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Feature FilmInterviews

‘Sausage Party’ Directors Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan On Making 2016’s Most Outlandish Animated Film

The adult animated feature is a rare specimen in the United States, especially an R-rated project that has the full backing of a major Hollywood film studio. Sony aims to change that today by releasing Sausage Party in over 3,000 theaters, easily making it the largest launch ever for an adult animation project.

The film has all the makings of a hit (at least we think so) : it was conceived and written by proven names from the world of live-action filmmaking, it received terrific early buzz, it’s benefited from an unconventionally good marketing campaign, and most of all, it’s a solid film that both delivers on, and transcends, its ridiculous premise.

The latter credit belongs to the film’s directing duo: industry veterans Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. Vernon, who co-directed three films at Dreamworks, including Shrek 2 and Madagascar 3, had worked with Rogen on the production of Monsters vs. Aliens.

Afterward, Rogen pitched him Sausage Party, an idea he’d conceived with frequent collaborators Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. Rogen described the film to Vernon as a film about “a bunch of hot dogs that escape their packaging to go fuck buns.”

Sausage Party.

Vernon, who discovered Heavy Metal and Ralph Bakshi films as a teenager, had been wanting to make an R-rated animated film of his own for most of his career, and jumped at the opportunity to helm Sausage Party. He invited Greg Tiernan, whom he’d worked with on Bakshi’s Cool World in the early-1990s, to become a co-director on the film. Tiernan would produce the film at his Vancouver, Canada-based Nitrogen Studios, which he’d opened in 2003 with his wife, Nicole Stinn. Prior to Sausage Party, their company had focused mostly on children’s animation with their biggest credit having been the CG Thomas & Friends series.

In a phone interview with Cartoon Brew, Vernon and Tiernan spoke about the challenges of selling an R-rated animated feature in Hollywood, producing a film on a fraction of the budget of Hollywood CG animation features, and knowing when you’ve gone too far in an R-rated cartoon. These are excerpts from our conversation. [Spoilers ahead]

Congratulation on Sausage Party. I think a lot of people in the feature animation industry will be rooting for it because we need more films like this and this is a great example of what animation can be and where it can go…

Conrad Vernon.
Conrad Vernon.

Conrad Vernon: Greg and I always like to say, for a long time animation has been seen as a family/kids’ medium—even genre—because that’s pretty much the only films that are made in animation today. And the reason it was really important for us to make this movie is because we wanted to tear down that wall for telling different types of stories, and bringing different genres into the art form of animation. When we were pitching this, we had Seth [Rogen] and Jonah [Hill] promising to star in it, I was going to direct it, we had Greg’s studio and he was going to co-direct with me, we had a script written by Seth, Evan [Goldberg], Kyle [Hunter], and Ariel [Shaffir]. That was a pretty damn good package along with all the artwork, and people still didn’t understand what we were going for because it had never been done, which is kind of amazing to me. Most live-action studios were saying we don’t understand animation so we don’t want to get involved, and most of the animation companies were like, we have a brand name and we’re not ruining it with this movie. So we were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, but thanks to [Megan Ellison’s] Annapurna and Columbia/Sony, I hope that we have opened a door and proven that there is an audience and a viable market for this type of animation—that people of all ages love animation, so filmmakers should be able to make all kinds of animation for different audiences.

How many other studios did you pitch it to before Annapurna and Sony got involved?

Conrad Vernon: Oh, dozens. We went to big ones, small ones; we even started talking about maybe private investors. We wanted to get this done really bad, and I can promise you if we hadn’t sold it to Annapurna and Columbia, Seth, Evan, Greg, and I would still be out there pitching this movie, trying to get it made.

This film should make a big impact and really expand the market for different kinds of animation because you definitely did it right.

Greg Tiernan: That’s what we did set out to do, and we just made that one small step. Everyone else can get in there through that little crack in the door that hopefully we’ve opened up.

Cartoon Brew: Greg, Nitrogen Studios does a lot of service work on children’s properties. Did you have any concern about doing an R-rated film and how it might affect the studio’s reputation as a producer of children’s entertainment? Or was it a choice to change the studio’s trajectory?

Greg Tiernan.
Greg Tiernan.

Greg Tiernan: To be honest with you, there was no sort of plan to change the trajectory of the studio or what we focus on. Basically, we set up the company to do as high-quality, cutting-edge animation as we possibly could. We’ve been fortunate in all these years that we’ve had our pick of projects to work on and we only want to work on quality animation. When we took on Thomas & Friends, we elevated that show, and there’s not been too many preschool shows with the production quality of Thomas. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s Thomas & Friends or whether it’s Sausage Party, we’re in the business of animation. That’s all we know how to do.

Sausage Party.

The production cost for the film has been reported in the entertainment press as being around $20 million. First of all, is that accurate, because it sounds extremely low for a film with this level of production value, and if it is accurate, how were you able to achieve such quality at that price point?

Greg Tiernan: Neither Conrad or I can confirm or deny that actual figure, but all I will say is that when Conrad pitched the movie to us, and we made our pact and vow to Conrad, and to Seth and Evan, and eventually to Megan Ellison at Annapurna and to Sony Columbia, we knew damn well that we could deliver a movie that looks like a $150 million movie for a fraction of the cost. That’s about as close as I can get to confirming or denying that figure. In general, that’s the whole reason we started the studio 13 years ago. After working in the L.A. industry for many years, I could see so much money just needlessly thrown down the toilet in making a lot of these movies. It doesn’t have to cost that much money when you’re well organized, and you have your mind set on the goal of what you want to do, and you get the job done with a small, determined crew. But yeah, let’s just say it was a lower budget movie.

Conrad, you directed for a long time at Dreamworks, where the films have higher budgets and you have more resources at your disposal. What adjustments did you have to make to direct a film that’s a fraction of the cost of a typical Dreamworks film?

Conrad Vernon: Greg and I approached it as we would approach anything else. I’d done three films at Dreamworks so I kind of knew what kind of a production line I wanted to [use], and Greg had a very similar production line, so we were on the same page there. And instead of trying to simplify this movie so that we can fit within this budget, we just said let’s make a beautiful, great-looking, well-animated, cinematic film, and see where we have to pull back. I’d rather go too far and have to pull back a little bit than not go far enough and say, “Wow, we came in under budget. It’s too bad we couldn’t make the film look better.” So Greg and I creatively approached it like we would approach any other movie.

There’s something that I’ve been wanting to do since the day I started at Dreamworks that we got to do on this film, which was take our characters and make them very appealing, but very simple design-wise. Craig Kellman did a brilliant job helping us out on that. Then, when we rigged them, we had the animators actually go in and take shots from old Bob Clampett cartoons, and Popeyes and Chuck Jones stuff, and literally rotoscope our character over it to make sure that they could do all the crazy stuff that those old cartoons did, so that we could get a really good, loose 2D-animated feel to these characters. We used multi-arms, wipes, dry brush effects—we did all that stuff, and it helped give a unique style, but it also wasn’t horribly expensive to do.

Sausage Party.

At Dreamworks, you answered creatively to Jeffrey Katzenberg. Who did you answer to creatively on this film?

