and whilst it may be have been popular, it could have been a far better film. Personally, I think the studio needs to focus on great new directors, films like Bolt and Meet the Robinsons showed this, but I think Ron and John are way past being old-hat and they really didn’t challenge themselves at all in how PatF was made, I felt.

    The things that Matt is talking about should come before getting worried about profit, and Disney has a problem here in that it is a media empire and not just a studio, like Pixar for example. They have theme parks, tv channels, marvel under their belt, a whole wealth of other things that don’t directly concern film making.

    Watching PatF you could feel so many keen artists at work at the studio, just waiting to prove themselves if they could only have the chance. Talk about history repeating itself. Creatively, it feels like a similar situation with how Disney was in the mid 80s, and recreating the conditions of the so-called 90’s ‘renaissance’ isn’t going to work. We need something new, new brave talent, and a studio that truly believes in them.

  • Martin Juneau

    The first time i hearing of Princess and the Frog feature, i was vaguely worry that the company repeated some mistakes from the past. And it happen! Matt Williames having the courage to tell to his public what is wrong with the actual Disney bullshit.

    Never seen as myself, but i having doubt that this movie will be a masterpiece. From what i see, Disney needs to being more creative to animation as Art and fired the executives who alienated the young generation with their own fake stars and creating something new for our time. My old teachers logic was exact and true: At the Walt’s years, they having more injuns than chief. Now, everyone is a chief and they have just one injun. It shows what it shows to the final result with those corporations nowadays.

  • D. Brown

    “While those three things are ideal, its easy to ask for them, they need to also allow the company making the film to make a profit. Not every artist fueled fantasy is worthy of a film or $90 million.”

    Wasn’t Walt offering thoses classes with Eric Larsen, Don Graham,etc. ? and even Stanchfield in the later days. Dreamworks and Pixar seemed to be doing that, but to what extend if the people are not given the time to improve their skills… or threatened if it compromises the crunch time.

    Big up to Matt Williames, and don’t forget to support him because people may give him hard times for standing tall and stepping up. This is an Industry that doesn’t forgive criticism and sadder when the artists are among these corporate minions…


  • PixarPete

    I worked at Pixar and I can tell you that it’s not the dream job everyone might think it is. I found it worse than Disney. But I don’t have the courage that Matt Williames has.

  • Karl Hungus

    What post?

    Did he take it down?

  • Ian

    Am I misssing something or has the blog post in question been edited?
    Is it supposed to start at “Now onto other more inspiring things”?

  • Sam

    I was talking to a friend just about this recently, about how different Disney is compared to the Walt Disney before.

    It’s really sad that nobody in their management who has enough power seems to ‘get it’. They were expecting too much from PatF when it was the first 2D film they have done in a long time. And Disney has obviously lost their audience’s confidence for a while, they need time to build it back.

    Another lesson, I think, is that they should take a visit to the Walt Disney Museum located in San Francisco again. Where the exhibition was entirely about Walt, himself, and there was none of that silly corporate, afraid-to-try-new-things management. It was purely about what Walt Disney did and how he pushed it further again and again.

    Disney today is just redoing what they used to do, and not trying new things. In fact, when I read that they were firing animators that were too slow, that certainly isn’t going to make the best animators and story artists(who are not as well known) wanting to work there. They are just going to keep losing the talents to the other big studios after they lay them off/ fire them.

    I hope someone at the Disney administrative department will read these comments, and not take this as an attack, but realize a lot of us really want to see them reign again. With TS3 and How to Train your Dragon raging a great 98% positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, I think Disney has a lot to learn from Pixar and DreamWorks still with their below 90% rating reviews.

    Another thing I really wondered, is John Lasseter’s involvement in Disney making things any better? It seems like Disney isn’t improving much either. Someone please correct me on this if I am wrong.

  • Ian

    Okay, it certainly isn’t. For who hasn’t read it yet, if you’re fast enough you can still read it at Google’s cached version of the page…

  • optimist

    Amid, maybe this is a good time to quote the interview Ward Kimball did around 1975 in the book by Walter Wagner. The one where he said” I don’t give a good goddamn about working at the studio[meaning Disney] anymore”, and goes on to enumerate why it had ceased holding any interest for him. The staff there today is much more numerous and fresh and the work has a lot more potential than in ’75, but the endgame is the same. Which it shouldn’t be.

    A name is only a name, after all, and corporate aversion to risk-taking coupled with the trickle down effect of people terrified of losing their piece of the pie makes for just as muct of a malaise as a 1974-era moribund shop with no creative drive left. In short, it’s a management failure. And artists who should be done better by pay the price.

  • I applaud the courage it takes to tell the truth about your former employer. It’s always good to get an insider perspective. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Matt wrote. He starts with the assumption that Princess and the Frog was a bad film (At least, that’s what I got from his post), and I found it a very good film, both funny and moving. And he needn’t denigrate one of the all time great animators, Frank Thomas, in order to illustrate that the clean up artists are under appreciated. Thomas’ roughs are full of invention, emotion and economy even if they are in need of clean up. But I’m glad he spoke his mind, I would like to see these companies have more respect for their artists.

