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We've already written about the Top North American Cities for Animation Careers, but what about the more globally minded? After all, animation is an art form that transcends languages—and borders.
If you're an animator or game developer wondering what the ani-scene is like beyond your borders, or are an (international) animator looking to chase your roots back to the country of your forefathers...then check out these top 20 cities around the globe where animation, production and gaming industries are flourishing...
1. Madrid, Spain
Perhaps this is a poorly-timed article to mention Spain's thriving industry—but its animation, gaming and production industry is still one of the biggest and best in Western Europe.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of working in the industry in Madrid, is that you get to go to sensational Tenerife for one of the continent's best animation festivals, the Tenerife International Animation Festival. There also great events right in town if Europe's most stunning beaches don't appeal to you, at events like the SIGMAD Animation Festival. You've also got the Animac festival in Lleida, the Animabasuro festival in Bilbao and the Animacor festival in Cordoba.
Animation studios in Madrid include: I-real 3D, Ink Apache, ISKRA, La Bombilla, La Huella FX, Next Limit, Septima ARS, Serena Digital, Sopadesobre, Suburbia, Zinkia, 24 Studio, Animamundo, Ars Animacion, BRB, Canal+ Spain, Cartoon Network Espana, Delfin 3D, Free Your Mind and many more. The list of Madrid gaming studios is just as long, with: Connect2Media, CrazyBits, Deep Silver Spain (Koch Media), EA Spain, Enigma Software Productions, Enne Studios, Freedom Factory Studios, FX Interactive, Gameloft, Mercurysteam Entertainment, Newsoft, Over the Top Games, Pro Studio, Pendulo Studios, Revistronic, Small Wonders, Take 2 Interactive Espana, Tequila Works, Tonika Games, Virtual Toys, Virtway, Zed Group and Zinkia Entertainment.
It should come as no surprise that the city has plenty of schools with animation programs given the sheer quantity of studios in Madrid. Thee studio-filling schools include the Escuela Superior de Communicacion Imagen y Sonido (CICE), the Centro Integral de Cursos Especializados, the Media Business School, Tracor – The Arts Institute, SEPTIMA ARS Escuela de Cine y TV, the Escuela de Profesiones Art, the Escuela Superior de Artes y Espect, and the Escuela Superior de Dibujo Profesional.
While Barcelona has a slightly higher quality of living index—Madrid is where the real excitement is and is geographically at the center of it all. In Madrid you've got three sensational art galleries to draw your animation inspiration from, galleries that form the Golden Triangle—the Prado (featuring works by Botticelli, El Bosco, Velazquez and Goya), the Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza (featuring works by Renoir and Van Eyck), and the Museo Nacional de Arte (with works from the likes of Picasso). If you're a sports fan—you've got the Real Madrid football club. If you don't like art or football (aka soccer) you can always go see the bullfights, or learn to Flamenco dance.
Tokyo is the city that gave birth to famed Palme-d-Or and Golden Lion-winning anime creator Mamoru Oshii (#47 on our list of the top 100 most influential people in animation) AND Japan's equivalent to Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki (#18). It has also given us Anime and Manga; animation studios like Ghibli and Mad House; and gaming houses like Bandai, SEGA and Konami. The country fosters incredible creativity and uniqueness with its myriad of international animation-industry events and associations, like the Tokyo International Anime Fair and the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation.
The insane amount of talent and originality from Japanese animators may be due to the fact that it is a true labor of love for them given how little they are compensated for their endless hours of hard work. Young animators between 20 and 30 will earn, on average, about 1 million yen annually—which is under $13,000. More experienced animators between 30 and 40 surely make good money though right? Wrong, they make just 2 million yen—or $25,000. Even the most senior animators earn in the mid to low $30,000s. BUT—you will be animating with the world's elite.
These pity-worthy little salaries wouldn't be so bad if Tokyo wasn't one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. You'll likely spend 20,000 yen a month on the subway alone (don't even ask the cost of taxis!), and even a tiny place on the Tokyo outskirts will be over 100,000 yen a month. And healthcare? Whoo! Don't even ask.
If you're independently wealthy and decide to become an impoverished Tokyo animator, it will be well worth it though. Tokyo is a city that never sleeps and has redefined the term 'world class'. Its various prefectures mean every part of the city brings something new and exciting. The nightlife is insane in the best possible way and the food beyond compare. It's no wonder Tokyo was voted Monocle's 9th most livable city ad The Economist's 10th favorite.
In terms of animation community, there are tons of small- and large-scale events happening all across the city within the genre AND in nearby Hiroshima you've for the 40-year Hiroshima International Animation Festival.
3. Paris, France
Unlike many entries on this list who's claim to industry fame is their incredible gaming companies, Paris' fame comes from its unique form of visually-inspiring, traditionally-inspired animated storytelling. That isn't to say that they don't have a thriving gaming sector, after all Ubisoft has a strong presence in the city, as do throngs of other gaming studios. But the real jewel is the hundreds of innovative and unique animation studios that line this historic city.
