Tangent Animation, an animation studio with offices in Winnipeg and Toronto, made the surprise announcement to its staff of animators Tuesday morning that it is shuttering its operation.

Tangent Animation, an animation studio with offices in Winnipeg and Toronto, made the surprise announcement to its staff of animators Tuesday morning that it is shuttering its operation.

One non-artist employee of the company, who asked not to be named, said she had been informed on Wednesday morning.

"All of the artists were told (Tuesday) the contracts were lost and all of them would be let go," she said.

"In my case, I inquired about it (Wednesday) morning after hearing from many different people that this was happening," she said.

The reason for the closure is mysterious.

In June of 2020, Tangent’s president and CEO, Ken Zorniak, proudly said the company’s animation workforce, including 100 people in Winnipeg and 180 people in Toronto, were able to transition to working at home in the early months of the COVID crisis.

At that time, Zorniak said Tangent was at work on two animated features.

One report from the industry publication Cartoon Brew suggests those films were The Monkey King, produced by Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow, and High in the Clouds, an adaptation of a children’s novel by Paul McCartney, produced by McCartney.

Cartoon Brew said the company had completed work on a Netflix limited series Maya and the Three, produced and directed by Mexican animator Jorge Gutierrez (The Book of Life, 2014), who expressed his surprise at the closure in a tweet: "This is heartbreaking. I wholeheartedly adored working with all the brilliant and ridiculously talented artists, artisans and producers at Tangent. What they accomplished with Maya and the Three is epic. I’m jealous of future directors that will be lucky to create with them."

Cartoon Brew also quoted a "source with knowledge of the situation" who stated Netflix "was displeased with Tangent’s work on" The Monkey King and High in the Clouds.

Last June, Zorniak described Tangent’s relationship with Netflix as "very positive" in light of the production delays caused by the COVID shutdown.

"We feel obliged to work at 100 per cent quota because Netflix has been helpful in allowing us to let quotas fly for a couple of months so we could get back on track," Zorniak told the Free Press.

"People are literally in shock," the former employee told the Free Press.

"A lot of the artists working for Tangent came to Winnipeg specifically because they do really good work, and we’re talking about people from many different countries," she said. "It’s not just a loss of a job, it’s a loss of their connections here, their life here.

"So there’s a lot of uncertainty and instability and frustration and confusion right now about what will happen," she said. "Where will they go?

"It’s a huge loss for Manitoba definitely."

Calls to Tangent management were not returned.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

   Read full biography