Laika, Inc

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Laika, Inc Reviews

Updated August 6, 2014
Updated August 6, 2014
33 Reviews

2.1
33 Reviews
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Travis Knight
18 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great company still trying to get its legs

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    You work with fantastic, talented, interesting, and hard-working people from around the world. Portland is a fantastic city to live in (or near, as we'll see in the cons) and very affordable, especially compared to the rest of the West Coast. Name recognition is becoming more prevalent, and the quality of the work is undeniable.

    Cons

    LAIKA, though advertised as being in Portland, is actually half an hour drive west (no traffic) in an area called Hillsboro, but don't expect the rent to be cheaper out there, as the proximity to Intel drives up prices. And you will be renting, because the company has a high rate of turnover. People are routinely lost once a project completes, without any idea if they'll be able to come back or not. The company seems to be trying to remedy the situation, but everyone I ever spoke with didn't feel confident that they'd still have a job in a year.

    Pay is substandard for industry, but Portland is cheaper than other cities, though it really isn't a perfect scale. Also, I've yet to work anywhere that actually pays this mythical "industry standard", so there's that.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Find a way to retain people from project to project, and let department heads tell outstanding employees when they can be expected back, instead of only letting them say, "We hope something happens." Long term planning seems to be a company-wide issue, and that leads to pessimism and anxiety in current (as well as former) employees.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Creative team of artists, company culture is broken

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Incredibly talented group of artists and filmmakers. The projects are unique and they are pushing animation into areas that no other studios have the will to go after.

    Cons

    Upper management doesn't seem interested in really taking care of the artists doing the work, and don't seemed interested in building a lasting company culture. It's a shame because the work is incredible, but they don't realize that they could be building something bigger.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Keep up the great work on screen, but pay more attention to building a company that your team loves.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 2 people found this helpful  

    be undervalued and underpaid at Laika

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Work with the most awesome, collaborative and creatively agile people in the arts. Rise to the challenges of working for a company that continually raises the bar of what is possible. Utilize the best of traditional craftsmanship with cutting edge technology. Feel like you are contributing to a real masterpiece of animation art. Really great fellow employees help to make the cons only slightly more bearable.

    Cons

    Expect to regularly feel under-appreciated . Feel like you will never perform adequately in your job, even though you know you outperform most people in the creative field who don't have the stamina to work in this tremendously challenging environment. Expect to be underpaid, certainly by American standards, but especially by European standards. Expect that HODs and management won't respond to repeated multiple employee requests (via company-wide post production surveys and individual performance reviews) to create a more appreciative, less underhanded, and better-paying environment. After that, don't be surprised if you are not rehired for the next project, but not given an explanation, or even reasonable constructive criticism in your performance review. This company is extremely political, in some cases underhanded and petty, and not concerned about the moral of the employees.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Be more supportive, honest, warm and receptive. You won't come of as weak for doing so, in fact, you will be more honorable. Pay BETTER across the board, be more transparent in your salaries. Employees are comparing notes more and more on this kind of thing.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
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  5.  

    LAIKA - Where Weird Wins

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    Where Weird Wins...but it's also the closest thing to working at Santa's Workshop as you're going to get.

    Seeing the characters, props, sets all come to life and put together on the stage is hands down the most amazing thing I've ever seen in animation! I imagine it's what ILM looked like back in the 70's and it's pretty damn cool.

    The studio has great insurance, medical, dental, vision. There's a 401k available but no matching. The break room is called "The Canteen" and is very nice and quite place to sit and have a coffee. Speaking if which the coffee is fantastic as you would expect. They actually do tastings every now and then. No gym on-sit but they subsidize the cost of a local gym or offer discounts to gyms you find off-site. We have soccer across the street, some people play softball, kick-ball after hours and for the young at heart there's 4-Square during lunch hours where all are seen having fun.

