Netflix has significantly reduced the number of employees in its feature animation division as part of a divisional restructuring.
The layoffs, which happened on Wednesday, November 1, have not been previously reported.
Cartoon Brew understands that at least one-third of the feature unit was laid off, which would total over fifty people. The layoffs targeted “overhead” staff, including executives, business affairs, and production management. No artists were included in these layoffs.
An internal message was sent to staffers on the day of the staff reduction. Cartoon Brew has obtained a copy of the memo, which started off by saying, “Today is going to be a difficult day for all of us.”
The memo attributes the layoffs to the feature animation division’s strategic shift, which was first reported last month. “As we shared in our last town hall, we’ve reduced our future film slate to focus on delivering two Netflix-owned tentpole films a year,” the memo reads. “[T]hat means unfortunately, today we’ll be saying goodbye to some of our overhead colleagues.” (The company had released between 4-5 original features in 2022-’23.)
While Netflix is reducing its own productions, it should be noted that the streamer anticipates releasing a steady stream of features from its new partner Skydance Animation. The new Skydance deal, which kicks off year with Vicky Jenson’s Spellbound, also includes upcoming titles from Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), Rich Moore (Zootopia, Wreck-It Ralph), and Nathan Greno (Tangled).
One Netflix insider took news of the layoffs in stride and remained upbeat about the division’s future. “Despite the layoffs, this is still a studio that is championing two original films a year,” the person told Cartoon Brew. “What other studio is doing that these days?”
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about Netflix’s animation ambitions. This year, the streamer won the Academy Award for best animated feature with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, only the second time in the last 11 years that the prize has been awarded to a studio other than the Walt Disney Company. The streamer also boasts multiple strong awards season contenders this season, including Nimona and Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.
In 2024, Netflix currently plans to release at least seven animated features, including such highly-anticipated titles as Orion and the Dark and Ultraman: Rising.
Cartoon Brew reached out to Netflix for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.