Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cost of Producing Animation

If you’ve worked in animation for any length of time, I am sure someone has said to you, “I have this great idea for an animation, how much will it cost?” When I hear that question I take a deep breath because yet again I will take time to answer a very complex question. It’s like asking a building contractor how much it costs to build a house, without knowing anything about construction–How many bedrooms? Do you want paint, brick, or stone? Do you want a double oven in the kitchen? How many bathrooms? I spend time explaining the animation process, how the costs vary, etc. So here, I will explain it to those who are new to the industry.

When building a house you usually start with...not the drawings...the BUDGET!  Surprise! The first thing you have to ask yourself is how much do you have to spend? Animation costs vary with style, length, number of characters, complexity of the backgrounds, how fast you need it, etc. I hesitate to put any numbers out but on the LOW end animation costs start around $15K per finished minute for a simple animation. If you think that is high, consider Croods  cost an estimated cost an estimated $135 million to produce. It was 98 minutes so that means it cost $1.4 million PER MINUTE, which is on the low side considering that Toy Story 3 cost out at $1.94 million PER MINUTE and that is before ANY MARKETING costs!

BUT, you say, I have a son, niece, or cousin going to school for animation and you’ve written a script!  Okay, great. First, have you ever written for film or animation before?  And your relative...they are going to do the animation, RIGHT?  Let’s consider, just for argument sake, that an experienced animator takes five days to create seven seconds… (no, not minutes). If you are going to pay their wages for the number of weeks/months/years it will take so they can pay their rent/utilities, phone, car, groceries, purchase equipment/software, etc., not to mention their healthcare…okay, I think you get the point.

Also…animation isn’t just about the art. There are producers, directors, writers, composers, editors, voice talent, bookkeeping, legal and more needed to produce seconds of animation. SO, the next time you consider asking someone to give you a quote for turning your idea into an animation, ask yourself, how much would it cost you for a few months of work…Now, are are you ready to make that call?


  1. This was a very good analogy. It also explains why so many companies are buying other studios' shows/films instead of making their own. It's often more cost effective to buy a pre-built house than to build from the ground up. And sequels to films... once the blueprints are made, it is way cheaper to build the same house twice than to start from pencil and paper all over again.
    Much like the location of a new house effecting its base costs, I guess where an animated film is made could vary the cost a lot. But, again just like a house, if you aim for the cheapest location possible (overseas?) the resulting house will not be as good as if it were made in a location where higher skilled workers are available, much like how outsourcing animation leads to poorer quality results. This analogy could be taken to the extremes, huh?

    1. Absolutely...I started to get carried, YES!

  2. Hi Charlotte,

    I wonder, are you selling your own original pre-made cartoon characters for animation?