C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures closes doors, UPDATED @ 5:10, 6:15pm, 10:05pm

By Mike Valiquette

March 15, 2010

4:52 pm: This is pretty much breaking news right now, here’s what my source in Toronto tells me: “C.O.R.E. digital pictures just kicked everyone out and locked the doors. They are in receivership”. Aparently the staff was escorted out today.

That’s all I know so far, if anyone has info to share, contact me at mv@canadiananimationresources.ca

5:10 pm: Word I’m getting is, unfortunately, the same sad old story. Apparently the entire staff was pulled into a boardroom at around 3pm today and told the bad news, they were then escorted from the building. It doesn’t sound like it was an issue of no work, but rather, poor management. RBC is rumoured to have pulld the plug on some financing, which sems to have been enough to kill the business. In what is also, sadly, typical fashion in our industry, the now-former employees are owed money.

I’m inviting the Principals at CORE to comment. If anyone knows Bob Munroe, pass on the invite.

Update, 6:15 pm: Correction: Employees were NOT escorted out.

I’ve just received an email from one of those affected by today’s news, here’s what they had to say:

I don’t want to get into too far details as I am not sure what information is allowed to be released. All I can say is that employees were not escorted out but were asked to take their personal belongings and leave the building after the meeting. Obviously no one immediately left as everyone was saying their good-byes. The information provided on the website is fairly accurate. A meeting was called around 3pm to notify employees of the unfortunate news. As I’ve previously stated, I will not go into details of the reasons but Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Government played a massive role into the collapse of CORE. It is fact that RBC played a role but let’s just say RBC was the company’s last hope into salvaging the company. Obviously, you know how that turned out.

It is an unfortunate event and I’m very saddened by this. I personally was a contract employee and was a not a full-timer. I express my deepest sympathies for those full-timers and for those who have families to provide for. Can you please keep my ID anonymous as I only wanted to provide facts but not too many details.

All I have now to say is,

F–k Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Government.

I’ll continue to pass on info as I get it.

UPDATE: 10:05 pm

Not much in the way of new information.

My source has told me that this really did take the staff by surprise. They’ve all been working hard on Nickelodeon’s Planet Sheen. There have been rumours of a Marvin the Martian movie coming up on the horizon, supported by visits from WB staffers. Friday was payday, and no one’s been paid. Approximately 150 people are out of work, and their most recent work, and for some, their best, is unavailable for their demo reels.

Thank you to all who have chimed in with comments and well-wishes for the laid off crew. The best I’ve heard so far was from a colleague on Facebook who suggested we put our energies into finding new jobs for these folks. Yes, there are jobs out there. I posted a number of them last week and will continue to post as many as I can find. To any potential employers, send me your info and I’ll do my best to get it posted promptly.

We’ll have to wait, I guess, to hear from the people in the know. A press release is customary in these circumstances, if there’s anyone left to issue it. I’m going to assume that the principals of CORE were indeed doing what they could to keep things going, right up to the last minute. Sadly, that’s why these things come as a big surprise. Management usually has the best of intentions, it’s not often that people who get into this business relish shuttering their life’s work. But they often don’t put enough faith in their staff. Like well-meaning parents, they try to protect us from the truth, the end result being just this, crew getting blindsided and owed money.

The one piece of advice I’ll offer to whoever may still be able to act at CORE is that you please bust your asses to file your former employees’ ROE’s. You have about 5 days to do so. If you can’t pay them what you owe them, and this is the reality, at least leave them able to file for their unemployment insurance. That’s the stand-up thing to do.

Once again, if anyone has any real information to pass on, please do so.

Good luck everyone.

mv@canadiananimationresources.ca

UPDATE, March 17, 2010, 3:25pm: A number of other news outlets are linking directly to this post for continued coverage of the CORE closure.  There has been new information over the last two days, including word from a rather high up Toronto source stating that the McGuinty Liberals were prepared to bail out CORE, but had to refuse after further scrutiny of the company.  I also have a more in depth account of the original meeting on Monday that Bob Munroe had with the CORE staffers that offers some insight into why my original source felt such animosity towards the provincial government.  The foolow up posts can be found here and here.  I urge you all to read them before further commentary.

