The animation industry is in a constant state of flux. Job roles change almost as quickly as the technology and the industry as a whole is forced to respond to the increasingly high-quality work coming from overseas studios. At the same time the advent of the internet, smart devices, new media and more are demanding animation on grander scales, compensating for overseas outsourcing.
Due to this unpredictable maelstrom of activity many young would-be animators are debating getting into the industry. You might be one of them. So, as part of our Interview Series we asked our experts to forecast what the industry will be like in coming years—experts who have lived through the invention of computers, changing technology, outsourcing, boutique-style animation studios and so much more.
We put together their best responses below to give you an expert view of where the industry is likely going, whether there will be an increased or decreased need for animators, and what type of jobs aspiring animators can expect. Be warned though, this is not a rosy-eyed view of the industry, it is the hard truth along with a little advice on how to find a comfy spot for yourself within the industry:
Richard O'Connor, Ace and Son
The job title "animator" has changed in the past decade or so. For "animators" there's more work -web stuff, motion graphics, compositing. For "animation artists" which was once the bulk of the industry (inkers, background artists, designers, coordinators, checkers, and on and on) there's significantly less demand. The "animator" may do less animation than in years past, but the work an "animator" does has increased.
There is certainly an increase in demand, as movies, TV and video games are all filling up with 3D effects. You must learn however, to both specialize and generalize, which is a difficult tightrope to balance on. It does what video can't. You can show something microscopic or show the internal workings of any sort of object – be it organic or inorganic. Animation has become a business tool, not just an entertainment tool.
Kai Bovaird, AD/M
There will be an increasing demand for animators. Many more smaller studios will open over time and need to fill their ranks with qualified artists.
Arthur Kautz, Aniben
Animation will continue to be strong. As an industry in the United States we have to demonstrate and convince studios and producers we can be cost-effective and to stop shipping work overseas. I believe we will be able to make this case and keep the industry vibrant and viable.
Matthew Teevan, Arc Productions
I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but between the TV work, animated movies and the number of character-driven visual effects shows I think there is more animation being done now than ever before. Children’s television has always been dominated by animation. But now, the creative opportunities are pretty limitless and this is allowing stories that would not have been possible 10 years ago to be made.
On a practical note, Animation is also one of the more labour intensive parts of CG. Even with a stylized look, you still need the character to resonate with the audience. It will be interesting to see how (and when, and if) performance capture techniques will start to put any of this type of work back into the hands of actors.
Bill Hughes, BamTUBE
Animation is now part of how we tell stories. I guess cave paintings eventually fell out of fashion, but storytelling is still part of the human condition. Animation should be around for a long time and in larger and larger doses.
Glenn Barnes, Big Sandwich Games
Demand for developers is definitely increasing, but so is the supply. The market is only getting bigger. Guys like me who used to play Atari 2600 in our basements are still playing games 30 years later; as we age, new younger gamers are recruited and the gaming population grows. Additionally, you've got the casual games revolution, which turned middle-aged housewives into PC gamers, and senior citizens into Wii/DS addicts. Both of those demographics wouldn't touch video games a decade ago. Even so, there are far more developers around now than there were in the 90s, even just in North America. The result is lots of demand for developers...but lots of competition too.
James Rumpf, Creator of Cartoongems
I think it is increasing because the cost of Flash Animation is becoming more and more affordable.
Gary Thomas, Crush
I think there is a demand for animators with real unique vision, but a declining demand for animators who simply fulfil a technical role. Those roles are always the first to be outsourced. Creativity is harder to be sent offshore.
Anik Rosenblum, Dancing Line Productions
I think it fluctuates, going up and down every few years, depending on new technological trends, the economy, globalization, etc. Really good animators are always in demand, but generally, animation schools produce hundreds of new graduates every year, yet even in good times there is no proportionate growth of studios (or retirement rate to match), so obviously many will struggle to find a job.