Conrad Vernon: Well, Greg and I first, and then Seth and Evan. But it was nice because they worked as partners with us. They were in charge of the script, and we were all in charge of recording the actors, and [Greg and I] were in charge of the animation. We always sat down with them every week, like on a Friday or something, and ran them through all the designs, all the character stuff, all the animation, the effects, everything, so that they had an input, but 95% of the time, they’d look at it and just go, “Beautiful. We love it.” As far as the studio was concerned, they were really, really supportive and pretty hands-off. We only had, I think, two or three screenings for them, and they came in with some really great notes. We went through them, saw the ones that were really helpful and would get us to the next level, and then we moved on. Sony and Annapurna were nothing but supportive, and said, “You guys are the creators; you’re in charge of this. Go and make your movie and we’ll be here to help whatever way we can.”

Greg Tiernan: Just to add to that, for me and everyone up here at Nitrogen, we felt that we have never worked on a project that has been so collaborative. We have learned so much from Seth and Evan. It was awesome that they just said, “We don’t know anything about animation. We love it, we appreciate it, but we don’t know how to make it.” They basically just let us do our job, which was awesome, and we were exactly the same with those guys with the live-action sensibility. We tried to make sure that we didn’t pace and cut this movie [in a way] that would be typical of every other animated movie. It’s got more of a live-action sensibility to it because everyone involved in the movie from Sony Columbia, Annapurna, and Seth and Evan, are all live-action folks. We’re the only animation people here. It was really super collaborative, and for sure the best experience of my career, absolutely.

Sausage Party.

What you’re describing is very different from a lot of times when live-action people become involved in animation. When we spoke to Genndy Tartakovsky about making Hotel Transylvania 2, he was vocal about how Adam Sandler wanted to take control of the film, which can be problematic when someone doesn’t fully understand the process. Did you run into such difficulties or was it a smooth process?

Conrad Vernon: I can say, looking back, that it was a smooth process. Yes, they didn’t understand the animation process. That’s why they brought me in, and they pretty much just said, “Take care of that. Just keep us in the loop and keep us involved with what you’re doing and explain it.” Now, there were a lot of changes that we needed to make—there were some changes that we made after something was animated, there were a couple of lines changed after something was lit.

Basically it came down to a very simple act of sitting down and talking about whether or not the film was going to be better for it. Greg and Nicole [Stinn] at Nitrogen were really supportive of saying we’re going to try and push this through the pipeline; Annapurna was really supportive of saying they’ll kick in a few extra bucks to make it happen. And that’s all it really was—it was just making sure that that collaboration existed and that the communication was really clear. We’d all sit down [and talk]: This is going to cost this much money, it’s going to take this much time. Can we do it and is it worth it? Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. But there was never any acrimony that went along with it. There was some stress to be sure, but there were no creative disputes over it.

One of the things I really appreciate about the film is the duality of the characters. When they’re amongst themselves they have eyes and mouths, and when the humans are looking at them, they’re just inanimate objects. The concept was communicated very well cinematically, and I wanted to know more about who came up with the idea: was that in the script or was it something you came up with during the process of developing the film?

Greg Tiernan: That’s an interesting question because that was one of the very first hurdles that we gave ourselves of how are we going to make sure that this is clear. The actual execution of how we were going to put all of this together was totally handed over to Conrad and I, which we were very grateful for. There were quite a few little problems here and there on the theory and logic of the world. Every now and then, it’s like, “Wait a minute, how come this bag of chips is alive and those ones aren’t,” but hopefully we weaved enough through there to make it a fairly solid foundation.

Conrad Vernon: We were really cognizant of how we were going to show that change visually as well. If you really look at the movie, you can see that when we’re in the food’s point of view, it’s a lot more colorful and we have a lot more saturation, and the camera angles are more dynamic, and the music is scored to be big and full. When we go back to the human point of view, we desaturated everything, and kept a locked-off camera most of the time, and put canned, cheesy grocery store music, just to make the food’s world much more interesting and much huger, because this is the way they’re seeing the grocery store.

Sausage Party.

Maybe my minds in the gutter, but I actually was expecting the film to be much more raunchy and perverse…

Conrad Vernon: You’re the first person who’s ever said that to us. [laughter]

But what I’m getting at is that the film has a lot of heart and it’s very cute in some ways. Was that a conscious decision or did you have to constantly pull back to make the film more accessible to audiences?

Greg Tiernan: There was definitely a conscious decision right from the get-go. Conrad, myself, Seth and Evan, and the two writers Kyle and Ariel, we all sat down together, and Conrad was the first one to impress on Seth and Evan that just because the subject matter of the animation involves R-rated stuff, sex and drugs, and all sorts of ridiculous stuff going on, the movie has to have a heart and a soul. You have to empathize with these characters, and there has to be a really meaningful subtext to the whole thing. So we had to make sure that it was way more than just a big, literal sausage fuck-fest.

Conrad Vernon: We definitely wanted to make sure that there was a real emotional story with heart. As far as the characters were concerned, we needed to make them appealing, and as you say, cute and lovable, because of the stuff that’s going on. If we actually went too into that uncanny valley of realism, a lot of this stuff would just become disturbing and weird and off-putting, and you wouldn’t be laughing and wanting to see more. You’d be going, “Eugh!”

And believe me, in the making of this movie, we’ve crossed that line a few times and we know how that feels. So we just said to ourselves that we need to make this as fun as possible. When the druggie’s head gets sliced off and falls through the air conditioning vent, there were a couple of designs where we just took it into a really grotesque, realistic realm, and it was like, “Ewww!” It’s totally off-putting. But when we pulled it back and made it funny and goofy, then the reaction in the audience is [different]. When we come back from that flashback and Barry starts to soliloquy to Frank, and there’s this dead human head behind him, people are giggling through the entire speech that Barry gives because it’s so ridiculous. If [the severed head] had had blood coming out of his nose, or his eyes were all rolled back or glassy like a real human being, people wouldn’t have wanted to look at it.

Sausage Party.

Can you tell me other jokes or scenes where you think you took it too far and had to dial it back a notch?

Conrad Vernon: Well, the most famous one was when Douche had a group of rats that he met in the backroom, and they became his gang, and he would ride them around, in particular one big rat named Dangles who was trapped in a rat trap that he set free, and they called him Dangles because his nose was broken from the rat trap. At one point, Douche captures Lavash and he tortures Lavash by putting his finger into Dangle’s butthole and then going over and sticking it into Lavash’s mouth, and going in and out, in and out. First of all, this went on for way too long, and second of all, when we screened it in New York, people went from grinning to utterly shocked. It took us probably ten minutes to get the audience back after that joke, so we just took it right out.

  • Uncredit artist

    A good question would have been:
    Why over 50 artist didn’t get on screen credit
    It was a great project to be a part of, however the Nitrogen management didnt know how to run a studio.

  • ea

    I can’t believe this movie cost less than Foodfight! and looks MUCH better.

  • Elsi Pote

    Do we need more R rated animated features? Hell yes!

    Do we need weed driven sex romp animated stories, I don’t think so.

    The true value of sausage party was its take on religion and god’s existence. The rest was just fillers and fluff.

