EXCLUSIVE: The leader of Hollywood’s animation union says some of his members have been frozen out of a generous bonus paid to workers at Disney Animation Studios as thanks for the success of the blockbuster animated film Frozen. The Oscar-winning film, which has taken in more than $1 billion worldwide, is the highest-grossing animated movie of all time. “Disney paid bonuses to everyone who worked on Frozen except for those who were laid off after the film was completed,” said Steve Hulett, business representative of IATSE Animation Guild Local 839. “I’ve heard they got 10 weeks of their weekly pay as a bonus. Everyone at the facility got the bonus, even if they didn’t work on it. Some of my people worked on the whole picture to the very end and then they were laid off, and they’re not getting the bonus. It just doesn’t seem right.” A studio source confirmed that “eligible, current Walt Disney Animation Studios employees were given a studio bonus.”
Disney also gave bonuses to the studio’s employees after the success of Wreck-It Ralph. A Frozen animator who did not receive a bonus this time said he got a generous bonus after Wreck-It Ralph even though he didn’t work on that film. He said he considered it a good-will profit sharing gesture on behalf of the studio for all current employees.
Hulett says he appreciates Disney’s generosity to its workers but thinks the company could have been a little more generous to the former employees who helped make Frozen a success. “I understand that they’re not obligated to pay separated employees,” Hulett said. “But philosophically, I think it’s unfair. But what can you do? They make the rules.”
Hulett spoke recently with a Disney labor relations exec to share his members’ complaints but was told that the bonus “was because of Frozen but not about Frozen.” That should be cold comfort to the laid off workers.