To look at whether animators are rich or not it is important to consider different kinds of animation, various studios in different locations, and the current options for an animator in 2021.
People often consider animation employees solely as those who work for major studios like Disney and Pixar but the truth is that this is a very small percentage of all animators.
It is worth mentioning that the cities in which a high salary is provided to animators (LA, New York, etc.) have very high costs of living. Despite the high average Disney animator salary in LA ($116,000-$125,000) giving animators a “rich” status, living in Los Angeles provides most people with a high salary with its average worker making $78,000 a year. According to Glassdoor, the average animator across the whole of America does not live on the six figures mentioned previously, but rather $74,000, compared to an average salary for an American worker of $65,836. Though the term “rich” is subjective, most Americans consider the rich to have an annual income of at least $100,000. Though this is possible for the small percentage of animators working for Disney, this is rare for somebody outside of a studio in a major city
Furthermore, a lot of these companies’ employees are not given full time positions and do not have a stable yearly income due to production durations varying greatly as a result of TV shows being cancelled and having regular hiatuses in which employees are unpaid.
Many do become rich at major studios but more often than not this applies to well-established directors and producers as well as storyboard artists, making up to $4000 a week. The need to climb the ladder at a studio for those who want to become rich implies that it is generally not the animators within studios who become rich. Walt Disney would be known as the richest and most famous animator, however, the majority of his net worth came about as he branched away from specifically being an animator. His situation was also very much an exception!
When looking at animators living and working in other countries like England, where most animators are making close to the average UK salary, it is clear that the blanket statement of all animators being rich is not accurate. £38,600 is said to be the average salary in London, but the average salary of an animator in the capital sits below that at £35000. At Framestore, one of the biggest studios in the UK, a senior animator can make up to £95,000 a year and though this is a lot of money for a UK worker, this is not reflective of animators in general and is the average of a minority who end up in this position.
Another variable when looking at the average salaries of animators is the particular type of animation they create.
The national average for a motion graphics animator is $62,000 a year, whilst the average for 2D animators is between $40,00 and $60,000, so becoming rich in the animation industry obviously depends highly upon which area one focuses on. Choosing a job in animation can not only mean having an average salary, but at times can leave animators with a below-average salary.
However, it must be said that many animators are now setting their own career paths independently. It is easier than ever to become a self-employed artist with developments in technology, readily available equipment and remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic becoming much more common. Freelancing provides animators with an opportunity to set a day rate far higher than a studio will offer, and provided they have rich clients, it is possible for freelance artists to make far above average, with average hourly rates in the US reaching up to $150 per hour. Though at times freelancing brings uncertainty, this is generally something that eases throughout one’s self-employment, with well-established freelance animators at times being inundated with high paying clients looking to pay good money. This seems to be the new way of working, so much so that 59 percent of animators are said to now be self-employed. It is likely that one of the main reasons for this is the opportunity for one to create a very comfortable living from animating. Freelancing is not the only way in which self-employed animators are getting paid for their skills, as many creatives are growing a following on social media and ultimately being paid to create content on sites like YouTube and Skillshare. Aaron Blaise is an example of somebody who has used his platform as a former Animator and Director at Disney to start teaching animation online, showing that making money as an animator is no longer dependent on working for a studio. He has even gone on to develop his own short film, which will undoubtedly become another source of income. The same can be said of Glen Keane, who is now not only known for his skill in animation but also his independent work. Others worth mentioning that have created success through animation include Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’, Trey Park and Matt Stone, who have a combined net worth of almost nine figures, Stephen Hillenburg, now worth almost 100 million, Mike Judge and many more. Despite these animators being exceptions, they are proof that the animation industry holds no limits to a person’s success nowadays.
In conclusion, it is possible to create a very good income as an animator, though entering the animation industry is not a guaranteed way of achieving this as the majority of animators working for a studio will not be provided with a salary that would consider somebody “rich”. However, many who are not seen as wealthy by the public are still earning a very decent salary and with the rise of self-employment, it appears things are changing quickly and many are finding the ability to create a very comfortable living through animation.