    • Netko

      I think this is what we’re going to get for R rated movies. There are plenty of mature movies outside the R rating, but those come from Europe and don’t have good marketing and money behind them so no-one watches them. They also tend to be more calm and realistic and that’s not the best atmosphere for the kind of rating that you get for pushing sex and violence. Unfortunately for animation, some people want really hard for it to be taken seriously so they equate R-rating with “movies for mature audiences”.

      Is the movie really poignant when it comes to the topic religion or is is just the same tired old garbage where religion is painted as the devil (preferably with sacrificing involved) that our oh-so-smart messiah protagonist saves everyone from? Because I see a tendency to paint that as deep just because it agrees with the viewers views, despite it essentially ending up being the atheist version of God’s Not Dead.

  • traumatized animator

    Great film, truly groundbreaking and I am happy to have been a part of it. However, I would never ever go back to work for Nitrogen unless they change their management style. Not giving credit for dozens of animators and other department members is the tip of the iceberg in how Nitrogen treats its employees. This film is a labor of love of everyone who worked on it, not only Greg, Conrad, Seth and the rest of the gang. Not giving credit to dozens of artists is a shameful act. Has anyone ever heard of a place that blacklists people on such a scale?? The vast majority of the un-credited animators is made of people who gave their 2 weeks notice, according to contract, over a period that stretched for more than a year, almost two. What does it say about a workplace where people keep quitting from?

    The film makers deserve their respect and acknowledgment. Conrad and Greg did a great job as directors, Seth and Evan wrote a great story and the actors gave wonderful voice performances.

    How about acknowledging the artists who slaved and scarified their personal lives for this film??

    Shame on you Nitrogen, shame on you!

    P.S – This rant only refers to Nitrogen’s management. Conrad, Seth and Evan had nothing to do with this and were completely oblivious to what was going on in the studio.

  • Uncredited Supervisor

    The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free. If you wouldn’t work late for free your work would be assigned to someone who would stay late or come in on the weekend. Some artist were even threatened with termination for not staying late to hit a deadline.

    The animation department signed a petition for better treatment and paid overtime. When the letter got to Annapurna they stepped in and saw that artist were payed and fed when overtime was needed.

    Over 30 animators left during the coarse of the production due to the stress and expectations. Most of them left before the paid overtime was implemented. This was met with animosity and was taken as a personal insult to the owners. Their names were omitted from the final credits despite working for over a year on this film.

    • CB Reader

      I’m sorry to hear that. Funny how one of the promo clips for this film satirized poor treatment of animators.

      Amid, are you going to find more information and do a story about this?

    • LSP

      I’m really sorry to hear about this :-( We in the UK VFX Union have a message of support & solidarity we’d like to offer to everyone who worked on Sausage Party:

  • Another Uncredited Animator

    Almost half the animation team was not credited. The team believed in this film and poured their hearts and souls into it. Despite this, more than half of it was not credited. You can see the full team on IMDB, which contains 83 people (and I am certain there are some missing). The film’s credits, however, contains 47.

    This was Nitrogen Studio’s first animated feature and no pipeline had been set up. It was an extremely rocky production. The studio management had little knowledge on how to proceed and the film could not have been made without the hard work of experienced artists. The production went over a year of what was originally projected due to poor organization. The team had to fight for fair compensation and a lot of the artists needed to quit due to unfair practices and poor management. The studio had lost such a massive portion of the team by the end of the production (more than half) that they had to resort to hire recent animation graduates to finish the film. What we currently see in the credits are the students as well as animators who have stayed until the end of the production, and a couple who have left the production. Most of the animators who are not credited have been on the show for more than a year and a half, which is most of the production time. These are the people who have worked hard to set the style of the show and have their work used as promotion for the film. Nitrogen has been trying hard to hide this from the producers so I doubt that Seth Rogen even knows this. I hope that this can help get the word out.

  • Credited Ally

    Sausage Party was a once-in-a-lifetime project – what a crazy and fun experience, to the point where any project afterward now seems boring in comparison! And that brilliance is what kept so many of us animators on board as long as possible. We all fought hard for this movie to be finished. But over the course of a 2+ year production, people either left the studio amicably in order to try out other projects, or felt drained by the management and left very unhappily, and a few more left due to visa issues but still fulfilled their contracts. Regardless of reason, the vast majority of these ‘early’ departures (even after a year or more of great work) had the same outcome – a rescinded credit. It’s heartbreaking to see so many of my colleagues’ names disappear into thin air. I would gladly work on a project like Sausage Party again, just to play around some more in that crazy world – but at a studio that doesn’t pretend like half of its animation crew never existed…

  • Uncredited lead animator

    Media and the industry should take note on this.
    Look down the comments. This is not the way to run a company and it’s not the way to treat people.
    I understand that as all movies Cartoon Brew is helping with the promotion of SP but, if there is any interest to show respect for the team who made this movie, this site and many others should pay attention to what really happened during the show.
    People were mistreated and this behaviour should not happen in any other studio in this industry. Period.

  • Sweet & Sour

    After seeing those comments, all the joy I had reading this interview completely fell apart, sure the movie still looks promising, but something’s rotten with Nitrogen.
    I hope Cartoon Brew will investigate further, these claims really sound fair, I can’t believe Greg’s been bragging about budget…

  • Charles Norwood

    Everyone in the Vancouver animation industry seems to have a scary story about Nitrogen, either first hand, or from colleagues who worked on the movie and left. (lots) Lots of tales of Greg’s disturbing behaviour and abusive management style, the infamous blacklist of artists, the “you’ll never work again” management posture, etc.
    To get artists mobilized enough to sign a petition for better treatment, something needs to be seriously wrong.

  • Uncredited animator

    I worked as an animator in Nitrogen studios on the Sausage party, all of my shots are in the trailer and I didn’t get the screen credit. It was a really stressful atmosphere over there, most of the core team who shaped the animation style and the character’s body language, didn’t get the screen credit. It was the final stab on the back of the animators, poor foot soldiers of every project!

  • Another uncredited animator

    I hope the plight of the uncredited artists get the attention it deserves. Greg and Conrad are getting their spot in the limelight while the hard work of the artists who helped them get there is not being given credit. It is very unfair and inappropriate of them. It seems like studio owners can do anything they want with living, breathing human beings and get away with it that easy.

    Working at Nitrogen was a very tough experience for many many artists. If they weren’t satisfied with your work ( often it was for reasons beyond your control, that they didn’t want to hear about) you were pulled into a room and threatened to be fired. Many left due to this sort of treatment.

    If you left the contract early you were pulled into a room, given a speech about how you might never work in the industry again because of what you have done.

    During the production itself artists were treated more like children then adults and the professionals that they are. Little regard was given to maintain respectful collaboration, and many were treated in a harsh, draconian manner.

    Most of the shots in the trailers were done by artists who did not receive a credit. You’re welcome.

    Please hear the artists out, many sacrificed a lot of time and effort to make this movie the success that it is, and they deserve to be heard.
    This kind of behavior by a service studio like Nitrogen should not go unnoticed.

  • Uncredited Animator

    Wow, I see so many points they’ve made that I was going to mention.

    Literally, there’re no exaggeration in these comments above.
    All of the comments are truth or maybe rather written too lightly.
    I personally know & witnessed many other incidents during the production; such as an “Open Letter” to the clients, and how Greg threatened artists for it.