    I worked at Pixar and I found it a great place to work (even if the hours are long) especially that they appreciated input from everyone there and even let me direct. I have not worked there in several years, so conditions may have changed.

  • The post has been edited. It’s gone.

  • amazing stuff, what a bold choice to state these things about disney, and congrats to amid for posting it on i recently read some of my school’s animation magazines, and it was a grim reminder of how poor the state of animation reporting is, and why need critical reporting sometimes. i’m just waiting for the flood of hate-mail from people who liked bolt more than triplets of belleville….but i suppose when people like matt say these things they have to anticipate the ‘BUT IT MADE MONEY ARTISTS DON’T KNOW NOTHIN’ camp.

  • Akbar Shahzad

    Damn it, I can’t find it! Props to Matt Williames for speaking out; not so much for editing it. Anyone have any other ideas as to how it can be read … ?

  • Note: I would like to comment before anyone reads or comments on this topic below that the intent of this post is NOT to bash anyone at Disney Animation, or the Princess and the Frog. As I wrote below my issues were not with any individual but rather the larger system, establishment, and current direction of Disney Animation. I have worked at several big studios and I feel this response to my time there comes from a deep love for what the original Disney stood for. I have worked at far worse studio, but some far better. But none with the legacy and responsibility that Disney owns due to it’s name. So as you read this know that my intent is coming from a heart that wants to see change, not one with malicious intent to damage the Disney name. I have no desire to offend or start any war via “Cartoon Brew” or whatever public site people frequent. My ONLY desire to see Disney recognize how far they have fallen because quite honestly I think we all care quite a lot about the studio that a guy named Walt started don’t we?

    So I suppose I should start this post by explaining the unposted “Disney Experience” post I discussed a few months back. I wrote about 3 versions of the post and just never found the balance of honesty and tact that I wanted. I either said too much that was unnecessary, or not enough to give a true flavor of my experience at the studio. That being said I’ll try to sum it up this way. I believe any studio should be at least these three things (but particularly Disney):

    – A place with amazing films that challenge and inspire their artists.
    – An environment of camaraderie (with the crew) where people are challenged and inspired to grow.
    – An environment of active education and study.

    Bluntly, Disney fails on all 3 counts. The thing I want to get clear is the thing I miss about Disney is the people… there are some wonderful/amazing people there whom I miss very much.
    But that being said it is the general set up and direction of the studio that I take issue with.

    On the first count “A place with amazing films that challenge and inspire their artists”, this is fairly straight forward to me. Frog was an ill-conceived film and a lot of us knew it. The entire concept with the film was to go back to the past. That is suicide. And it obviously was at the box office. I believe there is too much talent at Disney to be waisted on such silliness.

    The second point, “An environment of camaraderie (with the crew) where people are challenged and inspired to grow.”
    This is also fairly straight forward. This does tend to come down to the individual attitude of the crew member for which I am not necessarily attacking. I more take issue with the “Star animator” mentality that Disney is so good at pushing. If you don’t know what I mean how often do you hear about Dale Oliver? Dale was Frank Thomas’ assistant for a long time, and honestly he made Frank look VERY good without getting any credit himself. Find some of Franks original ruffs, they are nothing to marvel at. Look at what Dale did with them… amazing assistant work. But you never hear about him. Disney has the horribly destructive idea that there are a few “star” animators and everyone else is not as good and should be in a support role next to them. Translation? If they think you are not of star calibre then you get crap shots. Frankly, how dare they assume what you are capable of particularly when they have never given you a chance to show what you can do. This I think was one of the more difficult things to deal with at Disney.

    And lastly “An environment of active education and study”. Honestly to their credit there are several classes to take and things they “encourage” you to be apart of. But honestly when people around you are getting fired for not going fast enough then you don’t exactly feel welcome to take the time necessary to invest in these classes. I could see being apart of these things if you were single and living at the studio, as many of the artists do, but refuse to sell my life and deprive my family of a father and husband for the sake of an ill-conceived film that will ultimately be forgotten someday.

    This may sound harsh, but this was simply my experience at the studio and if you couldn’t tell I was highly disappointed. Since I have been gone I have felt more artistically fulfilled then I ever did at Disney… I have seen way more of my family, worked
    on far more personal films and in general just grown much faster as an artist. I only write this review of my time at the studio, not to bash them out of spite, but to speak up! So few people say what they really think, and that is partly why Disney continues down the road that they are on. Disney needs to hear from people that have been apart of their “family”… there is strength in numbers and frankly, people with much harsher (and truthful) things to say than I have just now. I sincerely hope Disney discovers the value of people and how they treat them along with finally making a film worth making.

