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The Salaries of Disney Execs

Bob Iger and Winnie the Pooh

While Disney artists bring their imaginations to life through animation, Disney executives are living a lifestyle that animators can’t even begin to imagine. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Disney chief executive Bob Iger received a 7% pay increase in 2007 for a total financial compensation of $27.7 million. According to the company’s proxy statement, the breakdown is as follows: $2 million salary, which remained the same as 2006; a $13.7 million bonus, which was a decrease from his $15 million bonus in ’06; stock awards totaling $7.9 million, and $740,000 for personal air travel, security and a car benefit. Other Disney execs who earned healthy sums were CFO Thomas Staggs ($9 million), General Counsel Alan Braverman ($7.9 million), executive vp of human resources Wesley Coleman ($2.7 million) and executive vp for corporate strategy Kevin Mayer ($2.6 million). With figures like these, there’s only four words these guys can be thinking right now: High School Musical 3. (PS: If you’re curious about what the average animation artist makes, download this PDF of the 2007 wage survey by the Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE.)

  • Matt Sullivan

    You want to change things? REALLY change things? Don’t go to work for these shmucks anymore. Form an ARTIST-RUN animation company and see that the money goes to the creative people.

    Quit giving all your best ideas and talent to these big overrated companies that are ALWAYS telling you what they think makes “profitable” animation, and *gasp* They’ll go away! And grow a friggin backbone! We artists have been trained to whimper and piss ourselves in the face of corporate power.

    Stand up for yourselves. >{

  • What does the guy (or gal) in the Pooh suit make?

  • Joe

    Matt that’s a great dream, but you need to wake up. Starting your own studio to make feature animation is close to impossible. Just look at Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth who both had to halt their productions due to lack of funds. Both Don and Ralph started at these big evil corporations, but it also gave them a reputation and a pretty damn good resume enabling them to create their own studios.

    It’s not like animation in America gets the respect it does in Europe or Canada. Here it’s for kids and falls by the wayside. So if you start your own animation studio you end up making commercials and product design which isn’t completely bad, but miles away from feature animation. Plus do you really think Disney/Pixar is just going to go away?

    The way to fix things is to tear down the existing no active animation union and build a new one that actually fights for its members. If it continues to be the lap dog of the major companies nothing will change. Honestly with the writers strike, I am really surprised the animators from the same companies haven’t joined the fight. Because if the writers that write the cartoons don’t get paid for their work, who else do you think isn’t getting paid? And if you ask me it’s been a long time coming for the animators to strike.

    Frankly without us and our brilliant ideas those ceos would be out on the curb sharing a s–t sandwich with Michael Eisner.

  • Some Guy

    Do any animators become animators because they want to become rich? I think not…

    “Form an ARTIST-RUN animation company and see that the money goes to the creative people. ”

    And then watch it fail within a year… because you all know absolutely nothing about business…

    More animation artists should get business degrees and become part of the business side of the business. They should become executives and rise through the ranks and should be able to match the regular executives blow for blow.

  • Is the wage survey based on monthly or weekly? Because if it is weekly, it’s really not that horrible… Still not fair, but not that horrible.

  • he he, winnie – croatia have ice-cream. Our country love bear body and mouse liver :))


  • Chuck R.

    Thanks for the link to the wage survey. The AIGA publishes a similar thing and the GAG publishes a book of current salaries.

    These lists are a double-edged sword. Good information for artists, but I suspect that they are equally handy tools for employers in keeping wages where they are. (especially if lower-paid artists respond more than higher-paid ones) Artists using them to negotiate their salaries (or fees) need to keep in mind that the these wages are rock-bottom prices and have been relatively flat for many years. Artists who use them should negotiate upward from them.

    Related to Matt’s comment: How much does it bother a big studio when a decent artist walks to the other big studio across town? Does it send a message? Is it easy for the artist to get back if he chooses?

  • droosan

    The “Journeyman Minimum” for my category is rather a bit more per-week than I make at a non-union shop, with 14 years of experience under my belt and 2 Emmy Awards on my desk .. so, pardon me if I find it difficult to shed a tear for those “poor, underpaid” union artists. ;-p

    I actually enjoy my job, and feel that in many ways, the work is its own reward. That I get paid (fairly well, even if not handsomely) to do it is a bonus. Being happy beats being rich, any day.

  • Matt, I think you have the right idea.

    I don’t like Disney. I’ve never liked Disney. Something in my DNA just says this company is wrong. Disney represents the worst of American capitalism gone wrong. They value the artists only as a means for them to make more crappy films that will sell worldwide because of the Disney name, lining the pockets of jerks like this guy.