Industry salaries are decent, although in Paris the cost of living is quite high, as are the taxes but at least their people are well taken care of with that tax money. So it's kind of a push. But hey—it's Paris and you'll find never-ending people to discuss the socio-economic climate of the country and complain about declining purchasing power with.
Living in Paris is a dream for many animators—and no wonder, the inspiration is endless with the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Disneyland Paris, The Louvre, the National Modern Art Museum, the Picasso Museum, Moulin Rouge and so much more. Paris is so influential and inspirational that many animated movies have used Paris as the backdrop, including A Monster in Paris, A Cat in Paris, The Aristocrats, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Anastasia and the recent Ratatouille. Despite being the backdrop for many popular animated Disney flicks, Parisian animators have a darker style that is richly infused with political and historical significance.
As a Parisian animator you're also only a short distance from the internationally-acclaimed Annecy Film Festival, the Aix-en-Provence International Film Festival and the Les Nuits Magiques International Animation Film Festival.
Before you follow the visions in your head about moving to Paris and creating your own romantically-influenced animations, know this: you'll have some incredibly steep competition from extremely talented local animators. The city has three exceptional schools with world-class animation programs that fuel the local scene: the École Nationale Superieure Des Arts Decoratifs (ENSAD) (#59 on our list), La Fémis (#27) AND the unparalleled Goeblins (#3).
4. Seoul, South Korea
If you didn't know gaming is popular in South Korea then you're not in the thriving online gaming community. Animation is a close second as a national past time.
This is where we list all the gaming and animation studios in Seoul, but there are literally too many to mention. Some of the major's (to mention but a few big names) are Sunwoo Entertainment, AKOM and Anivision for animation, and for gaming: Ubisoft South Korea, Sony Computer Entertainment Korea, SEGA Korea, Riot Games, Konami Korea, Gameloft Korea, Bandai Korea and AXIS Entertainment.
Unlike places like nearby Japan, that focus on originality—Seoul gaming and animation has been labelled as a sweatshop that produces bulk animation, of primarily foreign-owned work. But no matter the work stream—they have a lot of it and are largely considered one of, if not the biggest, producers of animation in the world. Their industry has almost topped $300 million in earnings. Seoul's animation shops have responded to the overwhelming influx of work by leveraging cottage communities of workers to do large-scale work in short time periods.
Another important factor for the industry in Seoul is how prevalent animation and gaming is in the city. Unlike cities where animators toil away in the background on projects that city dwellers will never even see, Seoul's animation scene is incredibly pervasive in the culture. The city is so committed to animation and gaming that they constructed the Seoul Animation Center, which features a 179-seat Ani-Cinema, Exhibition Hall, Libraries, House of Cartoons, Character Experience Rooms, Educational Facilities and Creation Support Rooms. Seoul's also got four animation festivals, the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, the Puchon International Student Animation Festival, the Chunchon International Anitown Festival and the Indie-AniFest.
If you're sold and are ready to pack your bags and move to SK—Gangnam style, know that you'll have some steep competition from the country's 5,000+ annual grads. If you're thinking Korea might be just the spot to get an animation education, you've got plenty of great options though, including, the SF Film School, the Korean Academy of Film Arts, Hong-ik University, Kaywon School of Art and Design and Sejong University.
5. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland wasn't exactly in the original plans for this list. I mean, it only has 280,000 inhabitants over its 103,000 sq. km. While this extremely northernly country was long considered a film wasteland by the industry, lately they've been changing their toon (animation can be punny, no?).
Framestore believed in the Reykjavik animation scene—so much so that they invested tons of money into opening their newest studio there—a major change of scenery from their other locations, in New York, London and LA. "There is a strong history of film here on the production side, and there are also an amazing number of talented individuals here who have studied animation or worked in visual effects both here in Iceland and abroad. They will thrive on the kinds of projects that Framestore has to offer," says Dadi Einarsson, Lead Animation Supervisor and Framestore veteran.
That decision by Framestore is paying off, as the company has already worked on a number of high-profile movies, including Contraband (for which they did all the VFX), Salt, Australia, Heartless, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 2, Where The Wild Things Are, Sherlock Holmes and more. Not only is Framestore Reykjavik succeeding, it is growing—fast. They have doubled in size in their first three years.
Framestore isn't the only animation studio to thrive in Iceland, homegrown favorite CAOZ recently completed the country's first feature-length animated film, Legends of Valhalla: Thor, a full-feature Stereoscopic 3D CG animation film scheduled for international release. MIDSTRAETI is another Icelandic animation/production studio doing quite well for themselves.
These companies are succeeding not only for their talent but also because of the 20% tax incentive for film makers from the government, a subsidy that includes post production. They've also got a low currency thanks to the country's economic meltdown a few years ago. Another key to the industry's success is the fact that it is well supported by the fine work at the Icelandic Film Commission.
And that is just the animation work. There is also a vibrant game-dev community made up of a healthy amount of studios for such a small population. Studios that include: CCP Games, Dexoris, Gogogic, MindGames, NARC, On The Rocks Productions and Ymir Mobile.