    Now onto other more inspiring things! I have always been scared of my sketchbook. I’ve always felt the pressure to make every page perfect. Why do I do this to myself. Something I have been rediscovering is that art isn’t have perfection, it’s about ho
    nesty. It’s about saying something and evoking that emotion in the viewer, or listener, or reader, or whatever. Blogs tend to be ego-centric and I hate that part about them. I share these pages from my sketchbook with you now not to get 100 comments telling me how “amazing I am” and how you “hope you can draw that well someday”. I share them with you because they are my raw, unrefined feelings and I want to encourage others to not be overly concerned with gaining other peoples praise (as natural as that desire is). Could I draw these better if I layed down another sheet of paper and refined it? Will there be people who see these and immediate click to another blog? Sure… but that’s not the point, the point is expressing your feelings about what you are drawing in an unadulterated way. So, I posted full pages of my sketchbooks… full of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • I bet Gen. McChrystal is reading this and thinking “Hey, this ‘delete post’ stuff sounds cool. How do I do that?”

  • Charles

    Just let Disney 2D animation die already. It had a good run. Let someone else take it’s place and make something other than princess musicals.

  • Rebecca

    Personally I think Matt Williames is acting a bit like a drama queen. He ranted about how it was “unprofessional” when Disney laid people off as soon as they finished their shots. Isn’t that how it works with a majority of animated films? If they liked your work, they’ll ask you back for the next production. Also, Mr. Williames also wrote about how he got “cliche” shots to animate, that they were too short, and hardly seen. I understand not wanting to work on monotonous actions, but isn’t that how you climb the ladder? Do the cliche shots, but make them better than expected! Example: Fred Moore! He took Ub’s initial Mickey design and turned up the volume! Rather than complaining about the “cliche” shots and animation you were assigned, shouldn’t you take what you get and make it the best you can? If half of the production crew had the same attitude Willames had, maybe that’s why the movie didn’t reach a higher potential.

    Second point, Disney had made big steps since Home on the Range, you guys have to agree with me on that! I’ve seen all the hard work put into the latest films, they’re not just pulling out the same tricks from the hat. In Bolt, the animation on those pigeons were spot on! I think people are more focused on the business side of Disney (of which I am not an avid fan) rather than the talented people working in the actual studios.

  • Dan

    Well someones not gonna be working at Disney again!

    A lot of you can give your experiences working at Pixar and Disney, anonymously on the site here, I’d be grateful if you would!

  • Miguel

    Great topic Brew master!
    Just love the opinions put forward here.

    @ [email protected] – great read there!

    Looking forward to more similar and insightful articles Amid.

  • Ted
  • Shawn

    It’s refreshing to hear such an honest opinion about Disney from the inside. They don’t really have an incentive to create a great atmosphere at their studio because talent is expensive and replaceable. They can keep around a few really great artists, but even then, it seems like they kick people to the curb fairly quickly. I don’t think that’s the best work environment, but I doubt they see a reason to change it.

    I agree that the failing of their recent efforts was never the artists; it was the storytelling. Disney’s source material mostly consists of reinterpreting fairy tales. Really, it gets old no matter how many ways you think to make it relevant to modern audiences. Pixar has made an effort to really push original stories and take chances. Fairy tales fail to resonate with audiences for a lot of reasons. Hopefully Disney will figure out their more obvious issues in the future and revitalize their animated features. Otherwise, Disney will just be theme parks and the distributor for Pixar.

  • Sam

    “Well someones not gonna be working at Disney again!”

    It’s Disney’s loss if they decide they don’t want to hire him again just because he voiced out his honest opinion, where it was not with the intention to bash Disney up but hoping that they realize it’s serious that they need to buck up. Matt Williams is extremely talented and skilled, as we all can see from the works he did on his blog.

  • Karen

    I sure wish Disney would lay off marketing folks and executives between films.

  • Rufus

    Watch Day & Night and watch Toy Story 3. Now imagine the good toys being Pixar and the mean toys being Disney. Seeing a pattern emerging?

  • keithlango

    By and large I’ve found that the animation business isn’t very fond of people expressing their honest opinions. Film animation is a small, insular world filled with egos and allegiances. Rifts develop and persist for years. Sadly, one’s employability is often inversely related to their outspokenness. Which is a sad state of affairs IMO. Any industry or group of people who cannot tolerate critical self analysis from their own ranks is doomed to be marginalized. It’s sad that Matt felt the need to take down his post, but I can understand and appreciate the amount of hassle he’s probably received due to his writings. A man’s gotta eat, so too often that means a man’s gotta drink a big steaming cup of Shut the Heck Up. It’s a pretty pitiful commentary on the business, really.

  • I’ll have to write something one day. As one who has worked with the old man, as well as “new Disney.” Plus, I spent some time at Pixar.

    I’ve already had Roy Edward Disney pay me the highest compliment as the “animation troublemaker.” Thanks, Roy.

