A Final Word on the “Techtopus” Wage Suppression Scandal and its Implications
To Read up on my response and the news articles dealing with the scandal, click these links:
The Views in this essay, are not necessarily the views of Toon Barn or its affiliates:
A 3-year investigation is going to end on March 9, with the final reading of the verdict in the wage suppression scandal. The fact remains that the biggest animators in the world had committed acts of suppression and collusion that would have bankrupted most other companies and sent their CEO’s in prison.
However, just as in finance and medical – the entertainment business may be one of those too corrupted for actual justice to prevail. The events that have taken place in the Techoupus scandal has showcased massive failures not only in the reporting of the event, but the major implications not only for the animation industry – but its fan sites and those that follow cartooning and animation as a whole – not only in the mainstream, but from its super fans to others.
The underlining argument in this whole scandal is the issue concerning the future of animation and the question that was asked in the mid 1990’s to 2005 at the very latest. Should CGI take over 2-D animation? And that question was answered, on the backs of animators who were being used to make money hand over fist for these corporations. The Union, knowing this issue for years – sat on their hands while they aimed their barbs at the “scabs” – Saban (from the days when he ran KidVid) to 4Kids (during KidVid’s dying aura), not knowing, or maybe couldn’t do anything about the obvious wage suppression that was cooked in the overall deals that SAG and later AFTRA (which TAG is a part of the latter) were working on in the 88’ and 2011 deals.
The biggest questions one needs to ask themselves is simple, and maybe more profound than what once realized. Were all the great CGI works promoted with the knowledge that workers couldn’t send their talents elsewhere in the industry? Was there a “culture of servitude” preventing newer stars to be made, possibly causing even more consternation in the animation schools and the cultural changes surrounding them. What was the role of the sites such as Toonzone and the Disney Blogs and other “nerd” sites? Where they in on the whole thing? Why when concerns from myriad of fanbases, most importantly the anime fanbase in the 90’s and early 2000’s about western animation and its storytelling and quality weren’t even given a fair hearing and actual explanation? Because if this was known, and it was – and would have been showcased especially on certain anime blogs explaining why they left the western works – if not the main reason, one of the bigger reasons; people would have called bloody murder and things would have changed so that we wouldn’t have the messes we see today. We as fans of animation would not have known the extent of the scandal without Mark Ames from Pando Daily, who does not even do animation news!
Don’t get me wrong. This is a huge, massive victory for the artists. But it comes too little, and much too late in the game to have any effect other than historical, and mostly another black eye in the modern day animation market place in the west, which because of its tone policing, censorship, horrendous talent pool (some of the worst in decades, last time this happened was in the 70’s) has caused animation in the west to become a tool for Netflix and Amazon Prime to use for their “Kid” ventures, and the main three Cable Kids TV nets to use “diversity for diversity’s” sake. But its ten years too late, and it is seen by the fans of the animation marketplace in the west as a cynical ploy to get points by a lost media, news and fansites, as a massive cash grab for a dying toy industry only held up by Lego’s and Star Wars… just like it was for most of the late 70’s and very early 80’s.
The real farce of it is that not only the wage suppression hindered honest people from getting honest pay – it shows that CGI was being FORCED upon the audience. There were suspicions it was being done. Message Boards talked about it, but nothing was being done. Now that the full scope of the wage scandal is shown, we realize that not only CGI was being used as a new way to make money over fist- that sadly Pixar’s glory was heavily financialized on the backs of some of the smartest people in the country. Not only that, it prevented ANY one else coming in – because as I have theorized in other writings – companies such as Crunchyroll and other entities do not come overnight – they are made by those who wish to keep the status quo in check. They didn’t want those who were trying to create a new studio (I remember the interviews and such around 2003 and 2004 from many a AWN forum member) to succeed. The biggest thing? 2D was never allowed to evolve in the west unless; it was done under Pixar/Disney purview. 2D was “Disney’s Property” and anybody that made bank on 2D, that wasn’t them, had to be shamed, wrecked, looked bad and so on.
This is why folks, Anime (in the states, mostly with movies) as a rule had a Corporate champion (Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibi), and had to be at the same time shamed by the same Press, because if they realized there were other talents such as him, the gig was up. The unusual thing was that it was already up on the TV side. 2D worked in TV, and the rare times that a Western Animated film did do well that was 2D, people were stunned at the numbers.
So what in the world gives? Why hinder actual diversity of styles and artistry? There could have been a independent movie company that only did 2D in the United States. There could have been other studios who did the pen and paper (and digital cells) as well as CGI. But it falls to nothing, because the major studios colluded, and joined forces to not only promote each other using their connections in the ad agencies, hinder wages with wage suppression, and lack of worker mobility between companies, they also made sure that no other competitor could ever leave for another company (here again the union could have helped but didn’t fully) or start his own production firm until late in the game. This also means that the animation audience mainstream or not – was lead into supporting CGI over 2D, these companies switched the writers and the ad agencies and nothing changes. People still went to the theaters. It also means that Disney was in the process of buying or working with these companies in the future – so there was no way Pixar was going to Warner Brothers or a another company outside the cabal’s grasp.
It means that we were sold a false bill of goods.
It also means that the animation marketplace in the west only now has flushed some of the corruption out, but by having none of the players face any sort of jail time, only makes the same type of corruption not only possible once again, but part of the structure that keeps things going in that marketplace.
Let us not mince words here. These heroes of the industry by the way they treated their bread and butter, are no better than what the Animation Union say that the “Scabs” (Saban and 4Kids) say they were back in the mid 90’s to the mid 2000’s. For that, the TAG union has to come to terms with this and do better in the future, as they have done as well in other cases with those that work in VFX for example.
A final note, these types of scandals have happened before – in Japan with one of their major studios – Mushi Productions (this is the production house Tezuka created), one of the financiers was caught, and sent to prison. The studio was disbanded afterwards, and another took its place under Tezuka’s name. Nevertheless, that moment gave the medium in the east time to breathe and breathe in new life.
The same can’t be said for the west and in particular the Animation Marketplace in the United States.
The gangsters run the town, and we are its pawns, drug users and in the end – its prostitutes.
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