Thanks,

m

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88 Responses to “C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures closes doors, UPDATED @ 5:10, 6:15pm, 10:05pm”

  1. L.L.

    This is a thread full of some fiction and some fact. Unfortunately, parts of it feel like I’m watching TMZ or something.

    For anyone that doesn’t know:
    1 Tax credits exist in many countries and many industries. If our government doesn’t help out much of the production will be done anywhere else to countries and states that are also providing robust tax incentives. Many U.S. states have made major moves here recently to try and jump start their own economies and several European countries have sweetened their incentives to lure project there. Canada has to do it to play in the game.

    2 And Expat, Starz didn’t get a “b-load of cash” – The company received a rigorously structured development package spread out over a 5 year period to help with R & D, infrastructure and to help maintain and possibly grow the headcount at the studio. Long story short, if the company doesn’t perform, they don’t see any money and they go thru an auditing process before they will see any of this money. The company also had to spend a substantial amount of money and time to apply and prove eligibility so it was no hand out as you suggest.

    Let’s hope the crew at CORE can land on their feet soon.

    #1487
  2. Animator

    That is too sad. Had great time at core once. I really feel for all of them who were involved with CORE.

    Why don’t we have a union.

    #1488
  3. Expat

    LL,

    I’m not saying it was a gift with no work required (all companies who receive subsidies have to spend lots of time and money on all of the paperwork and auditing that’s required), but the fact remains that their budget is not coming purely from production profits, there is a government subsidy.

    (And in my books, all at once or spread out over time, it sho’ *is* a buttload of cash!) :)

    The point of the original poster was that Starz was standing on it’s own as a company, and MY point was that no, they actually aren’t, they are receiving money from the government. ‘Nuff said.

    #1489
  4. FP

    Agreed. There has been a lot of misinformation spread about the monies “provided” to STARZ. They have to maintain a certain headcount target to receive *any* money. Also what is not clear, is that any production company that is willing to accecpt the restrictions on government assistance, is able to apply. In other words, this is not an exclusive deal and not a sort of bail-out.

    Like the previous poster, I do hope that CORE does land on it’s feet. It’s not good for the industry in Toronto, no matter how you look at it.

    #1490
  5. Tim Segulin

    So sorry to hear CORE has gone down. Truly sad.

    I worked with Bob Monroe and alongside his talented staff at CORE and CORE Berlin many years ago, they were all first class, and I learned a great deal from Bob. I was not the least surprised to witness their long string of remarkable achievements.

    These sad things often unfortunately have a cascading effect. I hope the fall of CORE doesn’t also damage Side Effects Software, for example.

    Hopefully there might be some way to save something from all of this, and in any event I wish all those who with CORE the very best of good luck.

    Tim Segulin

    #1491
  6. Dee

    It’s really sad to see people loose their job & the pay they earned. Hopefully there will be jobs for everyone who lost their jobs, but in the mean time they have to pay their bills, buy food etc. Their bill collectors will not stop calling for payment.

    Such a sad event.

    #1493
  7. Claude Theriault

    This saddens me deeply. The years I spent at CORE were some of the best in my working life. So many wonderful and talented people.
    My love and respect to all of you.

    Claude Theriault

    #1494
  8. After all that, the picture of what evolved seems to be coming quite clear. I suspected it had much to do with a lack of adjusting to the change when necessary. When the projects grew sparse, CORE continued to hold onto staff rather than downsizing. Possibly speculating on potential projects that didn’t materialize?

    I do know that tax credits don’t have a huge impact on the capacity of a company to compete. They have them in most provinces and states, and are in place to motivate. Success for the company comes down to brass tacks and capacity to manage. Willingness to effect change when it’s required.

    They probably should have downsized, rather than speculate. I hear stories of other shops elsewhere that tend to have a lot more staff on hand than they should, which in the VFX biz tends to eat up cash on hand faster than tailing pond consuming ducks.