  • Well, a brave thing to admit, but it does deserve recognition. The house that Walt built is sadly, not what it once was. It’s a multinational conglomerate, and they are usually governed by successful productivity. The folks at the top would like to see things working better, but in a company that size, it can be a tall order. Not impossible, just unlikely.

  • Complaint:
    I wonder if it’s really the right thing to approve links to the post and a copy and paste of the post when Matt has taken his original down.

    For whatever reason he decided to do so, I would have thought it was respectful to let Matt treat the situation as he prefers.

    Poor form, indeed.

  • Disney has been running itself into the ground for years now, and they aren’t the only ones. Several studios have gutted themselves and filled seats with new, cheaper artists, only to do the same thing after the next film. The 80/20 rule, instituted at Disney in recent years, is troubling. What is that? The way it was explained to me is that 80% of the studio is “fresh meat”, while the remaining 20% are veterans who have been there for three or more films. This keeps salaries low and complaining that “this isn’t how Walt would do it” to a minimum.

    “Walt’s dead and you missed it!” – Ward Kimball.

  • amid

    Elliot – When we posted Matt’s comments, it was just another blog post on-line. Afterward, he chose to remove it from his own blog, which is fine. But it is unfair to burden this site and its readers with the task of making his writing disappear from the Internet. By adhering to that misguided and unreasonable expectation, you are absolving the original author of personal responsibility for his actions. We can say anything we want on-line but we should also be prepared to accept the consequences of our words; that holds true for you and I just as it does for him. Thankfully, Matt’s writing was respectful and showed an honest desire to improve the art form. It’s hard to fault a guy for that, and I don’t think he has much to worry about.

  • Clueless

    I think I heard Ralph Bakshi groan.

    The sad thing? Students who go to these art schools who are supposed to be the future of animation, in debt themselves so much, they pretty much have to score a job at a major studio; where creativity in animation goes to die.

  • Art as a product will always be kitsch. In order for animation to grow as an art form, it must be first separated from industry.

    Many independent animators have already begun to do this.

  • I’m not talking about deleting references to his post, I’m talking about approving comments with links to a mirror of the original post and the entire post itself pasted as a comment.
    But as long as everyone can find it elsewhere online why bother to show any respect here, right?

  • 2D

    “Watch Day & Night and watch Toy Story 3. Now imagine the good toys being Pixar and the mean toys being Disney. Seeing a pattern emerging?”

    Sorry Rufus, but working for Disney Feature Animation, I believe it’s the reversal. We are Pixar’s adopted step son. There are many talented people are not being able to spread their wings at Disney and are having fantastic ideas being shut down because of one person’s opinion who swings by only occasionally. We have a troubled system at Disney and powers surely need to be shifted around before we can truly make a great film. John Lasseter is terrific for Pixar and I respect his ideas, but I don’t see the positive influence at Disney.

    It’s very disheartening hearing that Pixar doesn’t hold us in high respects. When I say I work for Disney to anyone from Pixar, there’s really not any reciprocated artistic respect. I hate it. We just need to have the chance to spread our wings. Matt Williames is a friend and was a co-worker of mine who I have infinite respect for and believe it or not, but there are MANY frustrated artists there. We just need Lasseter to let up on the leash.

  • TrulyDD

    Disney has to come to terms with all the bad pr they have brought on themselves if they want instant growth.

    And remember, Walt wasn’t the most compassionate boss around, read about the wasp/bee management style and you know what I mean. Also get info on the infamous strike @ disney back in the golden era.

    Frank Zappa was right, today’s managers were yesterday’s hippies, hence the destruction of the entertainment business.

    Bad karma @ disney :(

  • Mark

    Its funny how you can go back to almost every “great- game changing idea” and find that someone took a risk and it paid off. Eventually the repeat button will wear out.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Was Disney studios, even in the so-called golden age, as romanticized as we have in our heads? I doubt it. It sounds like the blogger discovered this.
    It sounds like disillusionment to me. But on the good side it looks like the blogger has grown as an artist because (or in spite of) his professional experience. I loved his unpolished sketchbook drawings!

    Fans and animation artists have got to stop looking towards Disney studio in this messianic manner; that the great Mouse corp. will rise and deliver us. Whatever level of creativity that went on there past or present, it was still a business first….and most of will never work there….and to those that do, it’s a business.

  • This was my comment, which I was glad to find cached through Google since I labored over the words: It came from the heart, and while it doesn’t necessarily specifically describe my current anim sups(s)… it surely characterizes those that they report to, which includes the head ‘artiste'(s) (who incidentally report(s) to Disney) and was/were likely hired for his/their likeliness to do so without issue. <– Not sure they’re (D.) getting what they expected btw., he(they) surely have a specific eye/vision (I can’t account for ‘story’ though… I just don’t know. I’m bummed Matt pulled his post, but hey, he’s young. Maybe I’m still young? Maybe I should pull this post?!

    tbrunojr said…


    I admire your bravery. It’s quite clear you posses both the talent and the passion to rival many of the ‘entrenched’ there at Disney. It’s sad to me the Mouse House didn’t live up to what I’m sure you had imagined it to be.

    What once MAY have been, clearly no longer exists, despite a partial return to the traditional. Pixar (yes, I know…) and Dreamworks may be the final bastions of that sort of artistic, supportive, fostering environment you were expecting… But even there, you will find that politics and cronyism rules the day (and of course, the almighty dollar).

    Continue to do what you love until it’s no longer fulfilling. Let those who hold you back fuel your fire. The film-business is full of wannabees who fail their way upwards by ‘sucking-up’ to their bosses, playing it safe, taking credit for your work (that they could never do themselves), trampling upon trust, talent and passion in the process.

    The ‘business’ has changed for the worse, but in many ways it’s very much the same as it has always been (you’re just now becoming more aware of the way ‘things are’).

    This might sound pessimistic, but it’s not meant to be. I enjoy my ‘job’. Ten years in, I feel fortunate to do what I do. When I go home though, I work on what I enjoy most.

    When the fruits of THAT passion finally result in my having a crew of my own, our team will enjoy all of the lessons I’ve learned… And I vow never to become ‘one of them’.

    Love your stuff!
    11:30 PM

  • There’s a tendency to sugar coat “the good old days with Walt” and ignore the reality of the situation.

    As i understand it, when Walt was making Pinocchio, he paid a base weekly wage of $40 designed to be high enough to avoid having to pay overtime under the then current law. The week consisted of five full days plus a half day on Saturday. On top of that, there were several night classes required to be attended each week and “voluntary” additional life and animal drawing sessions. There were footage quotas to be met and all creative decisions had to be approved by the supervising artist first, then the director, then the creative executive in charge of the studio (who had a reputation for being surly and short with the artists at times). If you didn’t keep up with the pace that was expected of you, Gunther Lessing would leave a pink slip on your desk letting you know that effective immediately, your services were no longer needed- no two week’s notice- sometimes no warning at all. It was a great time to be sure, but it was much more demanding for assistants and middle level animators than today.

    Also, I was friends with Dale Oliver and he was a great draftsman, but he would be the first to give the lion’s share of the credit (and then some) to Frank Thomas for the scenes he assisted for him. Individual Frank Thomas drawings might appear scribbly, but in motion, they totally nailed the guts and spirit of the performance. Dale wasn’t creating the scene to cover for sloppiness. He was following through on and tightening up what Frank gave him.

  • Chuz

    I feel luckier than ever to be working in a small independent studio on a film I love, and a project I believe in with some of the best people I’ve known.

    Interesting post, for sure.

  • OtherDan

    Steve-thanks for that. It sounds realistic, and puts things in perspective. I can’t pinpoint why the slippage, other than investment. I can’t understand how profitability is measured, when you take into account the global reach, and merchandising that is linked to any given film. What constitutes a success?? But, I do know that the crews are minimized, artist weiges aren’t equitable (considering what I just said), and quality is compromised by outsoursing. I can relate to Matt’s dissillusionment, and disapointment. Though, when I was in that situation, there was a faint light at the end-a small hope of paying your dues and climbing the ranks. But, I witnessed that crumble, and despite the great hopes I had in the new leadership, the ship hasn’t been
    righted. I don’t think it has anything to do with the talent-newboes or veterans. I agree with Matt, that it’s the system. Way to have a fucking backbone and conviction. I commend you.

  • Isaac

    You should publish Matt Williames’s retraction.

    I have deleted all posts relating to Disney… my aim was never to create controversy nor begin a war and I was foolish to post my feelings publicly. While I never intended any aim to be taken at individuals I fear that it will be heading that direction soon in the public forum of the “comments” on websites and blogs. My only desire was to see change, and I clearly chose the wrong format for sharing my thoughts. I apologize to those I unintentionally harmed.

  • Dan

    Steve Worth puts it into perspective. Stop whining people, you have nostalgia for a time of Disney that never was.

  • Scarabim

    On rushing people and firing them if they’re too slow…

    Peter Ellenshaw, the fabulous background artist for Disney and who added a lot of the London atmosphere to Mary Poppins, was working on backgrounds for Davy Crockett. Walt came into his office and inspected the work. He said, “Peter, I think you’re slacking off a little. This isn’t your best work.” Peter said, “Walt, this is the best I can do with the schedule the director gave me.” Walt frowned. “They’ll always try to rush you. Listen, you do the very best work you can do; I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll delay the show a week if that’s necessary. You just do your best.”