    They offer a number of family friendly events and outings from wine bus to soccer matches or a baseball game at the local field. The company parties are a great reward and celebration for everyone's hard work. Not all studios go all-out for their holiday parties and wrap parties but I can honestly say that Laika does it up right.

    The studio location is in Hillsboro is twenty minutes outside of Portland with no traffic 30min-1hr with if it’s crazy rain or snow, yep it snows here I think that’s a Pro. If you have a family and prefer a quieter lifestyle the Hillsboro/Beaverton area is fine and has a better school district than Portland. If you're young and single or just prefer the Portland hipster lifestyle P-Town is close enough. As well the Tri-Met system is near enough to bike to the studio...if you like biking in the rain, which many people here do.

    Plenty of food options locally with-in walking distance. Or all the free PB&J you can handle at the studio along with fresh fruit. They serve up the occasional free breakfast or express-bar, beers/sodas, snacks served up every Friday evening prior to the end of the day. They have a massage therapist and acupuncture person who comes by once a week.

    There’s lots of free swag and gifts throughout the production, which is always cool by me.

    They don't spit on me when I come for work...can all animation studios boast the same?

    Cons

    Where Weird Wins...Yep it's weird, very weird and it rains alot but hey it's The Great Northwest.

    It's a studio of Stop-Motion elitist (its something to take pride in) and probably the largest collection of introverted artists in the collective Animation-Industry.

    Although there's "Cons" all studios have their problems as does Laika.

    We don't have a slide or scooters or any of that crap. But as a whole the studio could improve the creative look/feel of the studio space. Our studio is basically just a warehouse so there's not a lot of windows/lighting or typical studio space you might find in a normal animation studio. So yeah...no bar.

    Sadly a lot of the materials used are somewhat toxic and need to be ventilated or handled properly...however you still smell that stuff from time to time because that's what our movies are made of.

    As I mentioned most people keep to themselves, I would say Laika people are a little guarded but so is management and some are just plain out mean people...yep go figure right, but at least they don't hide it.

    HR is also some how the head of Recruiting so you'll find yourself discussing your wages with the same person that you might need to talk with about personal issues with management. I'm not sure how that's legal?

    Laika has a lot of young people who don't mind working hard for low wages or a bunch of higher-level artists/management who have forgotten what the animation industry looks like outside of Laika. Or have no experience outside of the studio.

    So yeah, "Cons" Laika has

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Hang out on a Friday and get to know your employees, let's grab a beer and talk about where this ship is sailing.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6. 5 people found this helpful  

    Heartbreaking

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    As several other people have said, the main draw here is the talent of the other artists you'll be working with. It was a rare privilege to work with so many world class artists at this studio
    Portland. To the extent that it can be sustained (which may not be long) the chance to live in this amazing small city and work in animation is great.

    Cons

    God, there are so many.
    The commute: Most of the employees live in Portland and the studio is in Hillsboro, which is a nightmare of suburban strip malls and chain stores. The commute is the worst in the area and would regularly take an hour each way (25 miles)
    The culture at the studio: As several others have mentioned, the studio is severely mismanaged by people who really don't have the right experience in the industry (and since many of the artists have a great deal of experience in the industry, this is really hard to watch happen over and over again). The CEO has a clique around him who have been there for too long, who have little to no experience outside of the bubble of the studio and who don't seem to be well-rooted in reality.
    It really is hard to feel how depressed and anxious the artists and staff are there all the time, how much people fear for their jobs, all the time working intense schedules and giving their all for their craft.
    I never felt that Travis had an understanding of what it means to have moved around the world to do what you love and are committed to, to be depending on it to pay the bills; I always felt that his speeches about how hard everyone was working etc etc were hollow and essentially the same line you hear over and over if you've working in the animation industry long enough: you're all great but we've had to make some hard decisions, yada yada.
    HR gives lip-service to caring about the employees but I don't think anyone really believes it. Any time you mention anything that might be improved the reasons that thing doesn't need to be improved are coming at you virtually before you've had a chance to finish your sentence (at least learn some semblance of listening skills!

