The Writers’ Guild of America has scored a victory in its case against The Walt Disney Company on late residual payments for Fox Animation shows The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Disney settled the case by paying the WGA $5.25 million dollars in interest on the residual payments.
In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter, the WGA explained the case: In 2017, “a rolling tri-Guild audit revealed that Fox had failed to make certain residuals payments on these series.” The audit was conducted by three separate unions working together: WGA, the Screen Actors’ Guild, and the Director’s Guild of America, the later of which only covers The Simpsons and Family Guy. Continuing with The Hollywood Reporter, “After the WGAW contacted Fox, the studio found that an internal error had led to a widespread failure to pay the residuals for reuse in the foreign free television markets over several years. Fox paid millions of dollars in late paid residuals to the Guild in 2018, which was then distributed to the credited writers.” The residuals from foreign television – an amount originating from a combination of broadcast television and cable fees and ratings overseas – ended up constituting $59.3 million.
While the residuals owed to the writers were paid by Fox in 2018, the WGA filed a claim for the interest that was accumulated in the duration of time it took for the payments. The case was handed to Disney after they bought Fox in 2019, and they were initially reluctant to handle it. The WGA set the arbitration for the payments for March 2020, which Disney sought to delay. However, the hearing went ahead as scheduled, and Disney paid the full amount.
The five Fox shows are unique in being covered by the WGA. Most writers for animated shows are covered by The Animation Guild, which does not award writers residuals.
The $5.25 million settlement is the largest in the union’s history. The WGA confirmed over 250 writers have already received payments from this settlement. In similar cases, the WGA was awarded $1 million in a settlement with Luc Besson’s Seaside Productions in 2018 due to unpaid residuals, and was awarded $4.5 million in a settlement with ICM Partners and the Broder, Kurland, and Webb Agency as a result of unpaid residuals to older television writers.