Until a few weeks ago, Janet Chan was doing what had once been her dream job.
Having entered the Hollywood animation world four years ago with big dreams of creative fulfillment, she worked her way up to become a Disney Television Animation storyboard revisionist. Along the way, her hopes turned to disillusionment with the nature of the industry. When she was offered a promotion, she quit her career instead. She explains why in a ten-minute Youtube video:
Chan paints a picture of an industry run by clueless executives who fail to reward real talent. Her grievances boil down to a number of points:
- The executives have poor creative judgment. “I was on a preschool show where we were given this note: ‘We are no long allowed to draw angry eyebrows.’… The executive said, ‘It’s because we don’t want to teach children being angry is okay.’… Aren’t preschool shows supposed to be teaching children how the world works?”
- Networking is king. “It’s not about how good you are — it’s about who you know… In order to keep climbing that corporate ladder, it’s more beneficial for you to form alliances or cliques rather than to be good at your job.”
- Professionalism is sidelined. “Unqualified people fail upwards while many talented people are passed up for promotion and ignored… Sometimes [this] can throw entire productions into chaos because of one person’s incompetence and ego.”
- Toxic behavior is rife. “Oftentimes people are only kind to you if you’re of value to them. So if you’re on the lower rung of the totem pole, you’re treated like dirt… Imagine going to work at a place filled with people you respect and admire, and no one makes eye contact with you.”
- The working environment is dull and bureaucratic. “At the end of the day, it is a mundane nine-to-five office job, where I sit in my cubicle all day at my computer, or I have meetings about having meetings.”
- The industry isn’t honest about all this. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a corporate job. It’s just I wish my school, the recruiters, the studio itself told me what I was walking into.”
It took Chan four years to realize that “animation is not for me” — she now runs her own design and illustration business, which gives her the sense of autonomy she couldn’t find in Hollywood. She admits that she felt guilty about resenting her career, as she’s well aware that many people would love to be in her place. This video, then, is her warning to those people.
Her comments are actually not uncommon. They echo complaints that many people working in the animation industry often make — only privately.
But some industry players disagree. In recent days, social media has seen lively debate about employment standards in the industry, some of which appears to be responding to Chan’s video — see below for examples. What do you think? Does Chan have a point?
A note to Animation Students!
Sometimes you're going to see animation professionals tweet/post/vlog angrily about the industry.
Yes, it's a tough industry with many ups & downs, but please remember that there are a lot of ways to experience this industry … 1/
— Jessie Velociraptor Juwono (@jessiejuwono) February 7, 2020
Just want to piggy back on Jessie’s subtweet about what is likely the same video. Yes animation is a desk job. Yes there is a corporate nature & politics to the business. Yes, it is networking centric. But let’s be honest—most industries share these tropes. https://t.co/t5KLbysMCq
— Betsy Bauer (@bauerpower) February 7, 2020