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The Future of Animation Is... A Look into Industry Professional's Animated Crystal Balls

Written by Robin WildingFebruary 10, 2012
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Official forecasts for the animation industry are tough to come by; so tough to come by in fact that that I couldn't 'come by' any. So instead I went to the top people in the American (and to a lesser extent, Canadian) animation scene to ask them to look into their animated crystal balls. The responses that I got from studio CEOs, studio owners, top freelancers, and other animators who have been in the industry since before the original rainbow-colored Macintoshes, were about as close as one can get to an animation industry forecast.

So pay attention aspiring animators to the wise words below because they offer important insights into the future of the animation industry, in addition to specific niches that will likely see massive growth in the future. 

Without further ado, here are the responses from our Interview Series to the question:

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“The future of animation is __________”:

Richard O'Connor, Ace & Sons
Two or more single frames in sequence.

Dynamic. Virtual reality. Facial performance capturing. Using animation as a business tool

Arthur Kautz, Aniben
Growing strong and will continue to do so. Over the last two decades, animated movies have outperformed all other genres of film at the domestic and worldwide box office. I see particularly in the United States that there is no longer a cost incentive to export our work, and keep it here for our well-trained professionals.

Joe DiDomenico, Applehead Factory Design Studio
The future of animation is... LIMITLESS! Over the years, technology has advanced animation farther then most could have imagined. Each year we have new tools and techniques that allow us to create things quicker and easier then the year before. There is also a larger resource pool to pull artists from which I believe has helped grow the industry. Animation is used in all areas of our lives now and the only real limitation is one's imagination.

Glenn Barnes, Big Sandwich Games
That's a pretty broad one. My knee-jerk reaction is to say "mobile", as the latest mobile devices are rivalling current-gen handheld consoles in terms of processing power.  While I think it's fair to say the most growth in 3D gaming will be seen in the mobile sector, and features like Apple's AirPlay call into question the need for a dedicated gaming machine at all, those hardcore gamers and their big powerful consoles aren't going away anytime soon though.  I'd be inclined to say that the future of 3D gaming is the creation and population of new markets, with existing markets continuing to grow.   

Tom Stathes, The Bray Animation Project
There are purists, usually animators in the over-the-hill category who still produce animation in the traditional hand-done fashion, but the computer has proven to be the method of choice for new artists. Younger generations have been brought up with knowledge of the computer and are better adapted to it, and in turn, their heavy use of it is also a response to corporate applications of animation that want the work done faster and with less outlay of cash.

Brian Seger, Chromavantage
3D will be the cool factor, for awhile. Once that has worn off being able to tell the story will still be the focus.

Jon Gallo, DraftFCB
The future of animation to me, driven by a lot of the folks out there in tutorial land--like Nick Campbell and Andrew Kramer, as well as a host of other independent animators and filmmakers whose work can be found on the web. Through sharing their creative process they are inspiring innovative thinking and facilitating the exchange of ideas within this rapidly developing online community.

Chad Briggs, Element X Creative
Content. Which really is the same as it was in the past and present. Digital workflows have made it easier than ever to tweak and refine content, but a good idea and story is always king. Software gets better, but your still handicapped by having to interact with a mouse and keyboard. The next big tech leap will come with how we interact with the computer (devices like the Microsoft Kinect). Animators being able to reach in and tweak their keyframes by hand in a VR world should become more and more affordable.

Joddy Eric, Madwerkz
The future of animation lies in the ability of creatives to continue to dream and explore new possibilities. The dissemination of wonderful software to the masses and freedom from constraints means it’s up to you and what lies in your head, not the capabilities of your machine.

Tawd B. Dorenfeld, Polymorph Productions

…still alive thanks to Digital SLRs. Stop-Motion has never been more accessible to people, and that goes for hand-drawn animation as well…then you add the Cintiq which is just a glorified everything for the hand-animator. For two-grand you can be animating your own feature without spending anymore than the time it would take…save for soundtrack if you don't have that $150 midi keyboard yet.
As for the overall Future of Animation; Animation will replace the future of vacations to the polluted beach.

Rich Murray, RichToons
The future of animation is interactive.The audience, no matter what the age group, is increasingly savvy in their knowledge of navigating and interacting with content. It's one thing to watch great animation, but the audience wants to experience this content in their own way.

RichToons does animation of course, but we also create user experiences with games, apps, simulations, etc.--that add an extra dimension and make these experiences more personal.

Kathy Rocchio, Slap Happy Cartoons
I considered the options here and decided I should leave it ‘blank’ as I can only make a wild prediction. It is a tougher market these days. Broadcasters seem to be favouring live action properties. Trend fluctuations don’t really concern us. There will always be a market for animation since traditional broadcast isn’t our only option anymore.

Brian Deans-Rowe, Stone Fence Studios
Everywhere. Powerful mobile devices, next generation game systems and HDTV are growing the demand and raising the bar on quality for animation.

Terrence Walker, Art FX
The future of animation is mobile. So is the future of many forms of content. Worldwide, more people are consuming content on mobile devices than on DVD or even in the cinema. Short-form animation and games, which require a lot of animation, are extremely popular. Across the world there are millions who have advanced mobile devices yet do not even have electricity in their homes. The demand for content is growing immeasurably and the artists and animators who strive to meet that demand will find great success.

Enoc Castaneda, True Light Media

The future of animation is promising but in a state of flux, especially for animation companies and animators in North America. The good news is that over the lest few years there has been an increasing number of content delivery platforms and with that an increasing need for a variety animated content.

For more pearls of wisdom from our Interview Series, click here.