The new adult animated film “Sausage Party,” starring Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig, opened in theaters last Friday to positive reviews and a great box office performance, grossing over $36 million against a $19 million budget. Much has been made about how directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon made an CG animated film on such a low budget, but animators are alleging that an oppressive production schedule and intimidation tactics played a part in the film’s success.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Sausage Party” animators wrote a letter in December to production company Nitrogen Studios alleging that “unfair pressure tactics” 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.”
After the letter was sent, co-financier Annapurna Pictures reportedly stepped in to ensure that “overtime rates were paid and that meals were provided for people who stayed late to work on the film,” according to two sources. However, these sources also said that back pay was not provided for the overtime hours worked before the letter was sent, and that Annapurna minimized contact between the directors and animators, which “often muddied the workflow and left artists confused.”
Co-director and Nitrogen chief creative officer Tiernan told The Hollywood Report that the animators’ “statements are without merit,” and that their “production adhered to all overtime regulations and…contractual obligations to…artists. Any time that any concern was brought up, it was handled appropriately.” He neither confirmed nor denied receiving the joint letter.
This feud surfaced last Friday in the comments section of an interview with Tiernan and Vernon, where users who self-identified as uncredited animators complained about the long hours and unpaid work. Annapurna Pictures and Point Grey Pictures have denied comment.
“Sausage Party” is in theaters now.