Cartoon Animator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dot Advances in technology have made the animation process quicker and cheaper. But software can only do so much. Fundamentally, it's still about art.

"Animation hasn't changed much since its invention," says Todd Ramsay. He co-owns an animation studio that has done work on TV shows like Rocket Monkeys, Max & Ruby, and Angry Birds.

"It's definitely become more digital. Technology has helped to save money and has kept animation jobs in North America. Computer software can help get the end result faster, but in some cases it's taken away from the pencil and paper feel. The only real difference is that animators now draw on a tablet rather than pencil and paper."

dotAnimation supervisor Emily Cooper agrees that the fundamentals of this career have not significantly changed. "Animation itself has always followed the animation principles," she says. "The only notable differences are in the software that studios are now using, and we are seeing more and more integration of 3D into 2D shows."

"I think since we got so good at hyper-ultra-realistic renderings, the industry is trying to shift to different (and often simpler) styles," says New York-based animator Morr Meroz. He created Bloop Animation to share his experiences of making short films.

dotYou can find animators working in video games, web development, feature films, and TV shows. Good animators must have creativity and artistic skills.

"Understanding traditional animation principles is extremely important," says Ramsay. "The software is just a tool to help you animate, but it doesn't do the animation for you. Learning the basics on pencil and paper is very important."

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. Work hours vary widely. "Sometimes the work has just got to be done, no matter how many hours you've already been at work," says Cooper.

dotAnimation 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 to detail.

"Animation is very time-consuming, and patience is required to get the best quality of work out of an artist," says Cooper. "Also problem solving skills and initiative [are important]; each new scene brings a whole new set of problems that need to be worked out."

"Animation is a tedious and often frustrating process," agrees Meroz. "If you lack patience and discipline, you will not enjoy the work."

At a Glance

Make pictures come alive

  • Imagination is important
  • You must be able to draw people, animals and objects in motion
  • A post-secondary education is recommended