    #1495
  9. John

    the other crap thing is STARZ is NOT a Canadian company…not sure why they would even get the funds…structured or not…

    #1496
  10. Expat

    Perry,

    I don’t think you’re right about that, CORE sure did downsize… a LOT. I can’t give you actual numbers, but during COREfa days we were a few hundred plus, and they went down to a *very* low number, and ramped back up a bit when they got new series work in recent times, to 125.

    #1500
  11. Sorry to hear it guys. We went through a very similar situation in Melbourne last year. Bad management, everybody asked to leave with no notice. We have been fighting it with the union and so far most people have been paid wages, but the company was not paying compulsory superannuation for over 2 years (federal offense).

    Thank god I am back working with the government where they actually pay you on time and you know where you are employed on a daily basis . . .

    #1501
  12. actuallyKnowSomething

    “CORE was running on a bloated budget, one more suitable for a studio working on a feature film. ‘The Wild’ wrapped in 2006, yet CORE was still spending money like they had a feature in-house.”

    This is false, CORE operated in two buildings during the Wild and the studio was greatly reduced afterwards and continued to be getting smaller although maybe not small enough.

    #1502
  13. Matt

    John.

    I already clearly established why Starz and Ubisoft recieved the grants. Again the grants are to CREATE JOBS IN ONTARIO. These grants were awarded to the candidates most likely to be able to actually do this. Regardless of where the company’s headquarters might be.

    I would encourage all to stop the witch hunt. The fact of the matter is that demise of CORE has nothing to do with; Dalton, the Ontario Government, Starz, Starz Animation or Ubisoft.

    Mindless accusations and rumour spreading isn’t going to get anyone their job back and doesn’t do anyone in the industry any good. Your efforts would be better spent trying to help your freinds who lost their jobs find new work.

    #1503
  14. Expat

    Matt,

    No one blamed Starz or Ubisoft for the closure of CORE.

    Chizzle.

    #1506
  15. busby

    Very sad to here CORE has closed its doors. I was given a great opportunity to work with so many talented people. Friends I still have today.

    Very tough. Thank you, L, B, K and J

    #1507
  16. goink

    I’ve read all the contributions, here. It’s (not so) amazing how this thread has unraveled into an exposition of CORE’s weaknesses (ultimately the inability of Management to create an ongoing success story for all the reasons, various and multiform) versus incentives to well-heeled companies that can argue favorable conditions from the Government. In my humble opinion, CORE did as much as was possible (under its unique circumstances) to minimize expenses and still be able to produce product. Perhaps the timing was bad, perhaps the debt load was too high, perhaps Management was not prescient enough to avoid the inevitable once the writing was on the wall. The weak get killed off in order to enhance the probability of success of the strong–the “good bets”, in a business sense, those who can prop up the optics of the situation.

    Unfortunately, it affects the livelihood of those of us who get caught up in the fray and have been left lacking.

    #1508
  17. scott

    So why doesn’t Shatner step up and bail them out?

    #1514
  18. this is a sad sad day for canadian animation – having worked at c.o.r.e. back in ‘the wild’ days – i can say that all the people there were first class. the management cared, and had passion for their projects.. the artists were top notch.. its so sad to see what happens when the funds dont come through.. that all the dreams that developed for ‘planet sheen’ are now dead.. :-( i hope they are at least working on the ROE forms for all the people affected in an immediate everyday sort of way.

    one thing though — in the animation industry — why is it that so much talent is expended on such low-quality Story? how many animators does it take to make a fart joke? so — here’s a new dream – before tolkien’s ‘lord of the rings’ was animated, it was only known to those who did a lot of reading… and it was a great story.. and we see how well that worked.. so then they figured fantasy sells, and went out and did a boneheaded version of narnia.. but if you checked it out — c.s. lewis regarded GEORGE MacDONALD as his ‘master’ — so according to the writers themselves, the dude with the good Story is MacDonald — Phantastes & Lilith — who is going to animate those..?? good story and good animation win.. and this one’s still waiting to be told on the big screen.