OK—so the industry is thriving, but why would animators want to move to Iceland? Well, Iceland has topped quality of life indexes time and time again, including The Economist's highly-regarded quality of life index. The unbeatable ratings regularly earned by Reykjavik is thanks to the country's high employment, overall life satisfaction, OECD-leading life expectancy, gorgeous natural environment and tight-knit community. They don't have the highest salaries but nobody seems to mind.
Iceland is a sensational spot to be an animator—so long as you don't get confused by the odd daylight hours. Going to animation school in Iceland is a great option as well, you should see the view and classrooms at the Reykjavik School of Visual Arts (RSVA).
6. Shanghai, China
Well we all knew China would make the list somewhere. And for darn good reason—Shanghai's animation/gaming industry is HUGE. Shanghai animation has thus far been dominated by the mammoth Shanghai Animation Film Studio and to a slightly lesser extent Sparx Animation Studios—but that may change given that DreamWorks announced earlier this year they will be opening a studio there. Not only are they opening a studio there, it's a BIG one. $350-million kind of big. It will co-produce the third Kung Fu Panda installation.
Quantity aside, there are also tons of boutique studios that showcase the truly innovative side of the city. Studios that are shrugging off the animation sweatshop reputation with their innovative work.
Like many cities on this list, Shanghai has great animation—but an even stronger gaming industry. There are an insane amount of studios that have carved out a space for themselves amongst Shanghai's skyscrapers. These include: 2K Games China, CCP Games, DeNA China, EA Shanghai, Epic Games China, Gamestar (Disney Interactive), Hands-On Mobile, Ncsoft China, PopCap Games, Radiance Digital Entertainment, Red 5 Studios, Red Rocket Games, Shanda Interactive, SOCO SOFT, Softstar Entertainment, Spicy Horse, Spil Games Asia, The 9, TipCat Interactive, Ubisoft Shanghai, Ultizen Games, Virtuos, WEBEZEN China and Wemade Entertainment.
Animators in the city remain well-trained and in-touch with the industry thanks to events like the China International Cartoon & Animation Festival in neighboring Hangzhou.
Life is good for animators in Shanghai. Well, except for the pollution and high cost of living (20th highest in the world) of course. But big-city life is vibrant in this 'Paris of the East'--and if you can get past the smog and traffic you'll find yourself in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Shanghai animators get to enjoy all the great expat experiences that only Shanghai can offer, including heading to regular brunches at a Muslim noodle shop, dancing the night away at famed Bar 88 and wearing pyjama's throughout the day with the small percentage of the Shanghai population trying desperately to hang on to the city's old-world ways.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is continually rated one of the best places to live on the planet and, somewhat more importantly, has one of the highest citizenry happiness rates in the world. It may seem an obscure place for animators, but know this: the city's gaming and animation industry is booming thanks to its home-grown talent. So much so that Rovio opened a gaming studio there.
In addition to Rovio, there are throngs of other successful gaming studios (including a large contingent from EA), studios that include: Avalanche Studios, Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) (part of EA), Easy Studio (EA), ExtraLives, Fabrication Games, Fatshark, G5 entertainment, GamersGate, Gammafon, Jadestone, Might & Delight, Mojang Specifications, PAN Vision Studio, Parado Interactive, Pixel Tales, Talawa Games and Unit9.
Gaming isn't the only industry in Stockholm to boom either, they also have a happening animation scene that is home to studios like Againstallodds, Aplhaville AB, AMN Film, Blandteknik HB, Bulls Eye 3D, Castell Media, Cinematic Stockholm, Degaussian, Embrya AB, Fido Film AB, FilmTecknarna Animation, Forsman Animation, Goodmotion, Happy Life, Kaktus Film, Mad Crew, Magnus Carlsson Production, Magoo, Nyberg Animation, Rylander Animation, TestNo7, The Chimney Pot, Zigzag Animation, Tosun Animation Studio, ILP VFX and WERK.
Beyond the throngs of successful animation, gaming and production companies to work at, there are plenty of reasons for animators to be happy in Stockholm—they are afforded a very comfortable life. With an average salary of about 30,000Krona (about $4,600 USD, at the time of writing) you will be sittin' pretty—even though 35%+ goes to taxes. Luckily a reasonable one-bedroom apartment in Stockholm can be found for about 7,000kr monthly and an average meal for 90kr.
Not only are wages good, jobs plentiful and the quality of life index high, animators are also well-supported by a tight-knit community that is assisted by Stockholm-based animation events and associations like FIA (the Forum for International Animation)--who host annual events, exhibitions, workshops, guests, parties, debates and more.
The city has a number of decent animation education programs, although none of which are globally touted. The city could be an interesting spot for any relocating animator—and an easy transition for any English speaker given the high prevalence of near-perfect English levels.
Oh and foodies, you'll fall in love with the city's available gastronomy. If you're not a foodie you won't be lacking for things to do in Stockholm, like visiting castles, neighboring old-world cities and exploring the gorgeous backdrop of the eastern Archipelago—and its 30,000 islands and skerries.
8. Hamburg, Germany
If you've ever seen a German gamer at play then you'll understand the fervour of the Germany gam-dev industry. At the hub of that industry is Hamburg.