    I know a lot of animators still think Disney is great. Maybe they were once upon a time. But at some point you’ve gotta stop drinking that kool-aid and realize that Disney doesn’t give a shit about you. Disney, like a lot of American companies bank on the idea that they are the only place to go for their product. WRONG! I wish the talented people in America would realize that their skills should not fall into the hands of Disney but help seed a more diverse animation infrastructure.

  • My favorite line from Citizen Kane is “It’s no trick to make a lot of money if all you want is to make a lot of money”. I used to run a small company and with all the legal hassles, the money collection, the distribution, etc. it was hell. I am much happier earning less and doing what I love. On Felix the Cat, Otto Messmer did all the work and Pat Sullivan earned all the money; Sullivan died at 46 and Messmer lived to 91.

    BTW How much did John Lasseter earn?

  • money bags

    What are the salaries of Lasseter, Catmull, or Katzenberg?

  • Tom

    Haha…. I just think it’s funny that you have a giant winnie the pooh, perhaps the poster character for innocent optimism, standing next to a rather grumpy and unhappy looking CEO. Isn’t Disney supposed to be about smiles? Maybe his optimal money threshold has been breached.

    By the way, I agree with Matt Sullivan.

  • Ahh, great ideas all–to dream. It still makes me sad when I see commercials for Disneyland; thinking about how it all started on a train, with a mouse–and an alternative to selling your soul to a big studio. What happened…

    Let’s pray folks like Genndy can keep the hope alive with their homespun breakout studios.

    Thank for the enlightening post, Amid. We all had a hunch–but I really think there’s something to seeing it in B+W. It would be really cool to see other saleries unrolled like that…

    For the record; I heartbreakingly agree with Some Guy’s statement. There’s still too big of a gap–you see it in any studio; watch the way artists and production folks communicate with each other. Hell, look at how they even dress differently! hahaha

    Also, for the record–I like what JOE had to say. Albeit passionate, it is the sad reality. And until each of us finds any start-up money, minus strings–some dreams need investors, executives and big, bad studios to distribute.

    (I can’t believe I’m defending the studios!?)

  • Pedro Nakama

    I have a very large number associated with John Lasseter, but I’m not sure if that’s how much he makes or his caloric intake. ; )

  • It is interesting to see the vast difference between paychecks. It’s quite a shame to see this happen. I think all of the artists should leave Disney and start their own studio. Of course, the execs would probably just hire artists from Dreamworks and CalArts.

  • Brian Ellis

    Aw, I make less than the minimum in the wage survey. I guess that’s non-union jobs for you.

  • The figures in the wage survey are based upon a forty-hour week. So they should be adjusted upwards for those who are paid on a fifty or fifty-six-hour week (not to mention those working without paid overtime…)

    And in comparing non-union salaries to the survey, don’t forget that union artists get a health plan with low to zero deductibles and a rich pension and IAP, all of which are multi-employer. And that’s with zero deductions from their union-shop paychecks.

    Finally … what did Walt Disney, Walter Lantz, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera have in common? They all started artist-run animation studios.

    PS the photo is hilarious!

  • haha

    Those stupid creatives! All they care about is money. They don’t care about the work we suits do. They don’t care about the ulcers, the long hours, the cutthroat competitiveness. They don’t care about how we haven’t seen our kids since they were born. They don’t care to know how hard it is to put together and keep together a company with thousands of different units, while Wall St. is breathing down your neck and just begging you to fail so they can tear apart the company and sell it off piece by dismantled piece. All they ever say is “ohh… they make too much money.”

    For the record, I’m an animator writing this. My family is fed. I’m not suffering for my art. If the working conditions or pay are someday not to my liking, I’ll do something else.

    I understand why the guild folks talk about pay. That’s useful at negotiating time, and it’s a part of their function. I find what they do very helpful. But it’s clear to me that some people are dazzled by the money. I sense envy in this article, and to me that’s intruiging as an artist. Any strong human emotion is intriguing, and man is it in display here, as everyone swears and stomps around that someone they don’t know makes money they’ll never see.

    If you think you should be rich, go beat the folks at their own game, smart folks. But don’t swear and stomp and gnash teeth about it. All it looks like to me is greed. How about plotting animator wages against signatory studios box office? Or Los Angeles cost of living? There we’d get something approximating context.

