Sausage Party, the R-rated animated movie from Sony and Annapurna Pictures, had a strong opening weekend – nearly overtaking Suicide Squad in its second weekend with a respectable three-day showing of $33.6 million at the U.S. box office. Talk quickly emerged of a sequel to the film, with co-star and co-writer Seth Rogen raising the idea during an interview.
However, reports have also surfaced about a group of animators who worked on the film leveling some ugly charges at the film’s directors and production outfit, the Canadian animation house Nitrogen Studios. The animators, who also raised the charges in the comments of an interview given by the two directors, alleged that they had been forced to work overtime without pay – and that a couple dozen animators were unfairly omitted from the film’s credits. Now, there are new details about the ongoing dispute.
As reported by THR, thirty animators who worked on Sausage Party addressed a letter to Nitrogen Studios, back during the production in December, officially complaining about the lack of overtime pay. The letter accused the production of:
“Unfair pressure tactics [which were] used against the team: intimidating staff into working past official studio hours, disciplinary measures utilizing fear tactics that demotivate and cause distress (such as threatening to terminate employment), implying that other departments are working overtime ‘voluntarily’ as a reason to deny compensation… These issues are breaking people’s ability to focus on animation and are making for an unrewarding and frustrating work environment”
Two sources told the publication that once the dispute surfaced, Annapurna stepped in and ensured that overtime was paid; however, back overtime from the period before the letter was not paid. Sony, Annapurna and the various actors involved aren’t talking, but Greg Tiernan, the co-director of Sausage Party and the chief creative officer of Nitrogen Studios, strongly denied the charges in a statement to THR:
“These statements are without merit… our production adhered to all overtime regulations and our contractual obligations to our artists. Any time that any concern was brought up, it was handled appropriately.
All things considered though, it’s starting to sound more and more likely that animators were, in fact, mistreated during the production of Sausage Party. Artists deserve to be paid fairly and credited for their work after all. If nothing else, this matter will hopefully make audiences more aware of the exploitation that sometimes goes on behind the scenes of the movies that they see. And if there is a Sausage Party 2, hopefully the filmmakers can be pressured to treat their below-the-line workers right on that production.
Sausage Party is now playing in U.S. theaters.