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Why Animation Continues to Thrive as an Art Form and an Industry

by | Nov 20, 2014

Shrek was the first film to win Best Animated Feature.
Image © 2014 DreamWorks Animation.

We often get asked our thoughts about the animation industry and whether or not it will continue to provide job opportunities and growth. We did a little research to see what’s been happening lately, and we are happy to report a resounding YES! Animation is a healthy growth industry providing opportunities both in the U.S. and around the world.

– The Animation Mentor Crew

The Rise of Animation as an Art Form
Until 2002, there was no such thing as a category for “Best Animated Feature” at the Academy Awards. That year, at the 74th Academy Awards, Shrek (made in 2001) won as the first film ever to be recognized in this category.

Before then, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members had been resistant to the notion of awarding the industry’s highest honor to an animated film because there were simply too few of them up for consideration. Instead, they recognized the occasional film of merit with a “Special Achievement Award,” like the ones they bestowed on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1938, Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1989, and Toy Story, in 1996.

While Walt Disney Pictures had been the 900-pound gorilla in the animation industry for most of its history, in the mid-1990s two new major players came onto the scene and began to shake things up. The first of these, Pixar Animation Studios, was founded in 1986 and made a splash with their first animated feature release (Toy Story) in 1995. The second, Dreamworks, was founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen in 1994. They released some of the highest grossing animation features of all time, Chicken Run in 2000 and Shrek in 2001.

Why Animation Equals Box Office Magic
Because animated features entertain on several levels with humor, emotion, and depth, they attract a huge cross-section of the American movie-going audience who pay good money to see them. When a film can appeal to kids, adults, parents, and grandparents, you get box office magic.

Studios noticed how well these animated features were doing at the box office, and responded by adding animated film productions to their roster. New studios popped up to meet the demand and tell their stories. More animated films were created. As more and more animated feature films began to be released into the market, they got better and better. Demand and revenues continued to rise.

According to Box Office Mojo, which tracks revenues for the industry, the total gross for animated films since 1980 is more than $20 billion. Animated features holding box office records include Shrek 2, The Lion King, Toy Story 2 and Frozen, to name a few.

Animated Features continue to dominate the Box Office

The Growth of Animation Jobs
The animation industry continues to thrive and produce box office magic. According to a recent market research report, the size of the global animation industry was USD 222 billion in 2013. Major animation markets include the United States, Canada, Japan, China, France, Britain, Korea and Germany. Most segments of the animation market are growing at a rate of 7% year over year.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were about 68,900 multimedia artists and animators in the US in 2012 with employment expected to reach 73,200 by 2022. The overall demand for animators is increasing. Median pay in 2012 was $61,370 a year and the job growth outlook is 6%.

Animation Job Growth

The animation industry is growing globally as well. According to the Irish Film Board, in 2013 production activity for the independent film, television drama and animation sector reached the highest level on record. It contributed over €168 million into the Irish economy through employment creation and spend on local goods and services. This represents an increase of approximately 18% on 2012 figures and 42% on 2011 figures.

The good news for animators is that animated feature films are a robust and thriving part of the entertainment industry and are expected to continue to provide great family entertainment for many years to come.

2014 and Beyond…
In November 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 20 animated films have been submitted for an Oscar nomination including:

Big Hero 6
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
Giovanni’s Island
Henry & Me
The Hero of Color City
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
The Lego Movie
Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Penguins of Madagascar
The Pirate Fairy
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Rio 2
Rocks in My Pockets
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Though these films still need to qualify to get onto the short list, it is likely we will be celebrating one of these films in a few short months as our next Best Animated Feature for 2014.

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