When I started out at my first job as an animator, I thought “wow, are all studios like this?”. I was working at a very big studio that had a real corporate feel.
Twelve years have gone by and I’ve worked at a number of animation studios and held positions such as Supervising Animator and Animation Director. At the time of this post I’m a Character Animator in charge of character performance/acting and all movements of the body and face.
I would like to share what I’ve experienced in the industry in regards to the types of animation studios that you may encounter as an animation professional.
Animation studios are generally one of two types – large corporate studios and small contractor studios.
Corporate Animation Studios
The large corporate studios are either animation studios that started off small and grew into a large corporate business or they are entertainment media conglomerates which either swallowed up an existing studio or just started their own animation branch.
When you work at one of these places you may feel somewhat insignificant in regards to the company just because of the large size, structure and lack of the ability to easily converse with senior staff. Most have a core staff who received benefit packages and have all the usual rights, perks and processes as any other full time permanent employee such as sick days, statutory holidays, performance reviews etc…
When you first begin work in a corporate animation environment it’s usually on a contract to contract basis. You are on contract for the duration of the project that you were hired to work on. You would be considered temporary full time, and may be offered a limited benefits package. Often, if you stay employed in consecutive contracts for an extended period of time (2 years for example), you may be offered a permanent full time position with full benefits. Of course this depends on the policies of the company.
Smaller Privately Owned Studios
Smaller studios are usually are more intimate. If they have been around for much longer then ten years they are well managed and connected – meaning the owners have good relationships with producers at larger studios and entertainment companies enabling them to consistently get projects into their studio.
In a smaller studio you can usually walk into the owners office and have a chat. Smaller animation studios are great for that. the owner (or owners) are usually down the hall or in the next room and are usually very friendly and approachable. And why wouldn’t they be, they want their employees to be happy. It’s good to be able to connect with the owner face to face and casually find out how your doing and what projects are coming down the line.
Larger studios usually have an HR (human resources) department. Rather than speaking with the owner of the company you may have to fill out a form and go through the processes and procedures of the corporation, even just to get a day off or make any simple request.
The biggest similarity between small privately owned studios and large corporate environments is that most people who work in animation studios are extremely talented, supportive and positive.
Operations, pipelines, management, studio rules and policies, etc… even the way you are managed and treated, all vary at different caliber studios. If you have the opportunity, I suggest getting work in both smaller intimate studio environments and large corporate studios – It will give you a full and rounded experience of the industry which will come in handy if you plan on starting your own production studio or even teach in the future.