Downturn

Life of Pi Animators Fail to Stay Afloat

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HYDERABAD ~ The Hyderabad-based Rhythm and Hues (R&H), an American visual effects firm that created most of those special effects for Life of Pi, was not yet done celebrating the film’s Oscar success when the mood in its office turned glum. The firm had declared itself bankrupt in the US.

Almost 100 digital artists in Hyderabad had worked on the movie along with colleagues in Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The Oscar for ‘best visual effects’ was one of four Life of Pi won.

On 11 February, R&H filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US and laid off 250 workers, many of whom turned up at a protest outside Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, the venue of the Oscar ceremony—where too its employees had felt cheated when a winning team member’s acceptance speech was cut short just as he started talking about the studio’s internal troubles.

Animators in India appear to have had no clue that their company was in such poor shape. “When the film was released, all R&H employees had a special screening to watch our baby on the big screen,” says Venkat R, a former animator with R&H. He quit last month. “I left as soon as some were sacked in the US,’’ he says. Animators who still work for the company have put up green squares on their Facebook profiles as a form of protest. During film shoots, such a green screen patch is used as a stand-in for special effects that are to be added later. “We left [our FB profiles] blank because our future is blank,’’ says an upset staffer who does not want to be identified.

An R&H spokesperson had released this statement from its headquarters in El Segundo, California: ‘Tonight Feb 11, R&H is filing for Chapter 11 reorganisation in the US bankruptcy Court…Meanwhile, all our offices will remain open, our clients are aware of the process; we have obtained commitments for financing to complete projects…I believe we are going to come out of this stronger, more efficient, and prolific.’