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    You are letting world class talent fall through your fingers and LAIKA is starting to get a very bad reputation for using and letting go artists who have worked very hard to help you make more your projects. I have heard, first hand, of more than a few people who won't consider working here again, no matter what the money or the draw, because the environment is so toxic; there are too many people in positions of power who are frankly bullies, who have treated people under them abysmally and are still there because they are friends with the right people, or who are making fear-based cuts to teams that have taken years to assemble from around the world.
    It's no small thing to bring together a group of people who have the skills that you need and who can also work together well, but so many people have been let go recently and in such a way that these teams are being destroyed. As with many disasters, I don't think that the higher-ups at LAIKA can see what harm this has caused or have any idea how difficult it will be to get their work done if they alienate such a huge percentage of a small community of animators of this caliber.

    Plan for the long term.
    Stop letting people go the second you don't immediately need them again. This is called investment.
    Invest in the teams who can make the work you want to make. These people are sometimes not replaceable at all; it is a very select skillset and there frankly isn't an inexhaustible supply of them in the world (though you wouldn't think it from the way the company is run)
    Stop promising what you cannot provide, namely concurrent projects that will allow your employees to be able to count on an income and stability.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7. 6 people found this helpful  

    Come and enjoy a slow, living death in suburban warehouse.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Art Department  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Former Employee - Art Department in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    Bucolic farmland is only a short drive away from the putty-colored warehouse that houses the studio...plenty of "u-pick" berry farms abound. A (city owned) dog park exists next door...you can think about the pets you're spending 50+ hours/week apart from there. When you wear your company-logo hoody into a coffee shop, the barista with the lip-ring will be dutifully impressed with your "creative" career. The Oregon coast is slightly closer to Hillsboro than Portland. Your parents will be delighted that they will finally have something to boast about you to other parents. A movie poster, and a company mug, will be yours...as gifts. Only short walk away dwells a Taco Bell/Long John Silvers in the SAME restaurant. You might see a real, live Nutria in the pond behind the restaurant. The nearby McMenamins has inspired landscaping around the patio. The local Fred Meyer is technically, a SUPER Fred Meyer...that means it's a freakin' department store...you can buy jewelry, pants...whatever your thumping little heart desires. Does that whet your appetite?

    Cons

    Do you want to move to Oregon and be managed by a gaggle of sycophants and pursed-lipped careerists who struggle to pay obeisance to the heir of a sneaker fortune, and their balkanized politics create constipated workflow, causing you to leave work at 7pm at the earliest, and when you get home you're too tired to make dinner, so you eat some chips and refried beans, fall asleep on the sofa in puddle of drool, and wake up to "Law & Order SVU" blaring on the TV, leading to another restless, nightmare-plagued sleep, and eventually you get furloughed off the project, but notice that the company posted your same job online the same week, and you think you're going to start your big "personal project" but you get destitute and depressed, and all of your hard work and sacrifice amounted to absolutely nothing...except for a silent tear in God's eye...because no one else cares?

    Well do you?

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stay in your offices and keep gazing at your imdb profile.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 4 people found this helpful  

    Sad Trend

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Animator  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Former Employee - Animator in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    I was asked to work at the top of my skill level. I was afforded the time, support and tools necessary to do my very best work. I met some of the world's best artists and technicians in the field of stop motion. The crew became a great community of friends there in Portland, and had some great times outside of the studio.

    Cons

    Before the Knights stormed Will Vinton's floating dirigible, Portland was host to the vanguard of stop motion technology in the US. They were the first to institute the 4-day work week, back when 40 hour/weeks were standard. They were first to use laser cutting, in-house ball & socket machining, hang lighting grids, and the first to hire multiple directors on a television series. The company had a staff of top notch, local talent pushing and streamlining stop motion. Their warehouses were located in Portland proper. Employees at Vinton were happy; respect and loyalty walked hand in hand on a two-way street. These were the salad years.