    And if you want to talk executive performance of non-animation division execs, (what the heck is this, Investment Brew?), then look at the company as a whole. Or if you want to talk about justice, plot Iger’s salary against a linenmaid or frycook at Disney World.

    Joe writes that without ‘us’ and our brilliant ideas, executives would be on the curb. I hope he works at Pixar, because without stuff like High School Musical, Pirates and the other stuff the Disney company has been making money off of recently, animators in Burbank would be sitting on that same curb (or over at Dreamworks).

  • Oh, but if we were all paid massive salaries with perks-a-plenty, we’d have nothing to complain, bitch and moan about!
    C’mon, some animation people almost REVEL in their poor-suffering-artist martyrdom.

    I’m with droosan, some of us enjoy our work on our (non-union) liveable wage and are just fine with letting business people run the business. What makes animators so special that we all deserve Keane-sized 1991 salaries as opposed to any other actual grunt-work job? Termite Terrace ain’t going to happen again.

    As others have mentioned, Lasseter and Bird are artists now in executive control positions and I bet they’re getting paid juuuust fine for it.

  • Grubstew

    The figures in the wage survey are weekly pay rates based on 40 hours.

    The minimum wage listed is roughly $1000 per week for a background artist or $52,000 per year. The maximum is $8500 per week for a staff writer or $442,000 per year.

    I hate to side with “the man”, but it doesn’t sound like these are starving artists we’re talking about.

  • Adrian

    I’m with Grubstew. $50,000 & upwards is nothing to complain about. I’m still in school & always thought the majority of professional animators make about $42,000 a year. Above 50k is awesome.

  • Scott Teresi

    “Matt that’s a great dream, but you need to wake up. Starting your own studio to make feature animation is close to impossible.”

    A man with no education and a camera in a garage once did the “impossible”.

  • Floyd Norman

    I left a great job as a story artist at Disney back in the sixties to launch my own studio. Did I get rich? Naw, but I sure learned a lot about a side of the business most artists never see.

    Sure, you can get rich with your own company. However, you can also go broke. In any case, you better have the stomach for it, because once you step away from that drawing board, you’re entering a whole new world.

  • Those are some staggering numbers for sure, but I’d be letting the execs have that much as well if it means they’re keeping a studio as old as Disney, and especially it’s animation (no matter what kinds of ups and downs it goes through) around. If it were up to me to make the art and keep an actual business that size alive, I think I’d go nuts.

    Granted, I could use a little bit of that excessive dough Iger seems to make – he has so much, he wouldn’t mind missing some of it, right? – but I didn’t say anything =).

  • As far as his pay goes, I don’t know what “too much” means. Maybe Iger works his ass off attracting shareholders and whatever it is money people do. I mean someone has to keep the books straight.

    But that’s a hilarious picture.
    I bet he’s going to want another picture out there for a better public image.

  • Paul N

    So Iger was a good guy when he installed Lasseter as the creative head of Disney, we cheered when he broke with Eisner’s policies, but now we hate him because he made too much filthy lucre? Just trying to keep it all straight…

  • John Tebbel

    Only had a minute or two to work on this but public filings say Lasseter got about $1.5 million in 2000, plus a stock option of a million shares. In ’01 it was about 7.7 mil, no stock, including a 5 mil bonus. In ’02 it was about 2.6 mil. Now, post merger, these numbers are probably pretty low. Public companies have to disclose payments to their officers. Once I built a railroad.

  • Killroy McFate

    Q: What’s the difference between Winnie the Pooh and Bob Iger?
    A: One’s got his head stuck in the honey jar, and the other’s a talking toy bear!

  • Alan

    Staff writers in animation didn’t make $8500 weekly even during the 1990’s boom. WGA primetime writers are a different matter.

  • Andrew

    Isn’t there actually going to BE a High School Musical 3? This time, I heard it’s a theatrical release! O_O

  • how much did Eisner make in comparison to Iger?
    i think this conversation can only be complete with those figures…

  • Rodan

    Can one imagine what a real powerhouse this company could really be if (like Walt did) they put the profits back into the company instead of throwing them in large vulgar chunks into the pockets of people who only care about themselves rather than the people who care about the work, the longevity of the company, and the real quality of the products. This is what I think….also… What does the guy in the pooh costume make. I think we all know what was going through his mind when standing next to Heir Iger…… He’s thinking / If only I could smash him with my giant honey pot…..if only…..

    Go Pooh go!!!!!

  • Jorge Garrido

    >Can one imagine what a real powerhouse this company could really be if (like Walt did) they put the profits back into the company instead of throwing them in large vulgar chunks into the pockets of people who only care about themselves rather than the people who care about the work, the longevity of the company, and the real quality of the products.