    I cannot put more details because I’m scared of revealing my identity.. and *I really want to keep working in this industry*

    Sickening how one can brag about production cost, when he was the one who demanded artists to work for free, otherwise get fired.

    I would really appreciate if Cartoon Brew can investigate this further, to prevent more of sacrifices from talented artist in the future.

    FACT: Most of the shots in Promotion Clips/Trailers were done by uncredited artists. Lame.

    Very disheartening to experience company like Nitrogen, knowing these kind of corrupt still exists in 2016. No other companies, I’ve worked in Vancouver, have treated artists any close to this.

    • Mystery Mudokon

      Should I still see the movie? I don’t want to support awful companies, but you animators may want people to see what you made.

  • Vancouver VFX artist

    I had an interview there. The whole studio looked like a mess and was located in a well known sketchy location riddled with homeless people. While the budget was low, they couldn’t offer competitive salaries that other bigger studios in Vancouver were offering. In place of hiring quality people, a lot of juniors or people with no film experience were hired there, hence junior quality work. The trailer is funny, but the “cinematic stills” look like garbage compared to the bigger animation studios.

    Its great to have films made for low budget, but usually with low budgets means unpaid overtime and over worked artists.

    • Sketchy Vancouver Artist

      Until recently, MOST of the studios in the city were (and some still are) located in sketchy parts of the city, because it’s low overhead for large space. You do realize that to buy a 1-bedroom condo in Vancouver can cost a million dollars, right? Try starting a studio on prime real estate here. You could be a millionaire and wouldn’t have enough for the down-payment on a bathroom stall.
      So yeah. It’s in a sketchy neighbourhood. So are many other studios that are totally kosher.

  • Anonymous

    Nerd Corps is not defunct; it was bought for $57 million by DHX Media Ltd. a few years ago. As I understand it though, their practices have improved under the new corporation.

    • dejected animator

      I quit Nerd Corps before the takeover by DHX so I have no idea about how it was after that, but before that, all this seems to ring a clear bell. Expected overtime, murky ideas about who’s running what and who and how, the threatening atmosphere of “we can’t make you stay overtime, since it isn’t paid, but we’ll ride your ass and haul you in for ‘talking-to’s asking for explanations why you won’t until you give in, or quit” sounds really familiar. Anyone with less than an iron constitution would get taken advantage of and the salary differences from person to person were unreal. You were made to believe that your falling behind, with ridiculous time limits and crunch, was your own fault and that you OWED the production your time to make up for your failures. Sounds familiar to that.

      I know that money is money, but you can’t be okay with this sort of taking-advantage-of. It’s wrong. In the end their little sausage movie got made, will probably make a boat load of stoner money, and that chapter will be over. Will they ever make another feature again, if they are expected to pay people and then credit them?

      • It’s a nasty business

        DHX is like this also. It’s industry standard, at least in Vancouver.

      • Velvetsky

        Oh wow, you know, this happened to me at a studio as well. Not animation, but art-related too. They were constantly standing over me, telling me I was slow and needed to hurry up, all the while paying me a lot less than the guy with less experience beside me. They actually reduced my wages saying that they would have to, or fire me because I wasn’t keeping up with production. They were making the deadlines ridiculous on purpose to make me feel bad about myself and make me work overtime. Eventually, they laid me off saying they didn’t need me anymore, but saying that my work was above par and shaking my hand. My work was “awesome” when I was leaving. They stressed that it was the drying up of work that was the reason for letting me go and that they’d keep me on file for future work. I bit my tongue, shook his hand and walked away with what was left of my dignity and the chance of getting employed again intact.

        Do I ever want to work for the fucking fuckers again? Nope.

  • Credited artist

    I feel very mixed feeling for being credited. I’m not quite sure what I am acknowledged for. Is it for my hard work and creativity, or my patience when enduring poor treatment ? I feel that Nitrogen doesn’t care about artistry but rewards submission. I’m very proud of my fellow coworkers who stood up for themselves and accomplished some amazing work on this project at the same time. I truly hope our hard work and our fight for fair treatment will inspire animation workers.
    We as a work force have our word to say and have way more power together than as individuals.

    Having to fight for our food, ironically that was the reality on this movie.

  • Credited Animator

    Working on this production was a wet dream for animators. We fought hard to stay positive and do our best work despite unfair working conditions. This is a movie I can be proud of but I am not proud of Nitrogen. I cannot fully celebrate until I know that everyone has been credited. We united once and we sure as hell can do it again. Time to “spill the beans” :)

  • Jordan Mooney

    I hope Cartoon Brew investigate all this properly. Serious allegations that I think have to be acknowledged and listened to.

  • Artist

    Whilst some of these comments are disturbing and should not be ignored, one should always remember there are two sides to every story. Firstly, not all the individuals posting here are ‘truly aware’ of each persons contractual issues with the accused company. With that in mind it could be that some people here are probably just jumping on the bandwagon as they feel wronged at not receiving a screen credit, knowing full well that they themselves did not honor their contractual obligations. Also, one other IMPORTANT point is that in this business, just because you work on a movie (project) this does NOT automatically entitle you to get a screen credit!. Anyone who has been in the Animation industry and worked on various projects for different companies will understand this to be a true statement. If any of you disagree with that, all I would say is check your contracts, it is usually stated clearly in there.
    Just for clarity, I do not agree or condone any artist getting treated unfairly by their employers, that is a totally separate issue though than not getting a screen credit.

    • Another Artist

      Considering the speed and turmoil coming from the comments section, you’re awfully quick to play ‘There’s both sides to everything’ card when Nitrogen doesn’t exactly have a clean background.

    • onetime

      Nice try Greg, but you’re not fooling anybody.

      On a lighter note, this has been Nitrogens reputation for quite some time now, and Greg has always been a joke. I’ve known the guy for years, and he’s quite high on himself as an ‘artist’, but if you’ve ever seen him attempt to create any sort of animation, you’ll quickly realize he’s full of steam and hot air.
      Unfortunately guys like this exist in any industry, and it’s up to artists to band together and decide to stand up to them. Do not let people with rampant ego’s and short tempers belittle you. Do not allow these low lives to take advantage of you by threatening your employment in this city, because guess what, these people are not respected by other professionals in the city.

  • Dream High Animation

    damn son ! look at the animators below and reading their comments .. thats really sad …. and none of you sued this studio or something……. ppl do not take the animators seriously ;/

  • J

    This isn’t unusual in Canada. TV animators never get paid overtime, so a lot of feature studios that also do TV work keep this model up. The biggest companies in the business like Nerd Corps, DHX, Guru Studio, etc. never pay overtime, even if you’re clocking 60-100 hours a week. Meanwhile the line producers and studio managers are making 200k+. It’s an exploitative business both for the artists and for the citizens because of the tax credits. If Canadians actually knew how relatively well treated the people are in California who they’re undercutting, they’d demand more from management. Meanwhile management laughs all the way to the bank

    • siskavard

      Add to that the fact that work is contract to contract & most studios don’t offer any sort of benefits. It’s a tough industry to be in.

