'Sausage Party' Allegedly Forced Animators To Work Overtime For Free, Refused To Credit Artists

In a summer marked by one cinematic disappointment after another, Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon's Sausage Party has emerged as a rare success story: a truly original feature that got great reviews and great box office. Even more impressively, Sausage Party managed all that on a reported budget of under $20 million. For comparison, Pixar's latest release, Finding Dory, cost around $200 million to make.

But alas, that win may have come at an unfair cost to many of the people who worked on it. Anonymous commenters claiming to be animators who worked on the movie have accused the filmmakers and the production company, Nitrogen Studios, of forcing artists to work overtime for free, and then failing to credit many of them onscreen. Dig into the Sausage Party animators controversy below. 

The Sausage Party animators controversy began when Cartoon Brew ran an interview with directors Tiernan and Vernon. Pretty quickly, anonymous commenters jumped in with allegations that artists had been mistreated on the film. According to "Uncredited Supervisor":

The production cost were kept low because Greg would demand people work overtime for free. If you wouldn't work late for free your work would be assigned to someone who would stay late or come in on the weekend. Some artist were even threatened with termination for not staying late to hit a deadline.

The animation department signed a petition for better treatment and paid overtime. When the letter got to Annapurna they stepped in and saw that artist were payed and fed when overtime was needed.

Over 30 animators left during the coarse of the production due to the stress and expectations. Most of them left before the paid overtime was implemented. This was met with animosity and was taken as a personal insult to the owners. Their names were omitted from the final credits despite working for over a year on this film.

"Another Uncredited Animator" told a similar story:

Almost half the animation team was not credited. The team believed in this film and poured their hearts and souls into it. Despite this, more than half of it was not credited. You can see the full team on IMDB, which contains 83 people (and I am certain there are some missing). The film's credits, however, contains 47.

This was Nitrogen Studio's first animated feature and no pipeline had been set up. It was an extremely rocky production. The studio management had little knowledge on how to proceed and the film could not have been made without the hard work of experienced artists. The production went over a year of what was originally projected due to poor organization. The team had to fight for fair compensation and a lot of the artists needed to quit due to unfair practices and poor management. The studio had lost such a massive portion of the team by the end of the production (more than half) that they had to resort to hire recent animation graduates to finish the film. What we currently see in the credits are the students as well as animators who have stayed until the end of the production, and a couple who have left the production. Most of the animators who are not credited have been on the show for more than a year and a half, which is most of the production time. These are the people who have worked hard to set the style of the show and have their work used as promotion for the film. Nitrogen has been trying hard to hide this from the producers so I doubt that Seth Rogen even knows this. I hope that this can help get the word out.

Those are just two of the many horror stories recounted in the comments — go to the original story to read them all. Since all of them are posted anonymously, we cannot verify their accounts. It is possible that not all of these allegations are accurate. On the flip side, these individuals probably have good reason to hide their identities, since they'd risk losing jobs if they openly complained about former employers. It's also worth pointing out that this is hardly the first time we've heard of animators and VFX artists being mistreated. Remember that Life of Pi Oscars protest from a few years ago?

And Cartoon Brew, who ran the original interview, plans to follow up on the allegations:

Nitrogen Studios is denying these allegations. Chief executive Nicole Stinn issued a statement to the LA Times:

These claims are without merit. Our production adhered to all overtime laws and regulations, as well as our contractual obligations with our artists.

Somehow, though, we suspect that won't be the end of this story. We'll keep you posted on the Sausage Party animators controversy as it develops.