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The animation industry stretches across many of the creative industries. Animated content can be found on television, in feature films, commercials, websites and computer or video games. It can be generally divided into: 2D drawn or traditional; 2D computer generated; stop frame; and 3D computer generated. The UK animation industry is part of a fast growing creative economy.

Animation will be integral to the growth in the sector as a whole. For instance, online communities such as ‘Second Life’, effects for live action feature films, such as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or commercials for brands and products that are household names, demonstrate the breadth and depth of the industry. These types of activities are on the increase.

In addition, the industry needs to develop more staff who are able to adapt to new technology, styles/trends and the needs of a more diverse range of clients. The effect of this on the workforce will be to reduce the amount of animators needed in the UK, but to increase the number of pre-production staff needed for animation projects initiated here. Whilst training or re-training for experienced staff is needed, it is important that graduates and new entrants are aware of the various roles available, in order to avoid increasing numbers of practitioners competing for fewer jobs as animators.

There are a wide range of opportunities in animation as freelance, some contract, and some more permanent jobs. These can be found at small production companies, larger studios, computer generated post production facility houses and at computer games developers or interactive media designers.

Key statistics:

  • UK animation companies provide employment for around 4,700 people, with a large number of others employed in animation roles in other creative industries
  • In animation as a whole, there are over 250 businesses; 57% of which employ less than 10 people and 8% employ over 50 people.
  • 30% of those employed in the industry are freelance or self-employed.
  • 66% of the workforce is male.
  • 3% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background.
  • 47% of workforce is under 35 years, 37% 35-49 years and 16% is over 50 years.
  • 10% report themselves as having a disability
  • 87% of the animation workforce work three to five days a week, only 10% work, on average, more than five days a week.
  • 92% of people working in animation are graduates and 31% hold a postgraduate qualification.

The majority of new entrants to the animation industries are graduates; 78% of the current workforce is graduates of which 34% hold a postgraduate qualification. 53% of workforces have a degree in a media-related subject, the highest of any in the creative industries. However, there are ways in which a new entrant may migrate into animation from occupations on the periphery of the industry.

It is usual to start at the bottom and work your way up, since animation has a highly skilled and specialised workforce. Whilst there may be ways in which a new entrant may move into animation from occupations on the periphery of the industry, it appears that the core of the industry will continue to be staffed by people with a higher educational qualification.

The majority of employers report using informal methods of recruitment such as personal contact with individuals or industry networks and contacts.

Animation is extremely costly and time-consuming to make – it can take up to two years to produce just 30 minutes of animation. This has placed a heavy emphasis on good project management and good teamwork. The skills shortages reflect the need for people who can adapt to busy production schedules. Key skills for animators include:

  • creativity and imagination
  • patience and attention to detail
  • drawing skills
  • computer literacy and familiarity with graphics software
  • communication and presentation skills
  • ability to meet deadlines and work as part of a team

There is a shortage of people with industry relevant IT and drawing skills, particularly storyboard artists, and these may be the best areas for aspiring entrants from secondary or further education to focus on. Storytelling skills in general were highlighted as a specific skills gap, particularly in relation to animated features, and it appears difficult to find individuals with the expertise to provide the training in the UK. Graduates generally exhibit a severe lack of drawing skills and even where students specialise they tend to display shortcomings;

Stop frame practitioners have cited deficiencies in basic skills, such as like lip synching. CG representatives remark on deficiencies in basic computer skills and knowledge of specific software. Entrants need an understanding of core VFX techniques amongst representatives from the visual effects part of the industry.

The largest key occupational groups are:

  • draw/stop frame animation employing around 1,000 people
  • 910 producing
  • 900 computer generated animation
  • 430 production
  • Plus a further 1,100 employed in key animation roles in other creative industries

With 67% of the workforce is based outside of London, animation production is more evenly distributed around the UK than the other creative industries. The largest number of employees in animation is located in: London; South East; South West; and the North West.

Source: Skillset AACS LMI report 2010 and Animation Labour Market Intelligence Digest 2009