    • Gonzo


  • Video Guy

    Hey I used to be a software dev in Canda. There’s an obscure labor law that says if you work in high technology they don’t have to pay you overtime. It’slame and probably the reason software people up here are paid crap compared to the sates.

  • ProductionWonk

    While I can’t speak to specifics at Nitrogen, I will make a couple
    observations from many years in Animation and VFX on the Production

    While there may well have been issues (what show have you ever been on that didn’t have serious challenges), it is also true that vendors
    almost always have to leave people out of the credits. That is not unique to Nitrogen, and I’m wondering how many of the people posting the broad brush comments have done a feature before. Every seasoned animator (and lighter, and comper, etc.) I know has been left off the credits of something. That industry “norm” doesn’t justify “bad” behavior, but merely not being listed doesn’t mean it was evil and saying it is sounds professionally immature to me. Doing so anonymously is petulant.

    Every Animation
    and visual effects show I’ve done (over a dozen large shows) has had the
    same issues. Screen space in the crawl costs money. Adding 2 min. to
    the crawl can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the post cost and Financiers always limit
    things. Vendors are often limited to a number of lines they are allowed
    in the crawl.

    There are always somewhat arbitrary decisions made based
    on tenure, or whatever other criteria. There are ALWAYS unhappy people.
    Unless you have a union contract or a credit in your personal contract,
    it is ALWAYS discretion of the company and their hands are usually
    partially tied. That’s Feature Animation, so negotiate it, or stop
    crying about it.

    So, while I’m sure there were issues (aren’t there
    always) and everyone should support proper credit, I also think that anonymous comments slamming people by name
    when the poster(s) almost certainly don’t have the whole story and are clearly venting after the fact, is not
    professional and risks sounds like sour grapes. Even assuming some people had bad experiences, there are always two people in a relationship and airing it out anonymously online is petty and hurts
    everyone who worked on the movie.

    If you hated it and you left, I hope you have a job you like better. For people who still work there, I guess maybe they didn’t experience the same things.

    But seriously, if you worked on it for a year, and its doing well, take a little pride in that contribution and wish well for everyone involved. Really, what is the point of “Monday morning quarterbacking” and trashing people? If you want better, go get it. If you think you can do better, go start a Studio. That’s not to minimize or deny whatever real propblems may have existed, just to say that its not simple, and this isn’t the venue to actually solve problems. Its only good for trash talk…so…really?

    • Artist1138

      This does happen with most VFX films. Most vendors have a credit limit, I’ve worked on productions where 300 people were involved and only 50 credit slots were available, and this was just one of the many VFX facilities working on that film. Smaller companies don’t even get credits, just the company name.

      I’ve seen producers tell a supervisor that he had to choose 5 people to credit, out of his 30 people team. That’s messed up and totally unfair to everyone, supervisors included.

      This is all very lame. If someone worked on the film, they should get a credit. Period. Just like all carpenters, electricians, caterers… do.

      The “credits cost money” thing is absolutely bullsh*t too. It might have been the case at some point when a couple inches of extra film, multiplied by thousands of film prints worldwide, could arguably cost some money, but nowadays most films are distributed digitally, so stop the crap excuses, and once again, how come that’s not an excuse for every one else but the VFX people? Most of the times it could even be solved with clever design. Artists don’t even mind if their name shows up in a tiny font hidden somewhere in 5 columns of credits, they just want to have their work recognized, as they damn well should.

      But more to the point, this is a feature animation film, not a VFX live action one, and that’s quite different as the credits list is usually much shorter. There’s much fewer people working on a film like this than on a large VFX movie, but most importantly, feature animation studios usually do the entire film, not just a portion, so they have total control over who or how many people gets a credit. You hear these uncredited artist stories on pretty much every VFX film, but rarely on feature animation films, where if someone doesn’t get a credit, it’s because production just didn’t want them to.

  • AmidAmidi

    Attention: Former Nitrogen artists. Lots of reporters wish to speak anonymously about what happened there. They have posted their info in the comments here. Here is a roundup:
    Brent Lang (Variety): 646-524-2675 or [email protected]
    James Rainey (Variety): [email protected]
    James Dennin (Mic): [email protected]
    Penny Daflos (CTV News): [email protected]
    One Room With A View: [email protected]

    • NeoRutty

      Have you heard of “internet dog pile”? That is what you are stirring up here. There are many happy Nitrogen employees that have been there for years, and will be there for years… employees that chose to ignore the vocal minority because we know the real deal.

      I have no desire to write post after post about the lies and exaggeration in here.Everyone is jumping in for their 15 seconds in front of a reporter. It’s embarrassing. AmidAmidi: Oh and here are more outlets for you guys to whine!

      The majority who enjoyed the project and enjoyed working don’t need or want to post endlessly on here. We have better things to do. You could have found other ways to find your information, or choose to ignore the whining of animators who bailed on the project for the shiny new studio in town. But hey, you guys need a story, huh?


      • ike

        I went through a similar experience in my past years, working in a studio where we were not paid overtime, and I was fired when trying to going union. And in another one where the pay was delayed every single month for a year, and even they stopped paying on a couple of special occasions, where I was no longer part of the company.

        With that background, I think I’m in a position to tell you that you should not criticize the actions that former workers are taking, assuming they only want their 15 seconds of glory. You, as an employee from the company (or not), have the right to act whichever way you feel more comfortable with, even feeling betrayed if that’s your thing.

        And so are they. Do not accuse them, because it wouldn’t be fair to you if they pointed fingers at you while calling you ‘conformist’, or that you lack empathy, or even worse things. Sadly, one of the few ways to change things in any industry is by making noise and let other people know about the situation. Success of a few based on the suffering conditions on many others… we all know that term, right?

      • Never trust anyone who tries to silence the voice of others.

      • Matt Mark

        In this case, it was obviously egregious. It doesn’t sound far fetched to me at all, and you clearly left way too many people out of the credits. I’ve been on many jobs like this. It’s commonplace, but the movie is an animation – so your animators are who you need to value. You mistreat the actual content makers and cheat them? This is what happens. Some productions are worse than others. Obviously, Nitrogen pushed this one too far. Maybe you guys should learn how to manage people properly, or alternatively kept your mouths shut and not bragged about how effective you were at slave driving everyone as a means to keep the budget low.

      • Jiff

        Crapping on the animators in your posts really helps your case that Nitrogen doesn’t crap on the animators.

      • Jordan Møir

        “There are many happy Nitrogen employees that have been there for years,”

        And? That doesn’t mean there isn’t mistreatment of other employees. And that doesn’t mean their claims are invalid.

        “employees that chose to ignore the vocal minority because we know the real deal.”

        So you’re offended because somebody posted bad things about the company you work for.

        “I have no desire to write post after post about the lies and exaggeration in here”

        Nobody’s asking you to… yet here you are doing what is arguably the same thing (just on the opposite side of the argument). Are they lies or exaggerations?

        “Oh and here are more outlets for you guys to whine!”

        That’s a very loaded statement. You purposefully chose the word “whine” to discredit those who have complaints. Not cool.

        “The majority who enjoyed the project and enjoyed working don’t need or want to post endlessly on here.”

        Again, that has nothing to do with the claims of the ex-employees here. So I don’t know why you’d even bring it up. If I go beat somebody up one day, my defense in court wouldn’t be “but look at all of these other people I know that I DIDN’T beat up! It’s not fair! Stop ‘whining’, victum!”

