COVID-19

Hollywood’s mostly shut down. Except for animation.

Jasmine Garsd May 19, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Animators didn't have to change much to work from home. Voice-over artists have had to make some adjustments, though. "Nothing messes up a voice-over session like the guy next door trimming his trees with a chainsaw," says Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
COVID-19

Hollywood’s mostly shut down. Except for animation.

Jasmine Garsd May 19, 2020
Animators didn't have to change much to work from home. Voice-over artists have had to make some adjustments, though. "Nothing messes up a voice-over session like the guy next door trimming his trees with a chainsaw," says Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
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Hollywood productions have come to a halt due to COVID-19, and it isn’t clear when they will start again. Some studios have laid off or furloughed hundreds, if not thousands, of workers. But, there is one area of entertainment that is still at work and even hiring: animation.

Douglas Einar Olsen, who directs the show “Rick and Morty” — which is still in production — said animators didn’t have to change that much when they switched to working from home.

“Typically, once we get our marching orders, we just kind of retreat to our little work spaces, hunker down and get the work done over the next week or two,” he said. And cartoons don’t have to worry about filming scenes where characters get up close and personal.

A scene from “Rick and Morty.”

There are some drawbacks to working remotely. 

“You know, if you have a question, like there’s something in the script that’s not making sense, normally I could walk down the hall and pop my head in,” Olsen said. Troubleshooting can take a little longer these days.

But animators’ ability to keep working from home has attracted even live-action shows. Pop TV’s “One Day at a Time” will have an animated episode next month. 

Olsen’s gotten offers lately from brands looking to animate commercials and musicians who want music videos. There are so many, he’s not sure he can take them all. 

He’s not alone.

“We are busier than ever, which is a weird thing to say, and I feel kind of strange about it,” said Chris Prynoski, president of Titmouse, an animation studio. Titmouse produced Netflix’s recent show “The Midnight Gospel,” a trippy cartoon about an alien podcaster who travels the universe with the help of his computer. 

Prynoski said he’s gotten requests from advertisers and musicians too, so he’s trying to hire more than two dozen editors, producers and story artists.

One of the biggest hurdles, though, is voice-overs. 

“I mean, that’s really the concern,” Prynoksi said. “At the end of the day, will it sound like all these characters sound like they’re in the same environment when they are talking to each other or will they sound like one’s in an opera hall and one’s in a closet?”

That’s been a challenge for even the most established voice actors, like Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. Back in March, he had to scramble to build a home studio so he could record himiself. He’s gotten a hang of it he said, but there are still hiccups.

“Nothing messes up a voice-over session like the guy next door trimming his trees with a chainsaw,” he joked.

Tom Kenny voices SpongeBob SquarePants — absorbent and yellow and porous is he.

But Kenny also said he has more work than ever before, which is rare for an actor in Hollywood right now. 

“The people I know who do on-camera work, they’re kinda sitting around and they can’t show up and do what they do,” he said. “Meanwhile, my voice-over friends are saying, ‘Oh, my God. I’m  buried.’”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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