Pixar Layoffs to Reduce Staff by 14% as Disney Spending Cuts Continue

Layoffs got underway at Disney’s Pixar Animation Studio on Tuesday, with 14% of the workforce cut, TheWrap has confirmed. That amounts to around 175 employees who are leaving the company as part of Disney’s spending cuts. Prior to the reduction, roughly 1,300 people worked at the animation studio.

The layoffs have been expected since January as part of Disney’s overall cuts, but were delayed at Pixar due to production timelines on “Inside Out 2,” “Elio” and an as-yet-unannounced Disney+ short-form series. Still, this marks the biggest staff reduction in Pixar’s history. Top leadership was not impacted by the cuts.

The reductions are part of a course correcting measure of sorts in the wake of former Disney CEO Bob Chapek. During his short time running the company from 2020 to 2022, Chapek focused on churning out content for streaming. Current CEO Bob Iger has been outspoken about changing that focus and prioritizing a focus on quality versus quantity.

“I’ve always felt that quantity can be actually a negative when it comes to quality and I think that’s exactly what happened,” Iger said in November of 2023 during an earnings call for the company. “Working with the talented team at the studio, we’re working to consolidate, meaning make less [and] focus more on quality.”

During the pandemic, Chapek also sent three original Pixar films – “Soul” (which would ultimately win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature), “Luca” and “Turning Red” – directly to the streaming service, which many saw as negatively impacting the Pixar brand. Recently, the three films were released into theaters, without much fanfare and meager.

Iger has also recently said that the company would focus, at least on the short term, on churning out sequels to popular franchises, which explains why both “Inside Out 2” and “Toy Story 5” on Pixar’s schedule. (There are rumors that other Pixar franchises could be getting new entries as well.)

Pixar has weathered storms before – in 2012, Pixar shut down a stop-motion unit being overseen by Henry Selick, which led to an $80 million write-down for Disney; more recently a similar attempt at a performance-capture-based movie, which required the use of specially built soundstages, was also quietly shuttered. There have also been projects like Gary Rydstrom’s “Newt,” an attempt at a low-budget Pixar feature that were canceled. And last year, much of the leadership behind 2022’s “Lightyear” were let go.

And while this is an undoubtedly very sad day for the Emeryville, California-based studio, they also hired on so many more artists during the pandemic, when the schedule was very full and they were trying to meet newly placed demands for streaming-service content. Early on they had short-form series like “Forky Asks a Question” and more recently “Dug Days,” a spin-off of “Up” directed by that film’s co-director, Bob Peterson. (There were also “Pixar Popcorn” shorts and a ton of documentary material.) Pixar took on artists from Blue Sky, the Greenwich, Connecticut-based animation studio behind “Rio” and “Ice Age” that Disney shut down following its acquisition of the 21st Century assets, and began work on their first long-form animated series, “Win or Lose,” which is still scheduled to debut on Disney+ sometime this year (it’s really great). Plans for a follow-up long-form series were also canceled, although that project might be reworked into a feature somewhere down the line.

Typically, there will be reduction in head count following the completion of projects and, like we said above, this likely means animation has been completed at least on “Inside Out 2” and the short-form series. But without the artificial inflation brought on by the demands of Disney+ (and now the demands in reduction), this number would not have been so large.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report this story.

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