Prominent visual effects company Moving Picture Company has reportedly suddenly shuttered the door on their Vancouver, Canada studio, which was most recently responsible for the widely lauded redesign of Sonic the Hedgehog in his upcoming, self-titled movie.
The shutdown of the Vancouver studio was announced suddenly on December 11th.
A closure e-mail alleged to be from MPC management states that the studio was closing due to “increasing external market pressures in Vancouver and more attractive opportunities in other locations have created a challenging environment for us to sustain the studio.” However, the authenticity of this e-mail has not been verified.
In addition to their work on Sonic the Hedgehog, the Vancouver team has also provided shots for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, most of the visual effects in Detective Pikachu and also assisted in finishing the effects production for the upcoming Cats film. Across its various studios, MPC has also worked on films such as Blade Runner: 2049, Justice League, and The Lion King.
On Reddit, a user claiming to be an ex-MPC Vancouver employee posted to the /r/vfx sub-reddit complaining about employees being overworked and underappreciated, stating that they are “genuinely ashamed” that MPC has made this decision:
“We’ve all put in extreme hours wrapping two infamous projects in the last couple of months. We’ve done multiple weeks without a day off, regular 17+ hour shifts to the point that most of us are seriously sleep deprived and are suffering still. We’ve worked really fucking hard to get this work out the door for MPC, and I’m genuinely ashamed that they are happier prioritising their profit margins and tax incentives over the insane talent and commitment of hundreds of dedicated VFX artists in Vancouver. I honestly feel insulted, like I’ve given MPC my all and in return they gave me the finger.
Good luck to all other insanely talented artists that MPC currently employs in other locations, because the second another location becomes more ‘attractive’, you could be next on the chopping block.”
The user further expanded upon their complaints in a follow-up response to another user:
“Apologies, to clarify I didn’t mean everyone was doing 17+ hour days every day for weeks straight, but that we were working with no days off for weeks straight with plenty of 17+ shifts thrown in the mix. Sometimes three or four in a row, though.
Very rarely were people doing less than 10 hours in a day. If you wanted to leave after your eight hours, you had to ask permission to go home. Didn’t want to work OT at the weekend? You had to give a satisfactory reason as to why you couldn’t do it or they’d label it an unauthorized absence.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I obliged with requests because I felt if I didn’t, I’d be quickly replaced by someone who is willing to do the hours, be that for the experience or IMDb credit or whatever. That happened to two or three people while I was there.”
Like the aforementioned closure e-mail, the authenticity of these Reddit posts also remains unverified, and the user has since deleted these comments and their Reddit account.
Speaking with the Vancouver Sun, Brenda Bailey, the executive director of DigiBC, the Interactive and Digital Media Industry Association of B.C. stated, “This is a real loss for Vancouver. They did award-winning work. … I hope we can continue to prioritize this work here in B.C. I hope this isn’t the start of things to come, but I worry.”
She did note that MPC does plan to expand its Montreal Studio.