    #1526
  19. Lisa Naccarato

    I’m a CBC reporter doing a story on the C.O.R.E. closure. Is there an employee out there who is willing to tell me what happened? I’ve tried contacting Bob Munroe with no luck… email me at lisa.naccarato@cbc.ca

    #1527
  20. Matt C.

    If we’re not exactly sure why the insider is telling the Ontario government to f*ck-off – there is no substantiation posted – then why is it being left on the article? I don’t consider that very responsible on behalf of Canadian Animation Resources.

    #1532
  21. superman

    It’s sad for sure. Should be picketing in the owners neighbourhood “legally” with a big sign…layout all the details.

    #1533
  22. Hi Matt.
    You’re referring, of course, to the original post and the quote from my source. I try not to edit that kind of first-hand commentary. I hope you’ll continue reading my follow-up posts. The latest has a more detailed account of the meeting held at CORE on Monday. The way things were presented to the staff, I don’t blame my source for their reaction, or their initial anger at the Provincial Government. This is a story that has been unfolding over the last few days, and I’m doing my best to provide information as it emerges. More information has become available, that’s how this kind of thing works. Personally, I think it would be irresponsible of me to go back and retroactively edit the story.
    I’m sorry if my coverage isn’t to your liking, but I do urge you to read the subsequent updates from yesterday and today.
    Post I
    Post II
    Post III
    Thanks for reading.
    m

    #1535
  23. Jim Rutherford

    Sad to see the end of CORE. There aren’t a lot of studios that are run by real animators. John, Bob, and Kyle could all get in there and animate shots when they wanted and earned the respect of their workers. Hopefully, this will mean that alot of little studios will start up in Toronto from the ashes…with lots of Houdini seats being purchased :)

    #1539
  24. Matt C.

    Mike,

    Thanks for the response. I’ve since read the updates. I understand where you are coming from and respect that you are keeping the former employee’s comments in context (ie in italics) – I don’t blame your source for having those opinions if that’s all the information they were given. Like you (and everyone) I’m looking/waiting for the truth about what happened to CORE. I’m just concerned about a government/Starz/politics sideshow which distracts from the central questions. You don’t have an easy role in this and I don’t mean to unfairly criticize your work.

    Regards,
    M

    #1540
  25. I had a great time working at CORE, it is extremely sad seeing great company out of business and highly experienced employees out of work.
    I hope Bob and Dan might come with something better and larger soon.

    All the best,
    Edward

    #1551
  26. Edward

    Yes, sorry to hear of the demise of CORE. I too have good memories of my short time there working during the making of “The Wild”. Best wishes for the future for those that lost jobs. That must have been one cramped boardroom with everyone in there. As I remember it was not a small room but it was not all that large either.

    #1558
  27. anonymous

    Matt C,

    Like Expat said, no one is blaming Starz or Ubisoft for CORE’s closure. However, the government did play a role. They had agreed to guarantee loans, and then changed their mind at the last minute. I think this is due to the current economic problems of Ontario, and they decided CORE wasn’t a good bet anymore. Still, it’s tough to lose 150 good jobs, it will cost a lot more to create them.

    #1564
  28. [...] funding it sought from the provincial government. According to Canadian Animation Resources, Core sent its approximately 150 employees home on Monday without a job and without a final [...]

    #1568
  29. Kirsten

    It is a sad day for Canadian Animation.
    I worked at c.o.r.e. for 6 years and was humbled by the incredible talent of the partners and the wonderful animators.

    My sympathies to all who lost their jobs.
    You’ll all land on your feet.

    p.s.
    If there is a wake…please post.

    #1571
  30. anonymous

    Comment removed.

    #1578
  31. Edward K

    If there is a wake other than what probably happened at the end of Monday it would be nice to know. I was only a Systems guy during the making of The Wild and for a short time but it was an honor and privilege to be associated with such a great group of people. I’m certain though, from the ashes, something new will come again.

