Animation is the art of making pictures come alive. This is done through
the illusion of movement.
Creating that illusion is a lot of work. With traditional animation, thousands
of pictures must be drawn and painted. Each picture differs only slightly
from the one before and after it.
Each picture is arranged in sequence and then filmed. It's in the movie
that the illusion of movement is created.
New technology is streamlining this process, saving time and money. For
example, images can now be drawn on a computer tablet rather than paper. Then
the computer creates the animation. This eliminates the time-consuming process
of photographing each picture.
But computers and software can only do so much. Talented artists will continue
to be in demand. Artists, not computers, create the images that capture our
Animation can be found all over the place. This means lots of opportunities
for animators. You can find animators working on video games, feature films,
and TV and Internet ads, to give just a few examples. Good animators must
have creativity and artistic skills. They make their cartoon characters perform,
like actors, and must imagine how a character would act in any situation.
"Oftentimes, the real people and animals around you inspire your character's
expressions and movements," says animator Bobby Beck. "So, being able to notice
the little things in the real world can really make your animation better."
Computer skills are increasingly important for animators. In fact, many
animators these days are highly skilled at programming. They use complex software
programs that save time and create new visual styles.
Animators work as part of a team with directors, producers, layout artists,
assistants and other animators. As a result, good communication skills and
people skills are essential.
Some animators are self-employed and produce their own independent films.
Some are freelancers and do contract work on commercials, television or movies.
Others work full time for animation companies like Disney. Most animators
work in a combination of these environments.
"The animation industry continues to grow and the medium itself has become
part of more and more things beyond feature films, like commercials and games,"
Animators spend a lot of time hunched over their drawing boards and perched
in front of their computers. That can present some challenges.
"Like any job where you are using computers, it's important to have a workplace
that's suited to you and not going to give you any aches and pains," says
Beck. "You might also need a little room to act something out to help you
make a character's movements realistic. Outside of that, I wouldn't say the
job is too physically demanding."
Work hours vary widely. Generally, you do what it takes to get the job
"I think most animators can expect an average work week," says Beck. "But
if you're animating for a feature film or a game, for instance, there are
going to be times close to its release where everyone is working longer hours
to perfect things. It's part of the excitement of being part of something
Animation Mentor, an online animation school, surveyed 1,235 professional
animators in 2008. The survey found that these were the top four sectors that
animators work in:
1. Computer and video games
2. Feature film character animation
4. TV shows
The survey also asked the animators for one thing they would advise a new
graduate of animation to do in order to get their first job.
"Create a high quality demo reel," was the advice of 51 percent of respondents.
Nineteen percent suggested building strong industry connections, 11 percent
said to attend a good art or animation school, and 11 percent said to specialize
in one main animation skill.
Animation is a lot of hard work. It can take a lot of dedication to build
up the experience and connections necessary to make it your career. And each
work of animation, even a very short one, requires a lot of patience and attention
"You need a certain kind of drive because most kinds of animation are very
time consuming and very deliberate," says Tara Schorr. She's the coordinator
of a nonprofit arts society for animators.
"If you're not the kind of person who pushes to reach your own goals it
would be very difficult to stay focused and finish anything," says Schorr.
"It can take a really long time."
Curiosity and passion are also important qualities for an animator to have,
says Beck. So is being observant. "Curiosity helps you learn and discover
news ways for solving problems," says Beck. "Passion is vital because it
gives you the fuel you need to go the extra mile to get things right while
having fun doing it. And being observant is also incredibly helpful because
as an animator you are essentially bringing your characters to life so every
expression and movement matters."
Make pictures come alive
Watch a one-minute video showing what it's like to work in this career or related careers
Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators
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