November 8, 2007 / 1:08 AM / 11 years ago

Writers seen turning to animation if strike long

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cartoon characters may come to the aid of striking Hollywood screenwriters if the Writers Guild of America’s two-day-old walkout turns out to be prolonged.

A crew member for the ABC television series "Desperate Housewives" is shown at a filming location in a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood November 6, 2007. Production on the series has ended November 7, 2007 due to the Writers Guild of America strike against film and television producers, which continues into its third day Wednesday. Some production companies may begin to lay off staff and crew if the strike continues. Picture taken November 6, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Most animated shows are covered by a different union from the Writers Guild and are unaffected by the WGA strike. In addition, the WGA has withdrawn objections to its members working in animation.

Some 12,000 WGA members went on strike against film and television studios on Monday, jeopardizing America’s hit TV shows including some animated programs like “The Simpsons,” which are covered under WGA contracts.

But many other animated films and TV shows are covered by a separate union whose members remain on the job, said Steven Hulett of the Animation Guild Local 839, part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

The two guilds clashed recently when the WGA proposed a strike rule threatening members who entered a writing contract on animated features with fines and loss of membership. After protests, the WGA said the proposed rule was modified.

“Now writers can write for animated features,” Hulett said, adding that many writers are still nervous. “I suspect we’ll get more (calls) over the next few weeks, if the strike goes on for long.”

“A GREAT RELATIONSHIP”

Hulett said various WGA members have made and renewed deals to work at DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and other animation studios in recent weeks.

“We have a great relationship with animation writers under the IATSE and we are fortunate that it is business as usual for us,” a DreamWorks spokeswoman said. “This means we can continue to offer opportunities to the writers with whom we’ve been working for some time now on existing DreamWorks Animation projects.”

The Animation Guild also has pacts with animation divisions at Walt Disney Co, Time Warner Inc and Sony Corp.

“We have contracts with various animation studios, which could engage any number of Writers Guild writers legally during the strike,” Hulett said.

One studio executive said while writers could seek work in animation, he did not expect big-name writers to risk the negative perception that may come with it.

“It’s kind of like crossing the line,” he said, noting that it might be seen as weakening the position of striking WGA members or competing with existing animation writers.

Some WGA veterans say writers will take their pens far and wide to earn a buck if the strike persists.

“I’ve been through five Writers Guild strikes and I’ve never been out of work during any of them,” said WGA member Mark Evanier, 55, who is working on an animated “Garfield” series for Europe.

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