Moving Picture Company (MPC) has closed its Vancouver, Canada studio. The Vancouver studio was responsible for the recent Sonic the Hedgehog movie redesign. Some of the affected workers report that the studio underwent massive crunch in order to get the job done, sometimes working as much as 17-hour days on weeks with no days off. MPC cites mounting “external market pressures” in the city and “attractive opportunities” elsewhere that made sustaining the Vancouver studio a challenge. An email was sent to notify employees of the shut down on the morning of Wednesday, December 11, 2019, and is effective immediately.
MPC Vancouver opened originally in 2007 doing visual effects work on Watchmen. At one point, the Vancouver studio, in particular, employed more than 800 people and won a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Life of Pi. The Technicolor owned MPC network (including still operating and expanding studios in Adelaide, Montreal, Paris, Toronto, and LA) is responsible for visual effects in several high-profile movies like Detective Pikachu, The Lion King, Justice League, Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049, X-Men, Prometheus, Dumbo, and The Jungle Book.
On a Reddit thread talking about the shutdown, one alleged employee reported that the past few months have seen “extreme hours” while the studio wrapped up a couple of “infamous projects.” One of those projects is undoubtedly the Sonic the Hedgehog movie character redesign that was kicked over to the Vancouver studio after fan backlash on the first design.
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.
The alleged employee went on to clarify their “17+ hour shifts” comment, saying it wasn’t every day, but few days were ever shorter than 10 hours.
Apologies, to clarify I didn’t mean everyone was doing 17+ hour days every day for weeks straight, but that we were working with no days off for weeks straight with plenty of 17+ shifts thrown in the mix. Sometimes three or four in a row, though.
Very rarely were people doing less than 10 hours in a day. If you wanted to leave after your eight hours, you had to ask permission to go home. Didn’t want to work OT at the weekend? You had to give a satisfactory reason as to why you couldn’t do it or they’d label it an unauthorized absence.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I obliged with requests because I felt if I didn’t, I’d be quickly replaced by someone who is willing to do the hours, be that for the experience or IMDb credit or whatever. That happened to two or three people while I was there.
While the veracity of the Reddit user is unverified and now deleted, a number of other comments have indicated similar experiences with employment at MPC. Recent reports put the Sonic movie redesign at a staggering $35 million increase in budget, but that rumor was later put to rest and adjusted to around $5 million. The film’s director had promised that a redesign wouldn’t result in crunch for the VFX artists working on fixing the character, and the release date delay of a few months put high hopes that the company was respecting the health of the workers involved in the effort. According to these reports, it appears that the workers did indeed face crunch on this and another project before the studio unceremoniously closed its doors for good.