While Hamburg has some top-notch animation studios, like Animationsfabrik, trikk17, SFA, Pictorion Magma Animation and Vertra, the true lifeblood of Hamburg's production community is its gaming industry. The city includes a long list of gaming studios, including: 49 Games, Bigpoint, Bytro Labs, Candygun Games, Daedalic Entertainment, DTP, Eidos Interactive, Exit Games, Fishlabs Entertainment, FXLAB, gamecity Hamburg, Gamigo, GIANTS Software, Goodgame Studios, InnoGames, INTENTUM, Intent Software, krassGames, Mobile Bits, Northworks Software, Oetinger Verlag, Phi Mobile, Pixon, Playa Games, Pop Rocket Games, Sofatronic, Splitscreen Studios, Ticking Bomb Games, XYRALITY, and many more. Of course the long list of gaming studios doesn't detract from city's close-knit pack of animators, supported by industry committees like the one that gives away the city's annual Hamburg Animation Award.
If the strong German work ethic and commitment to detail appeals to your sensibilities then certainly consider Hamburg. The city has a very reasonable cost of living and a high quality of life index—an index that is undoubtedly influenced by the strong state care. Care that costs about 35% of your paycheque to support—but hey, free, world-leading healthcare. While steep taxes shrinks the Hamburg animator's average salary of €31,000 – €40,000 greatly—living costs are low enough to still maintain a great standard of living. To give you an idea you can get a decent flat in Hamburg for about €750. You can also get a sensational meal that any foodie would die for at the Hamburg Fish Market, for under €10.
For anyone looking for a gaming/animation education, then the precise and challenging German-style training could be just what you need. Hamburg has two great schooling options for aspiring animators and game dev-ers, the Animation-School-Hamburg and AWGD Akademie Werbung Grafik Druck.
As a bonus to being a Hamburg animator, in nearby Berlin you have one of the world's greatest film festivals, the Berlin International Film Festival, the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, the Festival of Animated Film Stuttgart and the Bitfilm Festival.
9. Bangalore, India
Voted the highest quality of life in the mysterious sub-continent of India it is no wonder the bustling metropolis has become such a popular destination for animators—for both Indian- and American-born animators looking to relocate. Yup—you heard that right, Americans born of Indian descent have begun chasing their roots and jobs as they head to Indian cities like Bangalore, for the massive amount of technical jobs being created by the country's incredible technology boom.
Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of the East, with 1,500 transnational technology companies—a number which is growing quickly—companies that help to employ a decent percentage of the city's 8.5 million inhabitants. These multinational tech companies include many animation giants that have begun outsourcing some of their production work to India, which includes Disney, Sony and Imax. DreamWorks has also gotten in on the Bangalore game, by making it the home of their DreamWorks Dedicated Unit—the team that worked on the recent blockbuster hit, Puss in Boots.
Despite success of the big studios, the bulk of the work being done in Bangalore is for commercials, Indian TV and for the gaming industry—which makes the city an ideal place for those looking for technical animation roles. Beyond the majors there are plenty of other animation companies making waves, including: Toonz Animation, Crest Communications, Maya Entertainment, Silvertoon Studio, UTV Toons, Zee Institute of Creative Arts, 2NZ Studios, Pentamedia Graphics, Prasad Studios, Acropetal, JadooWorks, Color Chips and Heart Animation. One of the country's most prominent—and state-of-the-art—studios, Toonz Animation, in nearby Kerala employs over 400 artists and technicians alone. “Work is pouring in from places like the United States, Europe and Asia in the form of outsourced projects and co-production deals," says P. Jayakumar, CEO of Toonz Animation.
The animation and gaming community in Bangalore goes far beyond work; animation cultural events are at your fingertips too. You'll never be short on industry events or animation inspiration in India with its near-incessant stream of film and animation festivals, including the Anifest in Mumbai, the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films, the cross-India Silver Salt Animation Festival and the Jaipur Animation Film Festival.
The stream of work pouring into India fueling the animation job scene won't be slowing down anytime soon. This in pouring is largely thanks to the pure costs savings offered by the country and city; a full-length animated film that costs over $100 million in the US will cost between just $15 million to $25 million in India. When you combine the extremely low production cost with a huge base of well-trained, English-speaking workforce, you've got the right conditions for a prolonged animation boom. The National Association of Software and Services Companies project total annual animation revenues in India well above $300 million, with a projected growth rate of 20%.
Salaries range from $5,000 to $22,000, which is low on an international scale but living costs in Bangalore match the salaries, making it an attractive destination for animators from all over Asia.
Aside from animation, Bangalore is a rising star in India and has been attracting young, mobile workers for some time. For a while the city was marred by some of the world's worst traffic but their new long-awaited metro system has improved the city in leaps and bounds.
Banglore's animation schools haven't quite caught up with the industry growth yet, which means aspiring animators often head off to nearby Chennai, Mumbai and Pune for an education. There are a number of very talented schools in these neighbouring cities that are producing industry-ready grads fueling the industry's success, schools like NID, ICAT, IID, Creative-i-College, IID, and MAAC. There is also the Toonz Academy in nearby Kerala—close to Toonz Animation, one of the country's top employers and regular Toonz Academy scouter.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
The animation, gaming, VFX and post production industry in Istanbul is blooming, no doubt in thanks to the prominent festivals that showcase the city's talent, festivals like the International Istanbul Film Festival, the Istanbul International Short Film Festival and the !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival. A professional working in the industry certainly couldn't ask for a better fostered creative environment than that offered by Istanbul.