    Then Travis bought the company, absorbing all the local talent and potential competition, bringing in his new production model, his mysterious new vision for the company. I think we were all excited as new money began pouring into bigger, more glamourous projects. But a new sadder trend was lurking in the shadows..

    Anti-labor is nothing new in animation. When Disney adopted Henry Ford's assembly line for the manufacture of moving pictures, he squashed individuality, the human part of workers' creative nature. Women were only useful as ink & painters to the age of 30, and were segregated from the small exclusive boys club who animated upstairs. Walt was threatened by pro-labor momentum, and brought the hammer down on any talk of unions.
    Animation is a business, built one frame at a time, and WE are the labor. The longer the hours, and the cheaper the labor, the better the profit margin; and there is NO SHARE in the profits, not in stop motion, and there are no unions in stop motion either. Workers don't have the support or leverage to fight Nike's lawyers. It's Laika's way or the highway.

    Ten years ago, there were enough talented local artists to run two stop motion television shows at the same time in Portland. Now, all of those artists are scattered to the wind. Almost none have been offered full-time staff positions at the new Laika, Inc. Most have been replaced by their oversees counterparts. When I left the company, every head of department (shy of a couple) were British. Heads of departments tend to hire their mates, the people they know and trust.. so before you knew it, the entire company was full of people from the UK.

    The trend continues as Laika makes it's way around the globe replacing artists deemed difficult, uncooperative or just plain broken with fresh new faces from Europe, Canada or down under. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed working along side these people. I learned a lot and was stimulated by the artistic soup and talent these films attract. But there are laws against hiring foreign people when there are loads of qualified locals being discarded or just plain ignored. Robust, local artists have been black-listed from Laika because they spoke their mind, and were honest about dysfunctional aspects of the Laika system. There is a "buck-up/shape-up or ship-out" attitude that prevails. Everyone is treated like they are lucky to even have a job. Honesty is not rewarded, rather it's punished.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Team building, encouragement, loyalty create lasting growth and sustainability. To thrive and grow means to give back to your community. If you only take, take; if you only use then discard, then there is no real growth. There is no incentives to grow. My career exploded as soon as I left Laika.

    Loyal, talented employees need to be appreciated, given periodic raises. Ideally leads work with their team, train them, compare techniques, share information. Leads then become heads of departments or directors as the artists beneath move into the lead positions. Good, talented and focused interns move into the assistant roles as assistants improve with guidance and get promoted out of assistant roles.. whether a builder, painter or animator. This cycle grows the company. It also improves people's confidence, because they are working at a company that supports their growth, and teaches them at every level. Artists then devote themselves to projects, improving and growing their careers as well as their skills.

    You can get a greater variety of interesting projects off the ground with your senior members of the crew heading them up. Lateral or upward movement creates opportunity and freshness. Different voices create whole new unique projects. Which makes room for more promotion! Laika is really in the position to implement this model.

    However, this is a model that is dying in the corporate monopolized studios. Artist become factory workers, and everyone is afraid/paranoid of their colleagues. No matter how challenging your task, it becomes uninspired monotony in Laika's current model. It isn't about growth, it is about just hanging on & survival. A sad trend indeed. I really thought stop motion would avoid it, but the almighty $ always seems to ruin things, huh?

    The excitement and hope is all independent, and that at least makes me happy!

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9. 7 people found this helpful  

    Square peg, round hole

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    Some of the most amazingly talented people I have ever worked with.

    Cons

    The president doesn't have a clue what he is doing. His brilliant business plan is to take advice from people "he trusts" who have little or trumped up experience. Hmmm... maybe take a risk, take your time and find someone out there who is vetted and can help you to navigate this circus. He just keeps getting it wrong, taking people with square peg experience and trying to fit them into a round hole. His father succeeded with this strategy but this is not shoes, this is the firmly set world of entertainment with its own set of rules.

