Blue Sky Studios, the studio behind ‘The Peanuts Movie’ and the ‘Ice Age’ franchise, last week became the first studio to pursue a settlement agreement in the suit filed over a year and a half ago by former DreamWorks Animation vfx artist Robert Nitsch Jr. The settlement pertains to allegations of an industry-wide collusion scheme in which major feature studios conspired to suppress wages and reduce competition for the highly-skilled employees that create the movies from which the studios make their fortunes.
The potential class action called out major animation studios including DWA, Disney, Pixar, Sony and Lucasfilm over wage-fixing and anti-poaching agreement allegations. Blue Sky was added to the list a few months after Nitsch originally filed his antitrust complaint in September of 2014, when Nitsch and fellow artists David Wentworth and Georgia Cano consolidated their suits against the various studios.
The lead plaintiffs in the case - Robert Knitsch, David Wentworth and Georgia Cano - filed for court approval of the settlement agreement last week.The settlement provides for Blue Sky to pay $5.95 million to the class, that is, all animation and visual effects employees employed by the any of the defendants — not just Blue Sky — from 2001-2010 (though the period covers lesser time periods for some of the studios: for Blue Sky, as an example, the period covered is 2005-2010).
Nitsch, Wentworth and Cano will each receive $10,000 per this first settlement, which their attorneys called an “excellent result” in their settlement motion. A hearing on the agreement is set for June 16 with Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. Blue Sky strongly asserts that this settlement does not represent an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of the studio.