        “We have better things to do.”

        Nobody’s asking you to stay, or be involved, or even care.

        “or choose to ignore the whining of animators who bailed on the project”

        There are literally dozens of people here saying the exact same thing. That at least deserves more validity than a bunch of “whiners”. At the very least they deserve for people to know the truth, whatever it may be.

        “But hey, you guys need a story, huh?”

        Why do you have such hate for reporters simply doing their job?

        In the end, even if everything you say IS true, you haven’t addressed why they were left out of the credits? That’s a fact you can’t explain away with “they’re just whiners!”

        But of course you won’t respond because I make a valid point. So it’s easier to just ignore.

      • THiNGYBOBinc

        Pack it up boys, this one guy says it didn’t happen

      • Awghost5

        Methinks the lady doth protest too much….

      • Telling truth isn’t whining

        Unpaid overtime is the STANDARD operating process in all the Vancouver animation studios. It’s about god damn time it’s being talked about. You must be one of the brown nosing artists that stays really late every night because you do it for the “passion”. Lots of us are also happy at our respective companies because they generally have a light hearted, fun atmosphere. But most of us are keenly aware of the ways we are being taken advantage of. Being compelled to work for free on weekends isn’t right. To talk about it outside of our own echo chamber is not ‘whining”.

  • ProductionWonk

    Hey Amid,

    Thanks for stirring the pot. Do you think any reporter is trying to do “the right thing”….uh, no. They want to sell controversy. So, thanks for adding to the drama. This is a totally inappropriate way to deal with workplace issues.

    It’s really easy to talk trash anonymously when the other side isn’t represented and you don’t actually know what went on behind the curtain, but only have an opinion and hurt feelings.

    Grow up, and stop hurting your own industry. Anyone that talks to press to air dirty laundry is volunteering to be on the equivalent of the Jerry Springer show….did you look up to those idiots?

    • Artist

      Unpaid overtime in an area that gives free money to studios is hurting the industry more than your hurt feelings.

      Maybe don’t post anonymously and share the ‘other side’ instead of stirring the pot further.

    • Jiff

      Crappy reputations don’t come from reporters. Crappy reputations aren’t “dirty laundry.”

  • NeoRutty

    Hi person who has never worked at Nitrogen *eyes roll out of head*

    1. Sorry the studio location in Vancouver’s East Side isn’t to your liking. Maybe take it up with the mayor, or the city, or maybe get involved in your community and help clean up the area (there are people at Nitrogen who do). I mean, Shame on Nitrogen for having a studio space a 10 minute walk from the heart of gastown. *SARCASM*

    2. If you were offended by some drawings of penises you wouldn’t have lasted day one on R RATED SAUSAGE PARTY. So good litmus test.

    3. Again, SAUSAGE PARTY. Any applicants were warned ahead of time of the content of the movie. It’s an R RATED ADULT COMEDY. Good thing you were shown pieces of the film so you could decide not to take part on a movie rated R called SAUSAGE PARTY.

    4. You are now openly accusing Nitrogen of not hiring women. There are DOZENS here. In supervisory positions, animator, comp artists.. there’s an entire surfacing team that’s almost entirely women. The owner is a woman. 80% of production… That is just blatantly WRONG. This is a male dominated industry, and yet Nitrogen employs a LOT of females.

    5. ERRRR. And what does this have to do with Nitrogen anyways? Nitrogen didn’t write the script or cast it. If the movie came out rated XXX, how would that be on Nitrogen?

    It’s great that you have moral standards on which to base your career choices on, and congrats, you made the right choice, the film wouldn’t have been for you. At no point did Nitrogen tell you that you had to take the job OR ELSE. I’m not sure why you are even voicing an opinion, to be honest.

    Hope you enjoyed your visit.

    -Ellery VanDooyeweert, Editor.

    I don’t need to hide behind internet anonymity.

    • Foreign Animator

      NeoRutty, you write about this topic with such unprofessionalism, sarcasm and spite toward anybody who disagrees with Nitrogen’s business practices. Absolutely she has a right to raise the points she did! Penis post-it notes? Feeling unsafe by simply walking to work? Are you saying it would be okay for anyone to be inappropriate in the workplace simply because you’re working on an R- Rated show? I’m trying to see both sides of this story but the way you talk about your colleagues, and even people who only interviewed, who you don’t agree with makes you seem very “snobby”! I wonder if you conduct yourself like this on a day-to-day basis?

      • Full Disclosure

        Should be mentioned “the penis desk” belongs to NeoRutty’s wife. Of course he’s biased. There’s a difference between working on raunchy animated content, and being unprofessional and condoning workplace harassment. You wouldn’t find it acceptable to chase your co-worker down the hallway just because you work on an action movie.
        If you’ve been at Nitrogen for a decade, you’re likely stuck there. Not surprised about the sugarcoating.

  • lol

    So…. you thought an R-rated Seth Rogen raunchy animated movie was gonna be like my little ponies? lol

  • NeoRutty

    Shame on the animators who bailed on the project cuz a big shiny studio came in town and offered more money. Guess what happens to a production when you have a planned team and then dozens leave with no warning. Guess who takes the hit.

    They can rewrite history all they want, but they know why they left. They signed a contract and broke it for more money.

    • Artist

      So…blame the victim?

    • Animator

      What do you mean shame on them? I would imagine there would be a notice period drawn up in their contracts when someone wanted to leave, if not then thats a failing of the management, and if another studio came to town and offered an employee more money why wouldn’t they accept it? You could work in any occupation in the world and if another company offers you more money you have every right to entertain the idea.

  • Yet Another Artist

    When I read this I think back to my experience at Bron Studios. During overtime we were at least given food as compensation but were expected to pull crazy hours per week with zero paid overtime on the whims of a director wearing way too many hats. We wanted to argue the case, but had no one to go to and were afraid to rock the boat. HR was one of the owners of the studio which made any issues impossible to divulge. Our director changed the script dozens of times way past deadline which meant all the overtime was pretty much for nothing. He had erratic behavior, said very inappropriate things to women, and an explosive temper. He treated the movie like his baby and when asking for feedback on his ideas would become defensive. The turnaround was unsurprisingly high, and when half the studio was laid off, many followed. I loved my coworkers as they were genuinely great people, but Bron’s complete lack of consideration for their employees’ well-being was astonishing. Vancouver is a tough gig for sure.

  • Artist

    Your response sums you up completely. I suggest you learn to READ posts before you actually reply to them! First of all I never suggested that Nitrogen were being denied a voice, a pretty stupid assumption on your behalf!. Also, you can’t even quote me accurately, I said “In this business” , and as for suggesting that I am in any way responsible or forcing anyone to do anything is totally ridiculous. I am nothing to do with it. As a member of this industry I can and do give FACTUAL comments about certain things that I know to be true, not contributing to hearsay rhetoric that has not been factually verified. Clearly you and many others posting here don’t do the same.

  • Colin Giles

    Hi “Past Employee”,

    Not sure what you’re insinuating here but please do not assume what Cartoon Brew “knows” simply because of my relationship with both.