    HR appears to "care" by having employee events but they serve only one master. They are not there for the employees, instead they are there to do the billionaires son's bidding and kiss his butt to secure their own jobs. HR is a hot mess. The things they/legal allow the president to get away with are pretty bad. But I suppose money can buy you out of any lawsuit.

    There is an inner circle that Travis has populated with under-qualified yes men/women who have been given way too much power. They are usually thrown in the deep end and one wonders if he gets some odd thrill out of watching them sink or swim. For the most part they sink and are given the boot after a few years of messing the company up even more. Watch out for them... Don't speak out of turn around them or show you know more than them or you will be out quicker than you can spell 'billionairesonstrainset.'

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Too much is broken and it begins at the top. How do you tell a billionaires son he is the problem?

    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 6 people found this helpful  

    Meh, it's a living...

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Animator  in  Hillsboro, OR
    Former Employee - Animator in Hillsboro, OR

    Pros

    A lot of nice and talented folks work in that dismal place. But really, the best reason to work at Laika is for a paycheque, plain and simple. You gotta make a living somehow or it's food stamps and chronic depression in the unemployment office.
    Hmmm… What else… Well, if your fresh out of college and have never had a job before, or If you suffer from insomnia, love working long hours for people who don't appreciate it, and hate your family or home life, Laika might be a good fit for you!?

    Cons

    It's sadly one of the only stop-motion facilities left standing these days. The steady decline of the stop-mo industry has created fierce competition between starving artists in the field, which unfortunately has detrimental side effects. Because apparently, watching a bunch of talented artists struggle for a few spots on a job only pleases the no-talent production management side of Laika. I've never seen so many people(Mr. Knight included) running an animation house with absolutely no experience outside of a single company, yet strangely remain confident that they know exactly what they're doing!? (the box office reflects that attitude somewhat).
    Clearly Mr. Knight prefers surrounding himself with people he knows he can control. Which I totally understand, good old fashioned mafia style promotion. Forget time, skill and effort! You gotta blindly take a guy out to prove to the boss your a good pawn. That's how a mook gets a leg up in this world!
    I will say that although Travis Knight is not a good manager or leader, he is an incredibly talented animator himself. Too bad his ego gets in the way of what could otherwise be a decent place to work.

    FYI, Laika is only kept afloat by Nike inc. Yes! The same humanitarians who have helped teach 3rd world children who can't afford shoes how to make them! What could possibly go wrong!?

    Note: Regarding "starving artist" Yes, it's true college kids. Full time stable employment in animation is VERY rare indeed! Get used to rama noodles and wondering whether spending 4 years in college and a 100grand for animation was worth it(it will/might haunt you).

    Oh, one more! A big con…. There are a bunch of people who work at Laika who don't seem to mind the fact that they've been 'branded' corporately by the company(like a rancher does to his herd). I know it's the fashion in our declining, culturally starved civilization to state to the world your devotion to a particular corporation through 'swag', but geez! The people wearing Laika t-shirts along with their Nike shoes, declaring themselves "Laikans" creeps me out! Reminds me of another strange Oregon group of lost souls, "Rajneeshees" I think they liked to call themselves? Wait, it was heavens gate that wore Nikes? Oh whatever, if you work there just don't drink the cool aide.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Trust the talent! They're the ones who make the movies, don't forget that.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  11. 7 people found this helpful  

    Work anywhere else ..

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Animator  in  Portland, OR
    Former Employee - Animator in Portland, OR

    Pros

    An excellent Lebanese and Japanese restaurant within easy reach .. also a charming pond. Migrating birds fly en route south and north and rest in the little haven. It is not on the Laika lot.

    Cons

    Putin-esque management fueled by fear, stupidity and politicking. The creative process is frequently compromised by a hierarchy that is less in search of a film than a dinner invite from Travis Knight.
    There is little honesty and no team team spirit. People are terrified and silenced.
    Quite the little Gulag ..

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Leave before you are fired .. you will be. Loyalty is nonexistent.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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