Finding a Job in 2D Animation/Anime?

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      Jason Conger-Kallas
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      Cartoon Network

      2D Animation

      When Disney transitioned away from 2D animation into 3D animation, the 2D animation industry suffered a major blow. The only place where 2D animation is seen as commercially viable today is in advertising, cartoon television, short online videos, and anime.

      Nearly all 2D animation studios in the USA rely on limited animation. Feature films have a larger budget for top quality animation, but 2D animation movies are in short supply these days. A typical 2D animation studio hires artists to create stories, concept designs, and rough animation keyframes. In-between animations, inking, and coloring jobs are all shipped overseas for completion, usually in South Korea or Singapore. The completed cels will be shipped back to the US studios for final editing. Most drawing is done digitally today.

      Even 22 minutes of cartoon animation is very expensive. Each cartoon episode typically costs over 1.5 million dollars and takes 9-12 months to produce. Shipping work overseas speeds up the process and makes things slightly cheaper. That’s a polite way of saying the industry exploits international labor practices. It’s kind of a sketchy practice, but everybody in the industry knows about it and kind of just accepts that 2D animation wouldn’t be around at all without exploiting legal loopholes.

      If you really want to create 2D animation professionally for a studio, positions for storyboard artists and animatic pencil test artists are still around and in high demand. The number of job openings is pretty limited though, and the competition is tough. There are a lot more opportunities through smaller studios and freelance enterprises.

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      Dubbed anime is pretty popular in the US, but the reality is that there just aren’t a lot of anime studios based in the states. That might change as online video distributors like Netflix and DreamWorks Television have started to invest in original anime series, while Disney and Warner Bros sometimes dub and distribute anime for theatrical release. Overall though, there’s still not a lot of big American sponsors. If you want to create anime professionally, you’re realistically going to have to learn a new language and move to Japan, South Korea, or Singapore.

      Anime studios are known for work conditions that are extremely intense, even compared to the rest of the animation industry. Japanese television works differently than in the US. Japan doesn’t air reruns, so every episode has to be new. Anime studios are expected to produce finished episodes by weekly deadlines in order for the episode to air on time. Anime studios typically employ a lot more people as a result.

      Most anime series only last one season, but series adapted from popular Manga may run continuously for hundreds of episodes.

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