This time last month, we published the first in our new series of wrap-ups, in which we take a look back at the major trends and events that shaped the animation world in the preceding month. If March was defined by the shock of the coronavirus’s global spread, April is when we started to really see its repercussions for animation, and glimpse how the industry may change for good.
Universal Pictures and theaters waged a war of words. The studio angered exhibitors by releasing Trolls World Tour, a tentpole sequel made for theatrical release, online (and in a handful of drive-in cinemas). It added fuel to the fire by reporting that the release was a financial success, and promising more day-and-date online and theatrical releases after the crisis. The country’s two biggest theater chains threatened to stop playing Universal’s films. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. took a similar decision with Scoob!. It was announced that such releases will qualify for the Oscars, for this year only.
The coronavirus destroyed jobs and slashed salaries. In response to the crisis, global vfx company DNEG shut down its tv unit in L.A. and asked all staff earning over $43,200 to take a significant pay cut. Labor activists in Canada condemned Technicolor, home to vfx studios like MPC and Mill Film, for laying off hundreds of people, implying that the crisis was the cause. Magic Leap, the Florida-based augmented reality startup, cut half its workforce, blaming the virus. Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America West recommended that live-action writers start developing animated projects — a reflection of the animation industry’s unique advantages in this crisis.