    #1580
  32. Andrew

    Anonymous , the pay may be higher in Van and Cali , but the cost of living negates that. The salaries look great on paper until you live there. When I left CA a household was considered low income $115US or lower. I was not making that much.

    That is not to take away from your point about 60-80 work weeks because that is terrible , but those happen on the West Coast as well , whether it is reported or not.

    #1588
  33. Gail

    I am looking for contact information for the Human Resources director for C.O.R.E. Our firm would like to speak with some of the former employees regarding job opportunities. Can anyone provide a name?

    many thanks!

    #1664
  34. actuallyKnowSomething

    C.O.R.E. exists no longer Gail, why not just post your contact information. Are you are a headhunter?

    #1670
  35. I feel compelled to respond to the ill-informed and mean-spirited posting above (anonymous, March 19, 2010 at 12:15am) which blames MR. X (and SOHO VFX) for the demise of CORE.

    You have stated that the average staffer at our company earns less than $40K/year. That statement is completely false and should be retracted.
    In fact, our average salary is in the $65K/year range. Our seniors and leads are in the 6-figure range. Our research suggests that these are globally competitive rates. In fact, we have been able to draw talent in from all over the world with this payroll paradigm.

    Secondly, your statement about 80-hour weeks is false. This statement should be retracted.
    MR. X pays overtime for work over 44 hours. Staff is not even authorized to work beyond 44-hours as we worry about burnout. We also have a comprehensive benefits package which offers supplementary coverage of prescription drugs, eye care, dental and other health care expenses. This formula has worked for us over the years as we have very good staff retention with long-standing and respectful relationships with our team members.

    More importantly, we have never missed a payroll ! We are a solvent company with little debt. Why do you begrudge us this?

    Our pricing structure to our clients is healthy enough to run a business, which is positive in terms of cash flow.

    Your posting is truly offensive and offers little in the way of valuable insight.

    In fact, your comment about “raping workers” is not only distasteful, but it merits serious legal action. The law protects individuals and companies against false statements. Make no mistake, if this post was not cowardly posted as “anonymous” then we would be immediately pursuing aggressive legal action for defamation and seek significant damages.

    For obvious reasons, we will be asking that this hateful posting be removed from the permanent record of this blog.

    We are also within our rights in exploring every legal means in an attempt to discover the identity of “anonymous”. If we discover your identity then we will be seeking damages.

    In the meantime, we expect a full retraction and an apology.

    Dennis Berardi
    President, MR. X INC.

    #1798
  36. To all readers:
    This thread was automatically closed to further comment after two weeks, it’s a standard setting to protect against the large volume of spam we receive here. I reopened it today to give Dennis Berardi an opportunity to respond to an earlier post left by an anonymous reader.
    The post in question singled out Dennis, MrX and a number of other VFX houses. While the commenter in question may have been trying to make a valid point, he or she completely undermined their argument by resorting to the phrase in question.
    I’ve stated here, on many occassions, that this is a place of open and frank discussion. “Bashing” will not be tolerated. I missed this one, pure and simple. The sheer volume of comments that day apparently got the better of me. “Anonymous” has left me no other choice but to remove the comment in its entirety.
    I don’t know Dennis, or his company. On that alone, I’m more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was willing to take the time to give his side, which I respect.
    I understand the safety that comes from anonymity. I myself don’t chose to indulge in it, but I can appreciate that others may not feel able to communicate as openly as I do. But anonymity is not a license to indulge in libel. This poster I take particular exception to, as the email address they provided was Dennis’ very own.
    Anonymous, you may have had a point. But you lost your credibilty here, and you opened this forum up to possible legal action in the process.
    I will be closing this thread again. If anyone wishes to share further information, if Anonymous would like to pass on an apology, please contact me directly at mv@canadiananimationresources.ca
    m

    #1799
  37. I’ve momentarily reopened the comments here. We received an apology from the anonymous poster and I’m passing it on.
    m

    Dear Mike Valiquette and Dennis Berardi,

    As the writer of the March 17th post about the state of the VFX and
    Animation industry in Toronto, I’m greatly sorry for posting a comment that single handed Mr.X as a company that has effected the whole industry within the GTA. As a worker in the Toronto scene, I’m are greatly sorry for
    offending Dennis Berardi and any other VFX companies in the area. I am
    apologizing for everything that I said about your corporation and the
    negative views that I posted up.

