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New York City Animation Careers - A Profile of the Art Scene, Top Employers, & Animation Schools/Programs

Written by Michelle BurtonJune 8, 2011
Did you know... Each student at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) learns how to work at a studio by spending 12 weeks as a Production Artist on a school-produced film. As a result, they have produced dozens of shorts in class. Their animated Star Wars fan film, The SOLO Adventures, won the Lucasfilm award at Star Wars Celebration V! You can see it and many more at www.DaveSchool.com.
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The New York City Art Scene

The state of New York has the second highest population of animators in the U.S. and more than 90 percent live in New York City. Although Los Angeles holds the crown for producing and housing more animators than any other city, the New York City animation scene sees itself as a creative alternative to the L.A., rather than living in it’s shadow. Instead of relying on large studios to produce the bulk of the art in NYC, the industry taps into its hearty network of local freelancers and prolific indie production studios, with the goal of creating works with varied (and interesting) points of view.

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New York City is also home to some of the largest advertising agencies in the world and an impressive number of small agencies to boot. Freelance advertising professionals can do well here too. While large agencies may employ a number of in-house animators, many have the same idea as the rest of the industry. They hire freelancers and smaller animation houses more often than not.

For an aspiring New York City animator, this is all good news. What this means is, landing a full-time, salaried animation job at a large New York animation studio, network or production house is not the only path you can take here. The independent scene is alive and well so you can fly solo, start your own animation house, work for an independent studio or work for a large company as an independent contractor or otherwise—the choice is yours.

New York City Animation Schools and Programs

New York is home to more than 300 colleges and universities. More than 100 are located in New York City. Some focus solely on art, while others offer all programs, including art. Many offer art and animation programs that have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD accredited programs are seen as the most high quality, challenging, and rewarding programs available. 

New York City is home to Parsons The New School for Design, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Parsons The New School for Design offers animation courses, certificate programs, and degree programs in animation. The school also produces the an annual animation festival that gives animators and digital artists a chance to display their work. 

The School of Visual Arts (SVA) is an art and animation college located on east 23rd Street. Many graduates go on to work at companies such as Pixar, Disney, Nickelodeon, Sky Studio, and DreamWorks, while others continue on to graduate school or start their own businesses. The school offers degrees in cartooning, computer art, computer animation and visual effects, film and video, graphic design, and more. 

The Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York (FIT, SUNY) offers a BFA in computer animation and interactive media. Students receive a solid foundation in 3D modeling and animation through courses ranging from animation and scripting to compositing and effects. FIT’s two-year BFA program is for individual’s with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, or 60 credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

Other NYC schools that offer animation programs or courses include: 

  • New York Film Academy (NYC, Universal Studios, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
  • Pratt Institute (NYC)
  • City University of New York (Brooklyn)

More Animation related programs to consider:  

New York City Animation Employers

Whether independent or a salaried employee, New York City animators work in all industries from advertising to film to computer systems and design. Animators interested in working in computer systems and design can find work at more than 1,900 firms in the New York City Area. Film and video animators can look into any of the following NYC or networks studios: 

  • 21Boom
  • Animation Collective
  • Asterisk Animation
  • Augenblick Studios
  • Blue Sky Studios
  • Comedy Central
  • Curious Pictures
  • Digital Elixir Studios
  • Little Airplane Productions
  • MTV
  • Nickelodeon Digital
  • Noodlesoup Animatics
  • Spike TV
  • The Studio

To find more animation studios—independent or otherwise, visit the New York Film Office website or Productionhub.com

Animators with a knack for advertising have many options as well. New York City is home to worldwide agencies such as: 

  • DDB Needham
  • Foote, Cone & Belding
  • J. Walter Thompson (JWT)
  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Wieden & Kennedy 

To search for more agencies in the New York City area visit theadhub.com.

Animation Careers at a Glance

Animation and multi-media artists are in a great position. Digital art, advertising, and animation are going nowhere and the industry is expected to continue to grow at a fast pace over the next seven years. Job growth in this field is expected to average 14 percent between now and 2018. That’s higher than any other career field in the art industry. 

Salaries are on the rise as well. New York City animators average around $66,270 per year. In 2006, NYC animators averaged $61,230. Independent contractors and business owners’ salaries vary. 

For more information about the animation industry in the U.S., visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov.