How much does animation cost to produce?
June 17, 2011 12:20 PM   Subscribe

How much does modern (non-CG) animation cost to produce?

I am interested in finding out how much animation really costs to produce. I'm interested in various examples if people have them of say features, half hour television shows, anime, etc. I'm aware there will obviously be large variances based on animation quality, where and whether it's outsourced, etc but I have been fairly unsuccessful at getting even a good ballpark of how much animation costs to produce these days. Any information or resources on this topic would be greatly appreciated!
posted by haveanicesummer to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to clarify a bit what you mean. Many animations now-a-days are created via computer generated software.. even the 2d cartoons.

Are you looking for..

A) Traditionally hand drawn, page by page animation.. backgrounds painted on canvas, etc..

B) Modern version of A, where the characters are drawn via tablet and character movement is done with programs?

C) Any form of animation that isn't 3D.

Traditional: Snow White
Modern: Princess and the Frog
3D: Tangled
posted by royalsong at 12:27 PM on June 17, 2011

Response by poster: Any form of animation that isn't "3D computer generated." Sorry I wasn't more specific as I'm very interested in the cost of B.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:38 PM on June 17, 2011

Best answer: It's heavily dependent on where it's done. Among the cheapest places now to find animation studios is Viet Nam.

But there's very much a "how long is a piece of string" aspect to your question, because the cost can vary enormously depending on how ambitious the work is, or how many shortcuts the producer is willing to take. Studio Ghibli has a reputation for doing very high quality animation, for example, and their recent feature length move Ponyo came in at 101 minutes, and was estimated to cost 3.4 billion yen. At the current exchange rate of 80 yen to the dollar, that comes to about $420,000 per minute.

That's very much on the high end of the scale, though. Most anime has a budget in the range of $200,000 per half-hour episode.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:14 PM on June 17, 2011

Best answer: I'm just dashing off a quick answer because I have somewhere to be but if you're interested in animation costs, here are a few links that might give you an idea:

-You asked for non-CG/traditional examples, so I posted stuff about the most recent Disney handdrawn features. I googled quickly, and I recall reading better posts on the subject of handdrawn feature costs. You might try to look through some of the older posts on this blog.... since it is the Animation Union Blog, animation costs are definitely a relevant topic. You might have to sift through other posts, but there's some good info on there.

I would also suggest you look at, another animation website. I pulled this post for you:

I would search through some other posts and read through the comments, as well. There's some good discussion about animation costs.

But the truth is, nobody really knows how much handdrawn animation (at least in terms of features, there might be more transparency with TV shows/shorts, i'm not sure). The only numbers you really get are what the company gives out, and there are always hidden costs or wasted money that the company doesn't want the public to know about. Here I'm also talking mostly about US-created features, I know with anime the costs might be very different (anime often uses limited animation, and I know that japanese animators are not paid nearly enough--issues like these would probably factor into total costs).

-And here is an example of costs in terms of an independently produced animated piece:

In this case the animation (which is fantastic, you should check it out!) was done on a shoe string budget, but issues relating to copyright/licensing drove costs up.

-Also, I know you asked about strictly non-CG animation, but I'm going to post a few links about CG feature costs to give you an idea of how complex and convoluted animation budgets can be:

Keep in mind that handdrawn is generally cheaper than CG (unless production troubles drive costs up), but CG persists because it brings in bigger profits these days.

There's definitely no hard formula for determining how much animation costs to produce, it can vary in so many ways. There are people who can produce some simple animated shorts on a shoe string budget (though it is incredibly hard work), while a tv series might cost a lot more due to complex shots or high production value. I think the only thing I can say for sure is that animation costs a lot more than people (who don't work in the industry) generally think it costs.
posted by sprezzy at 1:32 PM on June 17, 2011

Also, here is another example of a cg short animation. Again, I know you asked for handdrawn but this gives you an idea of animation costs. The creator of this animation claimed he did it on his own for $300, which is outrageously cheap, and there is a lot of skepticism expressed in the comments.
posted by sprezzy at 1:37 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm sorry to post so much but here is one more read about animation costs (I think they reference handdrawn):
posted by sprezzy at 1:49 PM on June 17, 2011

Response by poster: Don't apologize! Thanks so much for the links to dig into! Exactly the sort of information I have been looking for.
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:51 PM on June 17, 2011

Best answer: I haven't dug into the links above, but here's a decent starting point, using Flash software (the least expensive and generally best-known software solution for this sort of thing):

You need these tasks performed:
- Script writing
- Storyboarding
- Art direction
- background and prop design
- character design
- Flash asset-building
- animatic cutting-together
- scene setup and posing
- animation
- afx (if necessary)
- Editing.

Depending on how Cowboy-style you want to do this, you may also need a coordinator.

Now assume you're paying each of those persons between 900 and 1800 dollars per week. The Flash builders and scene setup artists may work for the lower end, but you'll need to spend near the higher end for a good-to-excellent board artist and art director. Excellent animators should receive between 1100 and 1500/week.

Note these are professional rates for North American artists. Overseas, it's cheaper, but te communication will be a bit harder and you may still need to have a "revision artist" over here to fix the mistakes they are unwilling or unable to fix properly.

If you're thinking smaller scale, like an animated short, you may be more interested in finding two or three versatile animation artists who would be happy to tackle the work for between 1400 and 1800 per week.

Disclaimer: I am an animator by trade, and the numbers I've listed are generally nearer the high end. For that price, you should expect very good animation, and will probaby receive it with little trouble. You can hire a decent animator for less, though expect the quality to go down accordingly.

Of course, I've also been assuming that you're looking for fine, technically excellent animation. If you want a rougher (family guy) style, you won't likely need a classically trained animation ninja. But still, an excellent animator knows their timing better and can get you your rough looking animation faster.

Man, I've also been assuming that you're thinking of planning a production. If not, uh, sorry. I am unable to weigh in on costs related to running a studio, buying equipment, maintaining a network, a receptionist, accounting... Man, so much other stuff.

I'm rambling. Feel free to email me ( I think it's in my profile) if I can help more.
posted by TangoCharlie at 4:14 PM on June 17, 2011

Response by poster: Fantastic info and very helpful. I am in fact asking as the very first toe-in-the-water of wondering what it would take to plan a project like this, and what kind of budget would be needed to even consider it, so that's great information. Actually getting a production in motion would be a very long term goal, so I'm still in very early education phase right now.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:36 PM on June 17, 2011

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