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TBS expected to cut 50-75 staffers

Turner Broadcasting System is expected to eliminate as many as 50 to 75 TV post-production staffers at Hanna-Barbera Inc. on Nov. 1 and farm the work to outside firms.

The mass layoffs would be the first since last December, when TBS pinkslipped 115 (92 domestic and 23 international) of the animation studio’s 457 full-time employees following its $ 320 million takeover of H-B.

Most of the earlier cuts, however, were made in ancillary areas that included distribution, homevid, business affairs, accounting, public relations and creative services.

A Turner spokesman said he was unaware of the situation and could neither confirm nor deny that such a move was in the works.

But TBS insiders said there are “serious discussions” under way concerning a reduced work force at H-B, where morale is already said to be extremely low.

This would mark the first time Turner has touched the programming area at H-B , but the pending staff reductions–affecting many longtime employees–reportedly would not be expanded to other areas of the company.

By moving the post-production work outside, the sources said Turner would realize a substantial cost savings. Among other things, it would stave off the large expense of modernizing H-B’s post-production equipment.

Animation industry sources suggested that it would be cheaper for H-B to perform its post-production work internally, but speculated the studio may not have enough TV work available to keep 50 to 75 post-production staffers employed.

During the 1992-93 season,H-B is producing 65 episodes of the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons for the Fox Children’s Network.

Additionally, ABC has ordered 13 animated episodes of “The Addams Family” and three episodes of “A Pup Named Scooby Doo.” Eight episodes of “The Pirates of Darkwater” and 13 episodes of “Young Robin Hood” (a co-production with the Canadian firm Cinar) are being produced for the weekly low-rated syndicated series “The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera.”

H-B also is making two “Flintstones” telepix, a two-hour Halloween spec for fall and a cable vidpic titled “Johnny’s Golden Quest” slated to air in March.

Despite the proposed staff cuts, the studio is understood to be heavily pitching TV projects to the networks for next season.

The reductions on the TV side come at a time when TBS chairman Ted Turner has dramatically increased the company’s involvement in theatrical production.

Since the beginning of the year, Turner has committed vast resources to the feature business. Prior to the change in ownership, H-B’s film division was non-existent; today it employs 135 staffers under company chairman-CEO David Kirschner.

As previously reported (Daily Variety, April 24), Turner sought to keep Kirschner, the former prexy who was credited with greatly beefing up TV production during his reign, at H-B by boosting the company’s commitment to features.

This past spring, Turner Entertainment prez Scott Sassa, who oversees H-B, brought in Fred Seibert as president to take over day-to-day administrative control. He upped Kirschner to chairman.

The company currently has a number of theatrical projects in proudction, including the previously announced $ 29 million animated/live-action 20th Century Fox pic “The Pagemaster.”

Another H-B movie for Fox is “Once Upon a Forest,” slated for summer ’93, with Michael Crawford and Ben Vereen providing the voices.

Additionally, Kirschner has the Bette Midler starrer “Hocus-Pocus” at Disney. The feature is budgeted in the $ 30 million to $ 35 million range, per reports.

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