Suspended Animation

When Pearse Cullinane left Dublin to work for Fox Animation Studios in Phoenix, he hadn't counted on losing his rights in a right-to-work state. These days the only line he's drawing is in the sand.

"Few studios close after two films, but if you're Rupert Murdoch you can do whatever you want, and I cast no aspersions in his direction," she nods diplomatically. "They just had this incredible outlay without a return on investment. Maybe [Murdoch] just didn't have the faith in the future."

Instead, he sank money into the soundstages in Australia, where the incentives were wildly attractive to filmmakers. ". . . we can't throw subsidies or incentives at filmmakers that will lure them to our jurisdiction," says Warren. "And Canada does that in spades and has really stolen a lot of production away across those northern borders. Australia, too, they can make those powerful decisions. We don't have those resources, and we're feeling that."

It's all about the bottom line.

Pearse Cullinane was intimately involved in the creation of Anastasia.
Pearse Cullinane was intimately involved in the creation of Anastasia.

Pearse Cullinane's bottom line has been reached, and he's now sinking below it.

Money: "I've spent 40 grand of my own money hanging on here. At this stage, I haven't got any money, no income coming in. My last paycheck was April 10. Ever since then, its been $1,400 a month mortgage."

House: "With the home equity loan on top of the mortgage, I'll just about break even. I just sit around the house on the floor because I've got no furniture left. I've got to go to a chiropractor. Doctors always say it's good for the back to sleep on the floor, but I don't think so. My back already isn't good from sitting at a desk 11 years drawing.

"I look at people coming to my house buying all my things. Everything's gone. I sold a 30-inch TV, stereo and DVD and video player for 300 bucks. It was sickening. I paid two grand for my Italian couches and got 500 for them. Next time, I'm gonna buy from some poor unlucky bastard who gets fired."

Car: "I drove the car to the leasing company personally. I said, 'I'm out of work for seven months. I have zero money, I need you to take this car off my hands. It's depreciating, the mileage is going up. We don't want the car. Please take it and lease it to someone else.' Nobody will take the car. They're looking for their money. They say, 'You know this will affect your credit,' and I just start laughing."

Credit: "My credit is fucked! I had perfect credit a month ago. I paid all my bills up to a month ago. And you need money to feed your family and do essentials. A woman at the bank said, 'Why don't you borrow off someone?' I'm going to borrow to pay off someone I borrowed from? You got some dopey people working at these banks. I've still got all my Gold cards and Platinum cards, but it's not worth it."

Job prospects: "That's the feeling that a lot of people are getting. That we're blacklisted. Fox burned some bridges, so it's possible. I must have sent out 100 résumés and reels. There's so many people out of work in L.A., it's virtually impossible to get any work there. I could go to Canada, but I'd have to go through all that visa crap again. Horrific INS needles and probing every part of your body just to get your green card. I ain't going through it again for Canadians.

"I looked for jobs as a Web designer. And everyone said we really need someone with three to five years' Web experience."

Family: "I have to get health care for my wife. She developed serious heart problems and had to get a valve replaced in her heart, so she's basically out of the work force. She worked for MCI. My wife's ex-husband is taking the kids, and that's for their sake. I've been their father for the last four and a half years, but at this stage I can't afford to give them health care, buy their school books, pocket money . . ."

Green card: "Still waiting. Because I haven't got a green card, social welfare wouldn't give me a penny. After working here six years and probably paying over $500 in taxes a week, I've paid for a lot of people's social welfare, the least they can do is give me some back. 'Cause in Europe if you're laid off, you either don't pay taxes for a year or get all the taxes you paid the year before back to keep you going. That's a little bit of socialism, but I like it."

Lawsuit: "Fox made back any money they lost. I don't get how they can be so inhuman and not give people what they're owed. I thought they were a big corporation, they must follow the law. But they fight you tooth and nail not to pay you any money. They're paying lawyers to drag this out. I don't know what's holding it up. It's not like they owe me a million dollars. It's a pittance. A drop in the ocean for them. It's one year's wage for an average worker at Twentieth Century Fox. It's not like I'm looking for Bill Mechanic's wage.

"If this is not settled and I have to just drop the whole thing, I'm going to write down everything I know," he muses, rubbing his fingers together. "Stuff I can't tell you now because it's pending. But there'll be a lot of red faces in Hollywood. I'll call it 'You'll Never Sketch in This Town Again.'"

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