Gaming studios in the city include: 2GEN Studio, Akiza, Aral Ithalat, ArcadeMonk, Bigsoft, Eurosoft, FortyFo, Gamester, Global Game Center, Gripati Digital Entertainment, Infosfer, Kakare Interactive, Kukla Interactive, MagiClick Games, Peak Games, Sobee, Tiglon, Tikle, Tradeks, Yogurt Technologies, Zeotrope Interactive. The city's animation studios include the likes of: Cordoba Animation Studio, Industrial Digital Arts Pictures (IDA), Paradox, Toon Effects, Ulkutay, BHB, DigiFlame Productions, IAF, 1000 Volt and Sinefekt Post Production.
The biggest issue about being an animator in Turkey is the fact that the average salary in the country (and in Istanbul) is about $550 USD per month. An animator with the bigger studios can be paid more—but let's face it: nobody becomes an animator to get rich anyways.
Life in Istanbul is phenomenal though, infused with the kind of rich history and tapestry that only southeastern Europe countries can offer. You'll be spending your off days exploring the Roman Aqueduct, in the various museums, bumming around the former Constantinople, taking boat rides down the Bosphorus, eating authentic home-cooked Turkish meals, playing boardgames in public spaces with complete strangers, exploring local markets like the Grand Bazaar and visiting the city's thriving art galleries that fuel the city's artistic renaissance. Not too shabby.
11. London, England
Despite experiencing early success, since the utter beginnings of the art form, animation took a small dip in London in the early 2000s. Despite mainstream success with franchises like Wallace & Gromit, London was unable to compete with the animation-industry tax breaks in nearby France (almost 20%), Ireland (up to 28%) and Canada—not to mention work heading overseas to India and the rest of Asia. But thanks to a 20-25% government subsidy announced earlier this year the slowly shrinking London animation scene is expected to rebound—in a big way. Richard Wilson of gaming-industry trade group TIGA expects that the move will generate and safeguard almost 5,000 jobs in the gaming industry alone.
The animation industry in London is a fairly tight-knit scene, consisting of many well-connected firms like Aardman Animations and community groups like the London Animation Club, which meets in rather clandestine locations so that attending a meeting is like playing a game of espionage. Other London-based animation studios include Chapman Entertainment, Jim Henson's Creature Shop, The Moving Picture Company, Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick, Studio AKA, Seed Animation, Blue Zoo, BE Animation, Cake Studio, Unanico Group, Klacto Animations, Ashley Baker Davies Ltd., Picasso Pictures, Trunk Animation, Red Star Studio and many more. And of course let's not forget the BBC.
A healthy chunk of the professional animators in London graduated from the city's top animation programs—which happen to be some of the best on the planet. Two of the city's top animation schools made our list of the top 100 animation schools in the world, the Royal College of Art (#43) and the National Film and Television School (#44). Another major London powerhouse fuelling the city's animation and gaming grads is Bournemouth's attention-worthy animation program (which quite frankly should have made the list).
Salaries for animators in London range from £12,000 - £15,000 for entry level, but that rises significantly, to £23,000 - £25,000 with some experience—just enough to get you a tiny flat. But then again, in London, all the flats are tiny. But before blowing most of your salary on rent and pints in the pub, save a few quid for the 10-day London International Film Festival—one of the world's most prominent industry events—an event chocked full of gala premiers, retrospectives and workshops.
The animation scene goes far beyond just the London film fest though, you've also got the Encounters Bristol International Film Festival and the onedotzero Adventures in Motion event in London. And since you can drive around the entire country in but a few short hours—let's not forget the Babelgum Animation Film Festival in Windsor, the Canterbury Anifest in Canterbury and the Flip Festival International Animation Festival in Wolverhampton.
Singapore's animation industry is still in its infancy with only a decade in the business but it is the fastest growing animation hub in the world—which is why George Lucas decided to open up a major studio there. Their studio in Singapore houses divisions for Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts AND Lucasfilm Animation, and works on projects like Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, Iron Man, Transformers, the hit television series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS and throngs of games.
Singapore's animation industry is best known for its strength in the gaming sector. The small country is host to not only LucasArts, but also Atari, EA, Ubisoft, plus hundreds of smaller studios. The city is more than just gaming though, it also has throngs of animation studios—including a little one you might have heard of called Disney.
When animation first found Singapore it began as a sweatshop for foreign animation firms but the growing industry is quickly building its autonomy by owning or co-owning the intellectual property rights of the great work being done. Take Sparky Animation, a studio that recently signed a deal with Jim Henson Co., to co-produce the Dinosaur Train series, or look at August Media Holdings who signed a $60 million contract with US company Classic Media to help produce many of their shows. Singaporeans aren't short on innovation either (a common trait labeled on countries that produce lower-cost animation), especially with companies like Tiny Island Productions who are completing a 26-episode series in 3D—the first in the country.
