I am sorry to inform you that the HBO Max f-ckery continues. The latest is that they’re removing thirty-six titles from the platform, twenty of which are HBO Max originals. That matters because the originals are in danger of becoming completely inaccessible. Shows without outside ownership stakes can be sold off or licensed elsewhere, but the stuff that belongs to Warner Bros. Discovery lock, stock, and barrel can just disappear into the ether forever. And lest you think it’s only happening to shows with no star power, they’ve pulled Vinyl, starring Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, and Olivia Wilde; Mrs. Fletcher starring Kathryn Hahn; and Run starring Domhnall Gleeson and Merritt Wever, with producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge in a recurring role. Really and truly, nothing is safe at HBO Max. If you’ve got a stake in a film or series housed there, you should probably call a lawyer and see what you can do to protect, if not outright reclaim, your IP.
The problem is, if this really IS about writing stuff off taxes, they can’t sell titles back to stakeholders. They have to tank it completely to declare it a loss, which means warehousing it forever on some dead server in Warner Bros. Discovery’s possession. They can’t in any way make money on it, or else it isn’t a loss.
This latest round of titles axed from the platform is hitting the animation community hard, with shows like Infinity Train, Aquaman: King of Atlantis, Odo, Tig N’ Seek, and Esme & Roy. TV shows get cancelled when they don’t perform well, that’s not unusual. But the comforting thought in that scenario is that the work you’ve done is still there, they can’t take that away from you. Except yeah, they can.
so apparently, a handful of cartoons i worked on, that are wonderful and filled with lots of love, and being removed from hbo max... breaks my heart...— æž— @ Lightbox Expo 424 (@PuccaNoodles) August 18, 2022
Now I’m wondering if the thing protecting movies and shows from just disappearing altogether is less contractual obligation and more of a kind of social more that you don’t just eradicate someone’s work. And you have to wonder, if this strategy works for David Zaslav, if he’s able to write down a chunk of debt burden by tanking movies and shows willy-nilly, who else will follow? Netflix’s books aren’t looking so hot, how long before they start pulling stuff, either to end royalty payments and/or write titles off on taxes? For the creative class, this is very concerning. And it’s heartbreaking to see this flamethrower taken to Warner Brothers, long one of the most filmmaker-friendly and respected studios to do business with. I really didn’t think anyone could damage their rep more than Jason Kilar did with that plan to release all their 2021 movies simultaneously online and in theaters, but David Zaslav—I wonder how many people still use his chummy nickname “Zas” on the lot—is pulling the mother of all “hold my beers”. I cannot IMAGINE anyone wanting to work with Warner Brothers right now.
But it’s particularly insulting to the art of animation and the animators who work so hard to see that work sh-t on like this. Animators are already working for less money and less respect and less glamour than their live-action counterparts. Between this and Netflix vastly reducing their animation department, you have to wonder what the future of the medium really is. Webtoons, maybe. There are a lot of good ones out there. Or, I guess, Disney, with their legacy animation department, plus Pixar for the CG crowd. But if this slash-and-burn tactic starts catching on at other studios, will anywhere be safe for animators? It feels like we’re watching the devaluing of cinema itself in real time—the inevitable consequence of reducing everything to “content”—and I’m afraid to see where it ends.
We worked for 5 years to make 100 episodes of animation. We worked late into the night, we let ourselves go, we were a family of hard working artists who wanted to make something beautiful, and HBO MAX just pulled them all like we were nothing. Animation is not nothing!— Julia Pott (@juliapott) August 18, 2022
Live long and gossip,