    Dan, that’s a true story. Things were once very different at Disney. And it’s that difference that made the studio innovative, inspirational and helped it accomplish great things. Matt is right about the place now. Even if you’re not an insider, all you have to do is look at the work. The Princess and the Frog was mediocre at best. I really fear for the place Walt built. It’s not so much a fear that the buildings and product will disappear, but that the magic…best word I can come up with…will disappear. It’s never been more likely than now that such a thing could happen…and it makes me very sad…

  • Scarabim

    **Karen says:
    I sure wish Disney would lay off marketing folks and executives between films.**

    Brilliant suggestion. If Iger and Ross were shown the door, I’d be a very happy Disneyphile…

  • Thomas Hatch

    I kept a blog when I worked on Phineas and Ferb. My mother loved it!

  • All references to Disney have been removed from Matt’s blog.

    It sounds like the wrath of God or at least the House of Mouse’s legal department came down on him hard. Yeeps. Good luck out there.

  • I really liked The Princess and the Frog.

  • Anonymous

    I remember dreaming back in college how brilliant it would be to work at places like Disney, or Pixar when they released Toy Story, but the guys who get to the top of their respective animation fields are the guys who draw or push a mouse around until they bleed. If you work hard and impress and gain employment in one of the big shops you have to work twice as hard again to progress. Remember you get in and the guy above you starts working harder on the offchance this new upstart dislodges him/her from the throne. It’s always been the only way to get ahead. I’m sure even the guys at the top creatively have little say when it comes to choices in which movies they want to complete when a break from what the audience would expect of a Disney movie could mean complete failure, another delgo! It’s business.

    I love working in animation myself, it beats the hell out of wearing a suit, number crunching, and it’s a nice way to make a living, but whatever field or company you end up in there will always be stress, schedules, deadlines and all that other egotistical malarky we have to try to put to the back of our minds to get on with the task at hand. We just have a more enjoyable way to meet deadlines and work with the schedules.

    But I wouldn’t start executive bashing. Pixar would have been dead in the water back in the day if it hadn’t been for a creative executive taking interest, and without Disney/Pixar executives and PR heads bringing Lasseter back in as a creative director we wouldn’t have had a 2d movie to critique from the Mouse House. Let’s hope they can put The Princess and the Frog’s failure to meet its’ financial forecast down to shaking off the cobwebs, and that they’ll fight on again to produce another 2d feature.

    I hope Matt doesn’t end up taking too much flack over this, the work on his blog is outstanding and inspirational.

  • Nairb

    “…foolish to post my thoughts publicly”. hmm. what does that mean?

  • “They come, they eat they leave, they come, they eat they leave, they come, they eat they leave…” is a terrible attitude for a production artist to have. Hopefully, Catmul and the rest who coined that will go easy on Matt.

  • Disney has made no threat to me– I simply took down the post (on my own accord) because I felt it was a poor choice of venue (on my part) to release my thoughts and feelings. I care very deeply about the people and direction of Disney Animation and that is why I voiced my constructive criticism. I have no desire to see anyone publicly bashed though the nature of anonymous comments tends to embolden people to do so. As I said, I only desire change– however, I have to take responsibility for choosing the incorrect venue for this post.

  • elan


    “By and large I’ve found that the animation business isn’t very fond of people expressing their honest opinions. Film animation is a small, insular world filled with egos and allegiances.”

    That sounds so sad and bitter. Can you really lump the entire industry into one big category like that? Are you sure you’d feel the same way if you were, say, an animation supervisor at Dreamworks? I’m sorry, but it seems to me like it didnt work out for YOU, so it makes you feel better to dismiss the whole bunch.

    Where I work (one of the big 5), my honest opinion counts, and the people work together creatively to make the best films we can. Sure theres competition amongst the people, but thats human nature. And I know my place when I voice my opinion as well, even if it’s toward the director. But I also remember that until I’m the one at the helm, I need to know that its my job to set them keys, and not be such an armchair quarterback.

  • Demetre

    Oh give Disney a break, after all, wasn’t it Spielberg who said that if a movie comes out good its considered a miracle? Besides can you imagine being the CEO of Disney? All those decisions, all that pressure. I bet you get monkey butlers that serves you dry martinis, Cuban cigars imported directly to your office. Perhaps a golden Scepter in the shape of mickeys head and inside there’s a soft chewy chocolate nugget center.mmm…

  • Matt, I’ve posted opinions like yours in the past and agree that this isn’t the correct venue, even though the intent is heartfelt. I’ve realized that when you work for any big company the only thing you really have control over is your own work. The company can do whatever it wants.. it’s not your company. But if you always do great work I think the opportunity for change will find you. You should also do your own work outside the studio. The big companies will survive with or without you, but your own dreams need you to be realized. That’s why they are the most important pursuits. The big picture is not the company..the big picture is you.

    • Power_Animator

      It’s nice to know that there are people in this industry thst are still honest about what it is to be an animator, to have dreams; and to pursue them with full gust.

  • Angry Anim

    Brilliantly put, Lou. I think that’s what we all should take away from this…

  • optimist

    Lou speaks the truth.

  • I love the Peter Ellenshaw story told by Scarabim. That’s the Walt Disney I worked for.

    Plus, I’m no fan boy dreaming of the glorious past. I was there, dammit! In the same room with the old man himself.