    You mean RETAINED earnings? Well, according to their Annual Report, $24,805,000,000 of earnings were kept in the company.

    Yes, that’s right, 24 BILLION dollars.

  • dave host

    Who cares?

    All this means is that there are far more people who can animate than there are who can successfully helm billion-dollar business empires. Sounds about right to me.

    Do I wish animators got paid more? Sure. For that to happen, there simply need to be fewer of us, or animation needs to become more popular and/or profitable.

  • John Tebbel

    Dan O: Just google “Michael Eisner compensation” etc. Hold on to your envy, my hands are full.

  • John A

    Someone needs to photoshop a pair of handcuffs around Pooh’s paws and the photo would be perfect.

  • Grubstew, I think you made a mistake in your calculations. They hinge on the animator working an entire year.

    If the background artist making $1000/week only finds enough work for eight weeks out of an entire year, he’s not taking home $52,000. He’s earning $8000 for that year.

  • This reminds me of a Dilbert comic where Carol the secretary is asking the Pointy-Haired Boss why he makes more money than her when she does a lot more work than him. The Boss resonds, “Maybe that’s because there are so few people like me.” Carol comebacks with, “maybe that’s because the people like me end up killing the people like you.”

  • Jack

    Iger probably looks like he just passed a grapefruit because of the legal costs of the Pooh peoples’ decades of insisting on a greater share of compensation from Disney’s global marketing of the Pooh brand. Or he may have actually passed a spherical citrus fruit that was yellow.

  • Michael Tuttle

    The person to sucessfully run their own independent studio away from Disney, Dreamworks, etc would probably have to surpass the threshold of Walt Disney himself. Frankly I don’t see any animator beyond myself with that kind of ambition.

  • Rodan

    Well, if they’re keeping 24 Billion dollars….in the company. What for? The quality of their products of late…I”m sorry but I just don’t see it. Not on the big or small screen. And as this is an animation enthusiast site… I certainly don’t see a product that looks as if it’s being backed by that kind of clout. I suppose there’s a reason but outside of some sort of greedy malfeasance or just plain thievery…. Is that 24 Billion being paid to stockholders? Or is it just sitting there waiting for the tax man? All in all I’m just saying it’s a pity. And a pity Mr. Iger doesn’t feel like putting a bit more of that great capital to more creative and well thought out projects.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Retained earnings means it being put back into the company. Money isn’t the reason their non-Pixar work isn’t good (I’ll admit I haven’t seen Goofy yet). Neither is the reason that there isn’t alot of time and money being spent on animation at Disney. Last year was Disney’s most succesful year yet.

  • Rodan

    Yes…maybe successful on paper..but for me…Disney barely exists anymore. Sad I know. I do love reading about it here on Brew…but I really don’t like the company as I once did. I have very little regard for what they do anymore. I would like to be reassured that 2D (which to me is all I care about as far as Disney goes.) isn’t dead. I know the art itself isn’t but at Disney Animation it would seem so. I hate to be such a refusnik but it just isn’t what it was…and I don’t see it trying to be any better this year than they were last year. Nuff said at this late hour.

  • Wear a suit, have no shame, show up. It never fails.

  • Maxine

    wow….ok, in my opinion, i think that if anyone that works for disney as an animator, i think the animators and artists should get more pay than they already do. i mean, animation is A LOT of work, and it takes at least 2-5 years just to finish the movie! so, thats just my opinion, but that’s wat i think, for sure.

  • Jack

    Considering the nine old men probably made less than $100,000 a year in 2009 dollars, and considering Walt himself was actually working for free for a number of years to creat the company, these executives ought to be charged with RAPE of the Walt Disney company and jailed for life. Or at the very least their likenesses should be added to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as ones who are ransacking the company!

  • CCCC

    If only we could go back to the good ole’ days when Walt and his men first started pioneering in 2D animation and all was well…

  • billy dickerson

    Disney Executives should be ashamed of themselves. They own ABC TV Network and are constantly laying off the NABET union people who RUN the network.

    Everyone in America should know a New name for ABC/Disney is Mr. Todd Donavan an he wants to get rid of all NABET union people.

    You tell me what is 90K per year compared to CEO Iger 54mil the diector of Human resources make 2.7 mil

    What is wrong with the picture

    If ABC laysoff anymore NABET people in NYC then we will picket in front of all the commericals sponsors that air spots on the network