    Colin Giles

  • Artist too

    So you are dismissing all claims because they are made by incompetent juniors. Yet when you had to do OT and were payed for it, it was thanks to those incompetent juniors who wrote a petition letter to make sure everyone gets OT. You’re welcome. The “kids” are fighting so that they won’t have to spend their whole careers in the same conditions you did. Fighting for a better day for us all.

  • Whoa whoa whoa, hold the friggin phone. “They broke their contract to go to a studio that offered them more money”

    That’s not how that works. Not for films, no sir! Maybe you can get away with that utter bullshit in video games or whatever scummy industry you normally work in, but in film, if you contributed to the movie AT ANY POINT, you get a credit. There are no ifs ands or buts here. There are no “wah wah he broke an illegal clause in our contract”. If you don’t want your name credited on a Hollywood movie, you have to *fight* to get it taken off! Not the other way around!!

  • Air

    Nobody should be reporting on the allegations unless they can prove it.

  • ProductionWonk

    I’ll tell you one thing for sure. This will be the LAST interview with a Director that cartoon brew ever gets.

  • ProductionWonk

    linda, unless you actually know the people involved and were around when things went down, you have no idea who misbehaved (or didn’t). Shame on you for presuming to shame anyone just because someone on the internet told you a story. Even if the story is true…you don’t know. You’re just jumping on the band wagon.

  • pika

    nope. sorry, you can’t have it both ways.
    you cannot expect employees to go above and beyond for a project that will benefit the COMPANY in the middle- to long-term without rewarding them accordingly AND at the same time treat them as expendable, interchangeable and keep them on short-term project based contracts without job security. screw you!

  • pika

    “unprofessional at best”? that’s too kind.
    it constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Concerned Animator

    Regardless of the hearsay about the enforcement or not in overtime, or the allegations against the studio being unfounded or not, you CANNOT, under no circumstances criticize artists in this industry for looking out for themselves and going into another contract mid production. This industry is absolutely BRUTAL for workers, considering this could be considered a “skilled job”, we have working conditions that borderline unskilled work.

    The working conditions for workers in this industry is already abysmal, forced to work what are essentially temp jobs across all over the world, with no benefits, no job security, not even that high salaries nor relocation packages for your globetrotting adventures, most of the time in highly expensive cities (London, LA, Vancouver) without the corresponding pay to lead a decent life in said cities, incredibly difficult living situation to start a family, etc. etc. etc. etc…

    All the while being at the mercy of studios that will often ditch them once their contract ends and they can all go to war between themselves (cause after all they all compete with each other) to land a job whenever another project pops up after their contract ends which could be 1 month later, or 6 months later, who knows.

    So yeah.. you can argue all you want about people complaining about the studio or not, but don’t you dare criticize artists for looking out for themselves in an industry that is already heavily weighted against their interests.

  • pika

    head over to and read the ‘glowing’ reviews dating back to 2014 or 2015…
    and yes, in the film industry it IS practice to credit every one, even if they only worked a day on the film.

    • ProductionWonk

      Dude, I don’t know what film industry you work in, but I’ve been at….4 major studios and 2 animation studios and your comment is a fantasy.

      Vendors are USUALLY limited in the number of lines in the crawl they get. They always have to make arbitrary decisions and people are often left out. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been left of credits for one show or another. You can still put it on your resume.

      I’ve seen at least two major studios determine that anyone that was on less than 6 months didn’t make the cut.

      I don’t know what you’re smoking, but its good.

  • adel

    another Uncredited Supervisor

    Many artist who worked for over a year on this film who had to leave due to
    personal reasons, family, health (in one case artist had Cancer) still
    didn’t get a credit. These are the artists who developed the the
    pipeline and the look of the show.

    To strip an artist from its on screen credit is very low. To take the joy of seeing your name on the big screen and assuring that all those unpaid overtime did actually worth something, shows you the true color of Nitrogen management

    It is not the first time and it wont be the last time an artist gets no credit. Its a serious issue in this industry.

    However I am proud of the work that my team and talented artists produced on SP.

  • Ex-nitrogen

    Listen… can we just forget about Sausage Party for a second. Forget about the credits and the contracts. Greg is a bully who uses fear and intimidation to lead, and he’s been that way since long before Sausage party. That is why so many animators leave. Greg is a bad boss.

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    If you ask them if they had fun though, that’s a different story.

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    One of the animators here said it wasn’t Conrad’s fault.

  • ProductionWonk

    Hey CW. Let’s assume you’re right. Nitrogen is the 7th level of hell. Let’s disregard the posts from folks that aren’t hiding behind anonymity that dispute the allegations. Lets assume that every bad thing is true on its face.

    If you have personal experience with a situation, and a relationship with someone that might be in that situation, its perfectly appropriate to offer your input.

    If you’re reacting to hearsay, you weren’t there, you don’t actually know what happened….OR, you were there and feel compelled to share your negative stories anonymously online as a “solution”, then you’re an idiot.

    Are you assuming that people are incapable of making their own decisions or doing their own due dilligence? Are you saying people aren’t capable of determining what a culture is like, whether they think they fit in, or whether there is enough value there for them to take employment?

    Who’s job is it to negotiate a work relationship and then manage it along the way? The employee, and the company. Period. If an employee has an issue, its their job to make decisions, manage it, and if they wish, make a different choice.

    This is the equivalent of critiquing someone’s parenting style. You may not like it, but its really none of your business. If certain bright legal lines are crossed, then there are mechanisms to deal with that, but bitching and name calling anonymously online is simply bad behavior and nothing that may or may not have happens on the job justifies it.

    In fact, I’d say that the poor judgment and emotionalism displayed by the “anonymous artists” is enough to make me take a real hard look at their story. I believe they believe it. I think their earnest, but you simply can’t discount that there are others that did not have that experience under the same circumstances.

    Do companies misbehave, sure. Are there bad bosses, bad policies, sure. Should people put up with bad treatment, no.

    That said, this circus is a joke. It helps no one, harms many, resolves nothing, adds no provable fact to the discussion. It is merely grist for the rumor and slander mill.

    Grow up.

  • mashed potato

    I think it has something to do with ‘all the way or none of it’ train of thought, specially if they go through people like it’s a revolving door stuck on turbo.

    I’ve worked for a servicing studio that handled the brunt of animation, compositing and some post effects for a cartoon series. The studio employed lots of interns and fresh grads (cheap hands for cleanup duty), for the duration of the project I sometimes don’t see the same face at the same desk every few weeks. If everyone was credited, there’d probably be 100+ names for animators alone.

    In the end, the show’s 5-second roll were everyone client-side, in full, and production’s handiwork was reduced to the studio name.

  • YVR Artist

    Based on the things I have personally witnessed at Nitrogen, this is 100% sheer spite.

    Credits don’t cost anything. Maybe it was a small factor back in the day of actual prints being made for theater projection – if you needed some extra film stock for longer credits. Not so these days.

    It’s management holding the power to punish those who “bailed”, and showing the defectors who is boss. It’s bad style and small minds.

  • Jordan Møir

    “Scummy, douchebaggery, back stabbing are things that come to mind.”


  • ProductionWonk

    I find it odd that you’re willing to throw someone under the bus by name, but you’re “past employee”.