  • Every time a story like this or “Dream on Silly Dreamer” comes along it’s always so friggin’ depressing. When I was a child I always wanted to work at Disney or Pixar. That was my ultimate goal. But years of these stories has made me glad that my art skills are crap enough to have no chance at all of working at either place. The misery of being a studio artist in these modern times sounds insurmountable.

  • Dan

    Sorry Floyd I’m sorry I insulted you. More or less I was calling out what Steve said to investigate for the truth. I have nothing but the deepest respect for you!

  • Elan


    “But years of these stories has made me glad that my art skills are crap enough to have no chance at all of working at either place. The misery of being a studio artist in these modern times sounds insurmountable.”

    I could argue that the stories you hear are from the handful of grumpy, (failed?) artists who have a bone to pick with the company, while the rest are quietly and happily working away for years at the studio of their choice.

  • hash

    I had an animation teacher who supervised many of those who complained in Dream on Silly Dreamer. While he was bitter all the lay-offs he was also angry at those who worked at the studios. He said they would take 3 hour lunch breaks, slack off, and then complain for having to work overtime. He feels the artists are just as responsible as the executives

  • optimist

    “I had an animation teacher who supervised many of those who complained in Dream on Silly Dreamer. While he was bitter all the lay-offs he was also angry at those who worked at the studios. He said they would take 3 hour lunch breaks, slack off, and then complain for having to work overtime. He feels the artists are just as responsible as the executives”

    Wow, excuse me, but what —–. if that were true to any degree then no films would ever get finished. And the management at any such fantasy place would be the stupidest ever, not to mention the most lenient.

    “I could argue that the stories you hear are from the handful of grumpy, (failed?) artists who have a bone to pick with the company, while the rest are quietly and happily working away for years at the studio of their choice.”

    And I would argue that the stories you hear are true. What’s fantasy is the idea that in 2010 there are places where there are any number of artists working “happily working away for years at the studio of their choice”.

    This business is HARD.

    It’s also rewarding, fun, discouraging, interesting, stimulating, heartbreaking, boring, exciting, frustrating, hilarious, and you get to be around some of the smartest and most talented people in the arts. Some will be jerks. Some will be your best friends. Some will be bitter, some oblivious. In short-they’ll be like a large staff at ANY other business with a lot of money and deadlines at stake, especially anywhere that creates popular commercial entertainment.

    That said, if the “years of stories” turns you off to working at in a studio environment so be it. There’s other places, just none that make feature films. Believe me, there is no perfect place-not Pixar, not Aardman, Disney, Dreamworks, Spumco-nowhere. Every workplace has its ups and downs-some more than others, but it’s also fluid-changes all the time.

    I knew this before I started in the business, but I wanted to do it anyway. For me and for most of my coworkers it’s definitely worth it for the successes we manage and the chance to contribute our personal best, as Lou Romano said.

  • No problem, Dan. I didn’t take offense to anything you said. Actually, I love this open discussion.

    I’m sometimes pretty tough on Disney, even though I’m working for them at the moment.

  • Hash, I’m pretty sure I know who you’re talking about and he had a long run and saw the ups and downs. There’s truth in that sentiment, but I would by no means blanket the workforce with that statement. In truth, there are artists with natural talent, experienced ones, hungry ones, not very talented ones, shmoozy ones…and, the speed and efficiency of each artist varies as such. So, it’s pretty impossible to generalize. The truth part, is that slackers exist. Fortunately, they get weeded out with time. Though, when that artist that I think you’re referring to worked, there was enough demand for talent, that people managed to catch the slipstream.

  • To Lou Romano – “The big picture is you” – well put. Lovely sentiment.

  • Agreed

    I think Lou’s comment deserves the comment of the moment on the brew. Those words ring true no matter where you work. Brilliant sentiment.

  • Animator

    I don’t think what Matt said was wrong and I’m very glad he did say what he did. Lou couldn’t be more right. Matt you have great talent and the best for you is to keep at it, work with some of your colleagues and start a short film. I myself keep at it on my own and although I work in a digital environement I keep learning when I get home. I still practice cell animation and everything I do is on paper and I take no shortcuts, I don’t beleive computers to be a human way to create art. It means you’ll have to sacrifice more than you intented but then at least you’ll be doing what you love. Look at bluth, he left Disney and created his own films. It takes courage of course but if the determination is there you may just get you want. Don’t dream of Disney make your Studio your Dream.

  • A different Matt

    Lou –

    Thank you for your comment. I’m a college student going into animation, with all the typical big dreams of working at Disney, Dreamworks, etc. However, over the past year or so it seems as if there has been more and more negativity towards the industry (at least from what I read online, since sites like this are the best resource I have). It just kind of puts a damper on something I’m very excited about pursuing, and have been very passionate about for years.

    But to hear such an inspiring comment is wonderful. It’s a nice reminder that people love doing this for a reason, and I’m not running myself into a life of pain and misery.

