- Artists for Netflix’s adult animated series “BoJack Horseman” ratified a new union contract Friday with production company Shadowmachine for representation by The Animation Guild.
- The crew behind the show, which is in production for season 6, has wanted to unionize since starting production on season 1, largely because union-represented animation crews on other Shadowmachine and Netflix series had better pay and benefits.
- After months of failed negotiations and efforts that included a walk-out and a demonstration, TAG business representative Jason MacLeod tells INSIDER the crew stood together to reach a fair deal.
- Read more stories like this on INSIDER.
The crew behind Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” unionized Friday and ratified a new contract with production company Shadowmachine that established wage minimums and employer-paid health and retirement benefits through The Animation Guild.
“BoJack Horseman” is currently in production on its sixth season, but members of its crew have been interested in unionizing since work on season 1 began. Jason MacLeod, the business representative for TAG, told INSIDER the majority of the crew became interested in collective action while working on season 6.
While writers and voice actors on the show have been represented by unions since the series’ inception, artists negotiated unsuccessfully for unionization for months, starting in October 2018. The crew protested with a ten-minute walk-out in March and a demonstration in May.
The crew and its advocates also posted about their efforts on social media, including on the subreddit r/bojackhorseman and on Twitter. “BoJack” actors Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswalt also expressed public support during negotiations.
“I think the animation artists working on ‘BoJack Horseman’ looked around and saw that they were not being treated comparably to the voice performers or the writing talent on the show, and collectively said ‘we’ve had enough,'” MacLeod said in an email.
They did it! The #BoJackHorseman crew ratified a new contract today and has unionized with #TheAnimationGuild! Congrats to this crew for their hard work and dedication and thank you for all the support from fellow artists and fans! #unionizebojack #valueartists #artistsunited pic.twitter.com/Us2Yc38CUW
— The Animation Guild (@animationguild) June 21, 2019
Desires to unionize spiked after Shadowmachine, which produces “BoJack” for Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Company, began production on TBS’ “Final Space,” which is currently in production on its second season.
“In some instances the difference in wages alone could be significant,” MacLeod said. “The improvements in health benefits and retirement benefits provided by a union agreement only add to the disparity. The artists noticed this, and decided they wanted to act.”
Artists for “Final Space” were performing the same creative tasks as those on “BoJack’s” team, but were unionized, and received salaries “$US400-500 per week” more because of union wage minimums, according to sources, including a “Bojack” crewmember, who spoke to Cartoon Brew.
Netflix, which distributes “Bojack” and its production designer, Lisa Hanawalt’s, new animated show “Tuca & Bertie,” licenses both shows from The Tornante Company. Most of Netflix’s in-house animation productions are unionized, along with more than 50 of the other animated series on the streaming service.
Shadowmachine had to negotiate unionization with both The Tornante Company and the “BoJack” crew, and by March enough of the crew, about 75 per cent, had signed representation cards with TAG. TAG represents other high-profile adult animated series like “Rick and Morty,” which had its own publicized, and eventually successful, battle for unionization benefits in 2014.
At first, Shadowmachine refused to acknowledge the crew’s numbers, leading to the walk-out, but negotiations then began in April. Shadowmachine also proposed a contract that did not include union benefits and was rejected.
The contract ratified on Friday includes the fair wage minimum imposed by TAG, along with an employer-paid healthcare plan that allows artists to keep their doctors and health benefits as they move between employers and projects. The new retirement system has a voluntary 401k plan in addition to employer-paid retirement benefits.
“Sometimes there is recognition by employers that they will need to address unequal distribution of wages and benefits – and they do that voluntarily, but sometimes workers have to stand up and demand a fair deal,” MacLeod said.
“In this case, while I’m happy to say we did reach a deal with the employer, it took the crew standing together to achieve that. It takes courage to take a step like that, but this crew never backed down.”
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