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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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