A major benefit of animators looking to relocate to Singapore is that English is one of the country's four official languages, but if you want a real treat—learn some local slang so that you can understand their ear-delighting 'Singlish'.
If you decide to make the move to Singapore, you won't run out of things to do as the city is alive with shopping, nightlife, restaurants and sports (they take their sports VERY seriously!). If you're a foodie you will adore the city's great eats as the country's various ethnic influences translate into award-winning Chinese, Indian, Malay and fusion fishes. And oh the seafood Foodies will often find themselves eating at 'hawker' food stalls (small, local restaurants on the street) to save some coin though as life in Singapore can be quite expensive. Especially the rent.
While some firms, like Lucasfilm, pay far above the average wage, most animators in Singapore make between $1200-$2000 (Singapore dollars) monthly. At least the tax is just 10%. Lucasfilm and some of the other majors have more livable salaries, at between $25,000 to $75,000 annually.
A relocation to Singapore is recommended more for singles than for families or couples looking to start a family, since international school fees for kids can be up to $30k USD annually (and that's just children!).
While it might be worth it, relocating to Singapore to work in animation isn't easy, as Singapore trains its national animators very, very well. Consider the area's top animation schools, Nanyang Technological University (#68 on our top 100) and MIT's prestigious Gambit Game Lab (#5)—an animation research facility and school that is on the vanguard of the industry.
13. Brisbane, Australia
G'day mate! Australia is the land that needs no introduction, and Brisbane is one of its most happening cities. Brisbane serves as one of the main cultural hubs of the country, with a great live music scene, tons of galleries and performing arts. Billboard voted Brisbane on the Top 5 International Music Hotspots. Another great thing about living in Brisbane? Getting out of Brisbane and making the hop, skip and a jump to the famed Gold Coast—an extremely popular tourist destination renowned for its gorgeous beaches, sunny weather and surfing.
While Australia has had a long and rich history of nationally-syndicated animation with popular productions like Blinky Bill and Hoota and Snoz, the country really hit their international stride in 2006 with Happy Feet. Happy Feet being the first internationally-acclaimed full-length feature produced by an Aussie (well, co-produced in this case).
Since breaking onto the international stage the well-represented Australian Directors' Guild has been calling for formal representation within the animation arena—showing just how much faith they have in the growth of the industry.
One of the great things about the Brisbane animation industry, is that the city doesn't seem to have the education facilities to keep up with the growth of the industry (besides the lonely Quantm College). The city is a prime relocation spot for international talent and for the large talent pool coming out of Sydney's Australian Film Television and Radio School, the Sydney Film School, the University of Technology Sydney, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment and Melbourne's Centre for Animation and Interactive Media (RMIT) and the Victorian College of the Arts.
Brisbane has a good array of studios for relocating animators, including popular gaming studios like: 3 Blokes Studios, Defiant Development, Electronic Games Queensland, Eyecon, Fuzzeye Studios, Halfbrick Studios, Krome Studios, N3V Games, Tantlus, The Binary Mill, The Creative Assembly Australia and Wildfire Studios. There is also a long list of popular animation studios, including: Animal Logic, Studio Joho, Bigfish.tv, Ambience Entertainment, Blue Rocket, Liquid Animation, The People's Republic of Animation, Excellent Video Production, Light Knights Entertainment, JellyFirm Animation, Asterisk* Productions, Changeling Productions Australia, Gep-Art Studios, Hell Yeah! Design, Keypoze, Liquid Animation Pty Ltd., Lucid Realms Multimedia, Media Odyssey, Queensland Animators, S P Krause, The Third Shoe, Visual Media Productions, Visual Media Productions, Max Bannah Animation and Koscad Design & Animation.
The pay for Brisbane animators varies greatly, ranging from $34,000 up to $100,000+ AUD, which means your commitment to their national pastime—drinking in the pub—will be dependent on which studio you join.
For those who has heard that Australia's “F*@# off we're full!” immigration policy makes entry to the country difficult, you'd be right. But, the industry is always on the lookout for well-trained talent. To skirt around the often tough immigration rules, consider heading over on a holiday or on a Working Holiday Visa and meeting with studio heads face to face.
Even if you don't feel like relocating down under, you may want to take a much-needed break from your 12-hour animation days and head to gorgeous Australia for the Melbourne International Animation Festival and/or the Sydney International Animation Festival.
14. Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht sure doesn't get the fanfare that its neighbor Amsterdam does—but it gets the animation jobs. Utrecht has a surprisingly large amount of highly-creative boutique studios for a small European country. Studios that are spread evenly between gaming and animation.
Animation studios in the area include: Educa Video, il Luster Productions, Imagehunter, Sightline Productions, SilverBullet 3D Imaging, Metropolisfilm, Studio Carambolas, Yellow Monkey, Planet X FX, Filmmore, Karton Films, Comic House, Animatiestudio, Studio Mosquito, Plastic Tolstoy and many more. Gaming studios include: Activeworlds Europe, BoosterMedia, Dreams of Danu, Force Labs, Halcyon Interactive, Haute Technique, Headcandy, Hubbub, ISOTX, Pladin Studios, Ronimo Games, Vlambeer and Xform Games.
