‘Lion King’ VFX Company Has Closed – Here’s Why
Art and Experience: The Lion King’s realistic CG effects were the talk of the town, helping turn the movie into a billion-dollar hit for Disney. So why is the company behind them going out of business?
The Lion King remake was an incredibly lucrative venture for Disney in the summer of 2019. It grossed nearly $1.7 billion — which is a massive chunk of change.
But the new Disney movie didn’t make everyone happy. We’ve covered the original writers’ grievances with how they get no credit on the story, but now some new victims have stepped forward.
It turns out the VFX company behind the movie’s photo-realistic visual effects has shut down its studio in Vancouver, Canada effective immediately.
The way traditional VFX places normally work is they have a few full-time employees and then a ton of freelancers that help them from gig to gig. This allows the companies to keep costs down in between big studio projects, and employ lots of people to work when they come in.
When studios need a gig done, they want it to be done fast, so they send multiple vendors scenes and have them working on them simultaneously. Since this space is so competitive, VFX houses usually bid low in order to make sure they get the gig. That causes them to work to break even, instead of making a profit. And since there’s no VFX artist union, it drives wages down as well.
This leads to a lot of overtime and extra expenses that most VFX houses cannot afford.
The company that worked on Lion King, a VFX shop named MPC, was forced to shut down when they paid way more than they charged to work on Lion King. That movie came with thousands of shots that had to be digitally created and rendered.
This work caused 17-plus hour days and around the clock supervision. It ran up bills that were unforeseen by MPC.
This morning, MPC told its employees it was closing their doors. A message from an ex-MPC Vancouver employee has been posted on Reddit.
We are not able to verify its authenticity, but this is what the message said:
“We’ve all put in extreme hours wrapping two infamous projects in the last couple of months. We’ve done multiple weeks without a day off, regular 17+ hour shifts to the point that most of us are seriously sleep deprived and are suffering still. We’ve worked really fucking hard to get this work out the door for MPC, and I’m genuinely ashamed that they are happier prioritising their profit margins and tax incentives over the insane talent and commitment of hundreds of dedicated VFX artists in Vancouver. I honestly feel insulted, like I’ve given MPC my all and in return they gave me the finger. Good luck to all the other insanely talented artists that MPC currently employs in other locations, because the second another location becomes more ‘attractive’, you could be next on the chopping block.”
This is obviously a disturbing account of what happens behind the scenes on these kinds of projects.
We know there are late hours, but this borders on abuse and dangerous behavior. With studios making billions of dollars, there has to be a better way.
Whether it’s VFX houses demanding to be part of the profit-sharing in each release, or just having a union set a rate with overtime, changes to the current business model are necessary. To the benefit of both the VFX companies and the studios that employ them.