Further changes came in July, when it was announced that Netflix had acquired The Lego Movie animation studio Animal Logic before later promoting Karen Toliver to head of animation film and Traci Balthazor to vp of animation film production.
In an internal memo this week, Toliver and Balthazor announced the layoffs, placing them in a larger context of changes being made at Netflix Animation while assuring those affected that they were “related to efficiencies created within the new organization, and not about individuals’ performance.”
The letter provides the most detailed look so far at the reorganization taking place within Netflix Animation. Other changes include moving most film production support teams into Feature Animation at Netflix and splitting animation film and series. According to the memo, the changes won’t be fully implemented until early 2023.
Below, the full letter from Toliver and Balthazor:
Animation is a very important area for Netflix — and we want to be making the very best animated films and series for our members. When we started on this very ambitious journey five years ago to build a world-class animation studio, the vision was to produce both series and films under one roof, where talent could work between the two. We grew incredibly fast and have made a lot of progress, but we’ve also learned a lot along the way that has helped inform how we need to be set up for long-term success.
Animation film production is a unique business for the Netflix studio — our crew and creators work largely in-house; our overhead teams are directly collaborating with our productions every day; and our medium and timelines allow us to experiment/pivot throughout the whole production process. And we’ve also had pain points as the business was supported by leaders who reported into over a dozen different functional groups at Netflix, which often resulted in misalignment and a lack of clear decision-making. As a result, we’ve decided to organize the Animation film production business to be one cohesive group under a central leader (Head of Animation Film Production) — and the studio will operate under the new name of Feature Animation at Netflix (FAN). At a high level this means:
We will be moving most film production support teams (roughly 140 positions) from Netflix into Feature Animation at Netflix, to work alongside our artists and production crews so that it’s one combined group. Animation film and series will formally split. Animation series production support teams will remain within Netflix.
In the Head of Animation Film Production role, I (Traci) will continue working in close partnership with Karen Toliver, Head of Animation Film Content, to set the vision and strategy of the studio.
While we will immediately transition into the new working structure, the changes (including the new studio name) won’t be fully implemented until January 2023. See here for more detail on our new leadership structure and here on which functions are moving over.
Unfortunately, we also made the very difficult decision to let go of around 30 support roles from Netflix (roughly 2% of our animation workforce). The reduction of these roles is related to efficiencies created within the new organization, and not about individuals’ performance. We want to focus our immediate efforts on speaking to these colleagues first. If your role is impacted by the layoffs, you will receive a calendar invite in the next 15 minutes to meet with your manager and HR. These decisions are always very hard and painful, and we’re so grateful to each and every person who helped build this incredible animation studio along the way.
Karen and I acknowledge that this is yet another big change for our Animation community, on top of many big and impactful changes over the last year. We believe stability is critical to our success going forward, and we hope that by taking learnings from the first five years to make these changes now, we set ourselves up to focus on filmmaking and strengthening our community. We deeply believe in the future of Animation here at Netflix and we are extremely optimistic about this next chapter ahead.
Later today, we will gather as a studio to share our vision for Feature Animation at Netflix and will host smaller team conversations in the coming days to answer any questions.
Traci and Karen