    Even if you’re totally right, that’s some unprofessional bullshit.

  • ProductionWonk

    I don’t know where you worked. i’ve been at places that were hard on artists, I’ve been at places that treated all talent as the valued team members they are. All production is hard. VFX is no better. Production side is no better. We all work very long hours in tough conditions. I will say that the environment you stay in is your choice and everyone is responsible to create the environment they want, obviously including production. But if you’re too hard on people, you don’t keep talented people, not for long anyway. Most serious issues are self correcting in the long term.

  • ProductionWonk

    I generally agree with everything you said, with a couple clarifications. in Canada, no employer can stand in the way of an employee taking a “better opportunity”, which in theory is great, but it means contracts are worthless. If you’re on a show that is being poached by three other companies in Vancouver, and you make it explicit that you need a new hire to finish the show to delivery, then no amount of notice, however legal, isn’t leaving the show in a bind. Everyone has left shows early for a better gig. I have. But you have to manage the transition so you’re not screwing the show you said yes to doing. EVEN if you’re leaving because you decided they suck. Its basic professionalism. You have to work out the departure time, make sure your current show is OK with it, and if need be, push back your start on the other show to avoid leaving them in the lurch. If they want you, they’ll understand, and they’ll appreciate that you are being responsible as it means you’ll probably do the same for them when the time comes.

    If you choose to act otherwise because you’re pissed off or feel justified (even if you’re right about the conditions), then I think you’re professional judgement is suspect even if your standards are correct. Downstream employers are right to be concerned when people demonstrate a willingness to cut and run whenever the grass is greener elsewhere. Its part of the job to manage how you leave the job, even in tough circumstances…or Especially in tough circumstances. Take the high road. If you’re justifying poor behavior because someone else did something…well, that’s immature.

    just my thought.

  • jen

    so what I’m getting from the comments from people who actually animated this thing, Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon amazingly managed to make this well animated film for SO CHEAP by being so frugal- by not paying the animators. Nice. Somehow takes the shine out of the accomplishment, doesn’t it?

  • KW

    Thats not how things work. I’ve known people that went what people call low end animation schools and their first job was Pixar. I also know people that went to prestigious animation schools and won student academy awards and it took 2 years to find a job in commercials. Its completely unrelated to what happened with this film.

  • formerAnimator

    I don’t mean to start a flame war with you Ellery, but you have to realize that you’re in Greg’s inner group, and absolutely enjoy special treatment. You have it much better than the typical animator.

    Greg had his Sauron like gaze over the entire animation team specifically, as a former 2D animator. I can ensure you, he paid attention to who did, and who did not stay to do free work in their personal time. He wants artists who are driven to animate, even without pay. But that loyalty he expects is not a substitution for professionalism. People have families and deserve to have their talent and time compensated. Especially on a theatrical feature film.

    I’m sure that some animators left for better money/prestige. But I’m equally sure some broke contract simply because they had the experience to realize the lack of professionalism with which Nitrogen is run. Does that make their contribution less valid than those who stayed?

    Respecting your artists is a huge deal, and it goes both ways. When a couple of artists don’t respect the company, that’s normal. When 30+ have the same issue, something is wrong.

    I suspect you, having been there for 10 years, are too out of touch to see that.

  • Freelance Editor.

    Some of you must not be veterans in this industry. When you look at any given film, the credits will represent maybe 20% of the total people who work on a project (if you’re lucky). There are post houses who have 30 different people involved in one way or another with a project, and maybe get 3-4 credited names. And I’m also willing to be that, like me, these animators work freelance for daily rates. It is a given that with a daily rate, you work til you get your work done. Sometimes it means overtime (which you dont get paid for as a daily rate freelancer).

    The media industry is a high stress environment. Instead of moaning about it, use this successful project as a springboard for your career. Just Bc you didn’t get credited, doesn’t mean you can’t show off your work in your reel/resume.


    • Another Artist

      Good ol’ sourgrapes. Like not being paid so you’re late on rent. Hashtag hashtag…

  • Natvea

    I dont know why anyone would want a career in animation. Expect to be paid poorly, bad conditions and hard to find work. Most people I knew who studied Animation at private schools could not get a job on the industry and now work in hospitality or retail customer service, plus they are in huge debt from their tuition fees. The higher ups are the one that reap the profits and credit ie the managers, supervisors, tutors, academic board etc the student and employees get treated like disposable fodder. You would have to be really naive and live in a fantasy world to think its a good idea to be an animator.

    • Charles Norwood

      This is pretty close to the truth. The animation industry can be lots of lucrative fun for studio owners, producers and directors, and the 2-5% of people at the top making all the creative decisions. For regular animators and production personnel, it’s like any other trade job, just with far less job security, far more stress, and better chances of an unethical or abusive boss. It’s not a path I’d recommend to young artists.

    • ike

      You know you do not need a degree to get a job in an animation studio, right? I’m not blaming people who chose that path, but everyone has to know it is not the only one. Investing dozens of thousands of dollars in a private institution is not the only way to get a job.

  • Ronald Graham

    Up vote!

  • YVR Artist

    I know quite a few Vancouver studios from my own experience and friends’ reports. Only the studios on the D-List don’t pay OT. I firmly believe anyone standing by Nitrogen after Sausage Party has nowhere else to go, sorry.

  • Awghost5
  • Joe Pavlo

    The VFX Union UK have published an open letter to the artists who worked on Sausage Party and to Nitrogen…

  • Dusty Ayres

    What did happen to Nerd Corps, pardon my asking?

  • VFX Supervisor

    I work in feature films and have for the past 8 years. This sounds all too familiar. Many studios have employees who break their contracts to go somewhere else. That’s the nature of this industry.
    Artists are just looking out for themselves. However, if your company treats people right, you’ll have flocks of people wanting to work for you. They’ll even recruit their friends, spouses and neighbors because your studio is the best in town. Screw them and you’ll have a hard time finding talent for years (unless you keep looking for new grads). Remember the industry is small.

    Another thing to ponder for those defending Nitrogen, why is it no one has anything good to say? People love working at DHX or Atomic. I only hear good things, but nothing has come of Nitrogen.

    I don’t work in animation, but I’ll be sure to tell people to steer clear of Nitrogen.

    • Gassy Jack

      DHX and Atomic don’t pay overtime either. They don’t flat out tell you to work late, but do assign far more work than most people can complete in a 40 hour week. The unspoken pressure is strong, it’s a shame people give in, as that creates the standard that the rest are compelled to keep up with.
      I can say that DHX doesn’t abuse people or threaten to fire them however. I have stood up for myself once or twice and been hired again. It is typically a positive environment to work in. But as it completes it’s dismantling of the former Studio B, the corporate creep is sinking in. We’ll see what it looks like in a few years.
      Personally, I’m really happy that we are finally talking about this.

  • Chirs

    A guy who looks, talks, and postures like that couldn’t be a douche! No way!

  • Andrew Barsan

    So… this guy’s obviously Greg, right?

  • rtytrytry

    Yeah its true. I can’t count how many times I came back from lunch only to find a big schlong drawn on my screen. It’s so dumb that it never stops being funny. But that’s about as naughty as it gets these days, the vibe is toned down considerably now.