    So thank you for the inspiration.

    -Matt D.

  • And, thank you, Matt for those nice words. I’ve been working in this business all my life and I don’t regret a day of it.

    Sure, the animation business is not perfect, but there are a lot of other crappy jobs out there. One could do far worse.

    We should all take Lou’s advice, and move forward as artists.

    • Power_Animator

      I for one agree with you wholeheartedly Flyod

  • tgentry

    Personally I was pretty impressed with Bolt and Princess and the Frog. They were both major improvements on Meet the Robinsons, which I thought was an incomprehensible mess. I guess that institutional change won’t happen overnight, but hopefully it’s being work on?

  • Big Studio Animator

    This is to any of the students.

    Please don’t let someone elses experience in life dictate your choices. Floyd and Lou are correct. You have to push for what you love and then keep pushing after that. A lot of people that I enjoy talking to at work (one of the 5) can talk about the studios problems in a high level constructive manner and not crush the idea of being there. The funny thing is a lot of them have been in other jobs before animation (including me) and know what it’s like not to be creative for a living. Live your life and chase the dream. You will have to deal with egos, smart mouths, low brow opinions, and trampled ideas. Guess what…that is life in general. You will have to decide if you want to be in certain situations or just make a personal change. I don’t like many decisions that are made at work but I love being an animator more than I care about some executives chess moves. The best advice I recieved from my teacher was ‘when you get your first job, start looking for the next’. That was one of the best thing for me and I have never felt cornered in this business. I guess what I am trying to say is, if you want to work for Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks,…etc, keep going until you get there. Make your own choices, your own conclusions, and go from there. Try to make changes where you can in the studio and if you can reevaluate the situation and go from there. We have all wanted to vent over some BS…

    • Power_Animator

      This is one of the best and most positive posts

  • Reading the synopsis of Matt’s post reminded me of this RSA Animate lecture/video about what motivates individuals in a work environment (especially a creative one):

    Very interesting ideas presented AND interesting illustration too!

  • Bert

    I’d say all things are present in Pixar. Which begs the question: Catmull and Lasseter are running both companys – why can’t they fix WDAS?

  • keithlango

    Heh. I think you infer too much. Certainly no bitterness here. My career has turned out fantastic for me. No, I’m not in one of the “Big 5” studios, but I realized some time ago that I’m not an ideal fit for those places anyhow. It’s great that it works for you. That’s awesome. But I’ve had plenty of friends who’ve toiled in the big studios tell me over and over of the same kinds of frustrations that Matt alluded to in his original post- and how it came back to bite them later. If that’s not your experience (and it’s great that it isn’t) does not mean it does not happen.

  • Rebecca

    Bert said: “I’d say all things are present in Pixar. Which begs the question: Catmull and Lasseter are running both companys – why can’t they fix WDAS?”

    They’re running 2 studios, and Lasseter is also Principal Creative Advisor at Disney Imagineering. Besides, although it has been 4 years, there is a lot of resetting and cleaning up that probably has to be done. I would bet that the Execs at Disney aren’t making the job easier either. What makes Pixar so efficient is that they entered into the partnership with Disney on a very specific contract, which probably protects a lot of the way Pixar runs things. On the other hand the Execs have a much tighter grip on WDAS. I definitely think that one of the biggest reasons for Disney’s shortcomings is their business side. I mean come on! They made a TS3 Operation game! What the heck is that?

    Big Studio Animator!
    Thank you for the words to the students! I being one, find it good to hear this. I have always wanted to work for Pixar or Disney, and it kind of feels disheartening to hear how much bad rap they get on here sometimes (More so Disney than Pixar, of course). I wish that the studio would keep the ideas of Walt, the 9 old men, Fred Moore, and Roy more at heart, they knew what they were talkin’ bout, and it wasn’t just money!

  • bert klein

    the above bert that commented on lasseter and catmull was not me…

  • Very interesting discussion.

    I am very sad that I some how missed this when it was originally posted. However there was a lot of good stuff said. I think that Lou made one of the greatest points when he talked about Matt needing to realize his dream. I think Matt would probably be the first to agree with Lou. Matt’s dream would be stronger if he had a creative company backing him up.

    I think Matt has done some GREAT individual art, but I understand why he wishes Disney Animation was the Disney animation of old. In no way am I saying that Disney animation was perfect in the Golden age (late 1930’s, early 1940’s), however I think most of the values were put in the right place back then. For Walt money was a inconvenience if anything. There never seemed to be enough money to further all his dreams he had. Walt Disney put his Dreams first. The Disney company now puts money first witch intern hurts its creativity.

    The success of Disney now was built on the foundations Walt and his team made. Walt showed that following Vision was the best business choice. I definitely agree with Matt when he talks about wanting more from Disney. If Disney started to become a artist driven studio, it would be better for everyone. It would allow Matt and other artist to follow their Dream more fully.