According to the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment opportunities in the animation industry are expected to grow at about the same rate as any other industry. This projected growth is because the demand for animation is ever-increasing across businesses and organizations. However, the competition is stiff when it comes to landing a client.
“Employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.”
In creative industries, being selected as an animator is heavily dependent upon the preferences of the client or hiring manager. You could be the most talented of all stop-motion animation artists on the planet, but none of that matters if no one wants that type of animation. Some companies care about your animation degree while others are more concerned with your skill.
Among being someone’s cup of tea, new animators are concerned about job security – and that’s after the stress of developing a solid portfolio of work. What types of content should they showcase? Which animation tools should they become familiar with? After they get the job, how many seasons before their show is canceled?
Is it worth going into animation? YES! With advice from animators, such as Sandro Cleuzo, you’ll be set up for success in a growing industry.
Getting Started in Animation
As many have heard before, by failing to plan, you are preparing to fail. So what are some steps any new animator should take to properly prepare for a robust career in animation? Sandro suggests you study hard and practice frequently.
“The studios want to see your work and how you think when you animate. The way I learned was to study animation and motion frame by frame and doing tests. The only way to learn is to do it.”
There are fantastic books out there that’ll help you learn the industry as well. The Animator’s Survival Kit and The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, coupled with tutorials and online classes, provide a solid foundation for a new career in animation.
Freelance Animator vs. Studio Animator
Now that you have the knowledge and skill set, you need to decide whether you want to work for yourself or a company. Being a freelancer involves being your own boss and working off of your creative concepts while becoming a studio animator requires you to create based on a company’s standards. The key differences are freelancers have more flexibility with their time, content, and pay. On the other hand, working at a studio offers more stability, oftentimes greater access to new technologies, and networking opportunities.
Depending on what you value more and how developed your soft skills are, you may lean more towards freelancing or perhaps studio work. However, there’s value in starting at a studio, even if you intend to freelance.
“It will make you understand better how a project is put together and team collaboration could be something that will make you grow as an artist. Also, it will help you make new connections within the industry and it will be better for you in the future if you want to become a freelancer working from home.”
Part of Sandro’s current success is a direct result of the network he built while working with Disney and other studios. Even as a freelancer, he is still available to take on projects with studios if he chooses to go that route. For many, building a report as a freelancer is a lot of work at a steep learning curve.
Animation production itself is enough to take in. It’s probably best to learn directly from current professionals by joining a talented team before venturing out on your own. Advertising agencies are wonderful environments for learning the industry quickly.
The Challenges that Animators Face
No matter how cute animators make those Trollz appear, it’s not all glitter and rainbows in the animation industry. New animators have to prove their talent before getting paid what they’re worth. For this reason, their pay may be much lower than they appreciate. This is another reason why a solid portfolio is necessary for any artist.
“It is your art that needs to call the attention of the studios. Your portfolio is the most important thing, so work on it and try to have the best quality possible.”
It can be easy to get sucked into a project so deeply that the world passes you by. With the urge to sit at a computer for hours on end with a tight deadline fast approaching, some animators find it difficult to take breaks from working. Being able to detach is very important for a successful and healthy animator.
There’s also the tendency for executives to hire young artists over older animators. Regardless of their mentality, you must stay relevant in the industry. Being up to date with current animation techniques and producing high-quality work simply can’t be ignored, rendering it age-irrelevant.
Some people focus on where you get your education, but honestly, your portfolio speaks for itself.
“I never went to school for drawing or animation. I am self taught and learned on the job working at a small studio where I had to do many things besides animating.”
Don’t let lacking a Bachelor’s from CalArts (or anywhere for that matter) stop you from pursuing your goals in animation. Though some stress about degrees, your main focus in animation ought to be your work and mindset. Be open to new ideas and different styles; versatility and hiring ability are directly related.
Kdan Bonus: All Roads Lead to Animation
We know that being an animator means you must be incredibly good at sketching and drawing. However, you don’t have to pause your animation career while you develop your skills.
Did you know that 3D animators don’t need to know how to draw? It’s true. The animation industry is full of entry points with various opportunities that don’t involve drawing. They’re multimedia artists using their technical backgrounds to create digital designs and effects.
An Animation Technical Director (TD or art director) handles the animation software and workflow. Using their programming and coding skills, TDs solve technical problems and use data to refine how the studio operates.
We recommend looking into jobs like animation writing, composition, and development that allow you to be in the animation space while you grow your confidence. With a wide range of types of animation opportunities, you’ll be able to get your foot in the door one way or another.
You wanted to know how to prepare for a career in animation and what to expect once you get there. To sum up Sandro’s advice, you must study and practice techniques, form genuine relationships, and stay relevant to animation trends. These guidelines will help make your animation career a successful one.
For more tips from experienced animators, be sure to follow Anizone and Animation Desk on social media! You’ll find thorough content from digital design professionals about all things animation from how to get started to how to use the latest animation software.