All these gaming studios are well supported by the Dutch Games Association. All these gaming and animation studios don't need to look far for well-qualified candidates as the city is home to the illustrious Utrecht School of the Arts, a small school that trains its animation graduates extremely well thanks to taking just 100 students annually and ensuring a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:6.
The average animator salary in Utrecht is very reasonable at 26,000 EURO, but be ready to give a bunch of that to the taxman. Quality of life in Utrecht is extremely high though, with life services being provided by the government, like healthcare, schooling and unemployment insurance.
Beyond basic needs, the country will also nurture your soul as an animator as its hosts several film and animation industry festivals and events, including the annual Holland Animation Film Festival (HAFF) and the Klik! Amsterdam Animation Festival.
15. Helsinki, Finland
Oh, I guess we should say a little more than that. Finnish gaming company Rovio came up with hit sensation Angry Birds and officially put Finland on the gam-dev map—but Rovio isn't the only great find in Finland.
Helsinki has been making waves in the European gaming industry for some time now, and the city is now home to a large number of game-industry studios, including: 3D Arts N Magic, Aniway, Bugbear entertainment, Casual Continent, Digital Chocolate Helsinki, Everyplay, Frozenbyte, Grip Studios Interactive, HouseMarque, Intervisio, Ironstar Helsinki, Kuuasema, Nitro Games, Recoil Games, Red Lynx (Ubisoft), Rocket Pack, Sauma, Secret Exit, Sulake Labs, Supercell, Valve and Kombo (recently purchased by Rovio). Gaming might be the focus of this northern-European city but it certainly isn't the only industry, the city also has a thriving boutique animation industry, with a number of successful studios, including: Anima Vitae, Finnanimation, Fluid Interaction, Piñata, Anima Boutique and more.
The strong gaming industry in this Finnish capital is well-supported by the Finland Chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), who project continued growth in the industry for years to come.
Not only is there a large animation and gaming scene in Helsinki, it is a highly-creative and acclaimed industry, which has led to the city's great success. Their success is showcased in their annual industry events, including the Helsinki International Film Festival, the Animatricks Festival, Helsinki Design Week and now as a stop on the Cut&Paste international digital design tournament.
The average salary in Helsinki is a very livable 35,000 EURO to 50,000 EURO. And while taxes are quite high their social government means you will be well taken care of. Life is very good in this capital city, so good in fact that it was named the #1 city to live in, in Monocle's Most Livable Cities Index 2011.
16. Moscow, Russia
Soviet Russia, character animates you. If that were the case, Moscow's animation output wouldn't be as insanely creative as it is. This success in animation is a revival phenomenon, of the country's rich animation roots. Russia has an incredibly rich animation history that begins in the 1920s, then the country experienced a paradigm shift in the 1930s and 1940s to Socialist Realism. The country continued to make strong animation until the unfortunate economic crisis of the 1990s, which left the country's cinematic prowess in a state of lethargy. It wasn't until the mid 2000s that the Russian film industry experienced a renaissance when the state funded 68 films, that included 3 full-length films. Just four years later 109 films were made, 12 of which were full-length feature films.
With this renaissance came plenty of post-production and animation work that the downturned economy jumped on, turning the scene into an extremely successful post-production, and animation industry. For a phenomenal in-depth description of the Russian animation revival process, see Larisa Maliukova's dissertation on KinoKultura.
Today's Russian animation scene includes well-established and rising-star studios like Animos Film and the Sverdlovsk Animation Studio. Oh and in '06 Disney opened their The Walt Disney company CIS in Moscow. The country now has claim to animators like Aleksander Petrov, and internationally-acclaimed works like He and She (the adaptation of Gogol''s “Old-world Landowners”).
If culturally- and historically-influenced rich animation isn't your scene—then the Moscow game-dev community might be for you. The city has a great landscape of game-dev studios, including the likes of EA Russia, 1C Company, Akella, Astrum Online Entertainment Group, Buka Entertainment, Crazy Bit, Discus Games, Eagle Dynamics, G5 Entertainment, Gaijin Entertainment, IT Territory, MADia Entertainment, Mist Land Games, New Edge, Nikita, Nival Interactive and Nival Online, Novivy Disk Company, PressOK Entertainment, Reaxion, Russobit-M, Sibiliant Interactive, Sky Fallen Entertainment, Space Dream Factory, Time Zero and Vogster Entertainment.
Russian animators get to recharge at the annual Message to Man International Film Festival Documentary, Short and Animated Film Fest over in St. Petersburg.
For anyone looking to relocate to the city, be warned though—it's crazy expensive. It is ranked the most expensive city in Europe for expats. Driving up the living and business costs even more are the rampant levels of corruption and all the danger that corruption brings (think: pricey paid security).
If you decide that Moscow is your education destination, then you have a few options for animation educations, the FirstField Studio, School-Studio Shar, Steepler Training and the Academy of Fantasy Animation Studio.
17. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ever since the acclaimed animated film Rio, from Brazilian director and animator Carlos Saldanha (also responsible for Ice Age), the world has begun paying attention to the Brazil animation scene, in a big way.
Leading Brazilian animation studios are now fostering the new talent that are leading the Latin American animation industry. Sao Paulo's studios include: Lightstar Studios, Vagalume Animation Studios, Tortuga Studios, Lobo, Studio BKS, Cassio Rossi Productions, Cadtriech Computacao Grafica, Ene Solutions, Gabba Studio, Intervoices Commuicao Global, MM Films, MOP Brasil Digital, Skerzo Cinema, TV PinGuim Animation and more.
Besides quickly-growing animation studios, the city has a lot to offer budding and experienced animators—like Anima Mundi, the continent's best international film festival. Sao Paulo's also got two great animation schools, Azimut and Academia de Animacao e Arts Digitales.
The average salary is a bit low by international standards, at $12,000, and it won't get you into the city's swankier neighborhoods like Moema (where the average salary won't even pay your rent)--but you'll be able to get by in one of the city's decent boroughs. The standard of living is significantly different for animators in Sao Paulo than those in the US for example, as material items are costly and labor cheap—the polar opposite of America.
18. Buenos Aires, Argentina
The newly powerful animation scene in Buenos Aires is well-supported and well-connected through events like International Animation Day celebration, Expotoons and the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film and the Animated BAFICI.
The city's gaming studios include: Gameloft, GoldMine Studio, Ivolgamus, MetroGames, Platico, QB9, Red Katana, Sabarasa Entertainment, Three Melons and Vostu. Production/animation studios in Buenos Aires include talented boutique like ASTROLAB MOTION, GAZZ TV, Hook Up Animation, JPZStudio, NUTS Studio, TOMA Virtual by Imagineers, BIANCU Animation Productions, Encuadre S.A. and PepperMelon.
The city has a great animation program feeding the city's top animation, production and gaming firms, at the Escuela Da Vinci college.
Animators in Buenos Aires have the opportunity to do fun and uniquely Argentinian activities like dancing the Argentine Tango and drinking Mate. They also get to enjoy the interesting climatic regions in the country that include tropical climates in the north and tundra in the south. And then there is Patagonia, which holds some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet. Oh and don't forget about Argentina having some of the best skiing in the world!
19. Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv, over the last decade, has experienced an influx of wealth and a growth of progressive culture, and feeding it all is its world-class cuisine. This Mediterranean metropolis has grown into an incredible place to live, with a booming economy—all despite being in near constant political conflict.
This growth and innovation from a booming economy has extended to the city's animation industry, which is creating spectacular animations that are doing very well on the international stage. Animation firms making waves in Tel Aviv include: Blend Studio, Crew 972, Gadget Studio, Handsup, PIL Animation, Le FrenchBulldog Animation Studio, Syndrome VFX, Carla Animations, Studio Aiko, WHITErabbit, NOGA and Studio FatCat. This long list continues into the game production sector, with companies like Corbomite Games, Funtactix, GameIS, Mytopia, Nitako, Nordeus, Playful Shark, Playtika, SpikySnail Games and We Create Stuff.
The downside in Tel Aviv animation jobs is the discrepancy in salary and high cost of living. Some jobs pay just under $1,000 USD a month (paid in Shekels and varies with exchange rate) while others $3,000+ USD (paid in Shekels and varies with exchange rate). The lower end of that scale will barely afford you a one-bedroom in Tel Aviv—so aim high. Despite the financial hardships though, Israelis and expat animators in Israel say simply: it's worth it.
If you're thinking of stealing one of the coveted animation jobs in Israel though, you better be darned good at your job—because the graduates from Israel's Camera Obscura School of Art are.
20. Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand brings us even bigger contributions to the international film scene than its home-grown hero, internationally-acclaimed director/producer Peter Jackson. NZ also gives us Auckland and its incredible animation, post production, gaming and VFX scene.
The city's animation and production studios include 2nd Nature, S.O.B Animation, Anim-8 Productions, Cirkus, Flux, La Luna, Mukpuddy, Perceptual Engineering, Yukfoo, Oktober, Play Studio, Rhubarb Zoo, Huhu Studio, and oh so many more.
The city's thriving gaming studios include Binary Star, Boolba Labs, Custard Square, Gameloft, Grinding Gear Games and Ninja Kiwi. The city's lively animation, production and VFX industry is supported by the Auckland Film Society and its animators stay on the vanguard of the industry by attending events like the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Life is darned good for Auckland animators, with average mid-level salaries between $40,000 to $50,000 per year and experienced animators making $104,000 to $146,000 annually. Even newbs can survive, earning above minimum wage with salaries reaching $40,000. Considering a one-bedroom flat in the city center rents for about $1,400 and the average meal is $15—these salaries ain't too shabby!
If you're thinking of moving to the illustrious and insanely green country to score a sweet animation job, know that the city has many animation programs that will offer you steep homegrown competition. These competition-offering animation programs include the Freelance Animation School, Lifeway College, Media Design School, South Seas Film & TV School and The Drawing Studio.