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How do I Break into the Animation Industry?

Josie Myers
Josie Myers

The animation industry is a competitive field with a wide variety of possibilities. Most who are interested in breaking into animation need to start at the very bottom of the pack before they get a break. Talent is necessary and a degree with computer experience is helpful, but neither is a guarantee of employment.

There are different types of jobs available in animation. Both two dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) animation are still being produced, so there are jobs in drawing and computer animation. Storyboard artists turn scripts into pictures that lay out the basic storyline for the other animators. Layout artists design the background scenes behind the action.

Traditional illustration skills are recommended for a career in the animation industry.
Traditional illustration skills are recommended for a career in the animation industry.

To begin a career in the animation industry, a degree is always a good idea. Art schools offer specialized degrees and coursework in this field, and computer skills are an absolute necessity. Students should look to take as many courses in computer illustration, art, and animation as possible. A working knowledge of Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) is extremely helpful as well.

A flower drawn by an animation artist.
A flower drawn by an animation artist.

Because of the great focus on computers, many people believe that they only need to understand computer technology to be a successful animator, but that it not the case. The highest quality of computer animation involves an artist's eye and hand, and it requires skills that can only be gained by the study of art. According to the best animation studios, there is no substitute for an artist's hand, even in the age of technology.

Anyone who wants to break into the industry should be prepared for some time doing menial labor before his or her talent is likely to be recognized. There are a great many talented artists on the market, and only so many animator positions open. Many artists have to begin on the literal bottom rung of the ladder as a gopher or other similar position to prove themselves.

Someone with a degree will be excited to see that large animation studios often have openings for someone with this education. The new college graduate may be disappointed to find that the job involves tasks that hardly seem artistic, but these jobs can provide that all important foot in the door. No animation studio is going to come knocking on a new graduate's door for a job, so persistence and hard work, even in doing a menial job, is the key to being recognized.

Sometimes, the jobs are specifically computer-based, like dealing with data saves, checking disk space, and testing software. Others require knowledge of web-based animation and web design. For those lucky enough to get an actual animation job to begin with, the usual starter position is as an "inbetweener." These beginning animators fill in the blanks between key scenes by imitating other animators' drawings. It may not be the most glamorous position in the animation industry, but it is a necessary task and one of the few starter positions that involves actual animation.

Discussion Comments


Am just an average African but got some skills in this. Really tough for me i guess.

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    • Traditional illustration skills are recommended for a career in the animation industry.
      By: Pakhnyushchyy
      Traditional illustration skills are recommended for a career in the animation industry.
    • A flower drawn by an animation artist.
      By: lenka
      A flower drawn by an animation artist.