    I do hope you accept my apology on my behalf. I did not mean to offend you or your corporation. I’m greatly sorry! I should have not written those comments at all.

    As an employee in the Toronto scene, I hope Mr.Berardi as an owner of a leading VFX can help build a more stable industry within the Toronto scene. Many people who have worked for your firm and other local companies within the Toronto scene are very tired of the way things are moving and feel that a lot of people have been taken advantage for their talents. (I am NOT
    saying you are the cause of this or to blame. It’s just they way the
    industry has become. With movie studios wanting quicker turn around and a cheaper rate, it’s becoming move difficult for workers, like myself to meet these demands.)

    Many greatly talented people have been mistreated under the pressure to meet the demands of Film & TV, VFX and animation. Giving long hours beyond the 44 hours a week and living from contract to contract. Yes, there maybe senior staff people that compose the core of a company, but the VFX and Animation industry has mainly been composed of Contract workers that can make up
    70-90% of an employee roster. It’s these people that come from around the world to work at places like C.O.R.E., I.C. Mr.X, Soho, Invisible Pictures, Rocket Science, etc.

    I feel that there must be another way to help the innocent workers who give their creative efforts and aren’t protected. Many contract workers
    especially have been taken advantage with little standards set in place to protect them. They work for short period of times and then are let go,
    rather than having them to become part of the full staff or recieve any employee benefits. Many companies feel that since they are only contract workers they can just dispose of them if standards aren’t met.

    Yes, I understand that as an owner of a company that you must deliver a service and that it’s important for you to deliver on time, however, owners should help protect the employees. There are firms that have made workers work 80-100 hours a week to deliver work. I will not name companies, but it’s becoming a huge problem. Many compositors will agree upon this. There is no Unions in the Canadian industry, but it might be time to set some up.

    Senior people and young people have worked hard, but the lack of stability makes it difficult in trying to build a career, forcing many people to move to leave to other industries. It shouldn’t be this way. A healthy entertainment industry in Toronto is needed since there aren’t too many films being shot here. Cities like Vancouver, and LA have built a healthy competitive industry, Toronto is hurting. The demise of C.O.R.E. entertainment is a prime example of how our local city industry is having significant economic problems.

    A more prosperous industry can only be built with regular meetings of the head leaders of other studios to agree upon work practices and what should be accepted as a job and what shouldn’t be. Also helping to find ways toattract new businesses can be worked with by collaborating together.
    I hope Mr.Berardi can be an good example in the Toronto scene, not only forother studios in the area, but for studios worldwide. The CG industry is already becoming a fight to the bottom of the barrel, someone has find alternatives to stop this struggle of being pushed around by producers of studios wanting their work to be complete VFX work under insane standards.

    Dennis, I’m greatly sorry for my earlier comments and I hope you can accept my humble apology. I was wrong in my statements. I do not wish for a legal battle to occur. I know many people who have worked for you in the past and present, they all agree that this industry is not a normal one and having a corporate leader to set acceptable standards can be a good thing for everyone.

    I’m deeply sorry Dennis.

    - An Anonymous VFX worker.

    P.S. I would also like to take a moment, to apologize to you Mike, I’m sorry I posted up my negative comments, on you’re website. It was not my intentions to bash Mr.X or other companies, but to point out the current state of affairs from a workers standpoint. Many employees have been afraid to bring up their comments about the conditions of the VFX / Animation scene.

    Mike Valiquette please pass on my apology to Mr.Berardi. I apologize not only to the both of you, but to the all you’re readers. I’m sorry for bashing many of the local houses in T.O. and the VFX scene, but a
    combination of the recent recession and the lack of standards in the VFX industry has resulted in many people to be taken advantaged of and become disgruntled.

    #1988

Cartoon Awesome!

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