×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toon salary boom

Union wages up, thanks to animation surge

Animation talent continued to enjoy a seller’s market in the past year, with rates for union staffers generally rising to record levels, according to an annual survey by the industry’s cartoonists guild.

The survey, conducted in April, showed especially strong increases in the median average salaries for story sketch artists, visual development designers and lead key assistant animators.

The median average for lead key assistants, for example, jumped from $1,370 a week in 1996 to $1,900 a week this year. The minimum in that category was $1,435; the maximum, $3,815.

The “median average” is the middle rate when the results are listed in order from lowest to highest.

The survey was done by Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839 and published in its latest newsletter, the Peg Board. The survey had an average response rate of 32.8%.

For several years, animation talent in the 2,000-member union have benefited from the entry of non-Disney studios into the feature animation market. And although there has been some recent slowing in that area, there has been a boom in the market for TV animation and CGI artists.

Key assistant animators, who not too many years ago made scale of $950 a week, are now making twice that, according to Steve Hulett, business rep for the guild.

“Lead key assistants were once happy earning $1,100 to $1,200 each payday,” Hulett wrote in an article in the June issue of Animation World magazine. “Now they feel cheated if they’re only making $2,500.”

To be sure, some categories saw drops. The median average for staff writers, for instance, fell from $2,300 a week in 1996 to $1,988 this year.

But overall, almost every category saw increases in median salaries, some well above union-mandated minimum rates.

Producers were the highest-paid of those surveyed, with median average weekly wages of $4,000, unchanged from a year earlier. The maximum in that category was a whopping $14,423 a week.

The next highest median was for art directors, at $2,950 a week. That is unchanged from a year earlier. The minimum was $1,300; the maximum was $5,000.

Still, there continues to be a sense that the bubble could burst, if only because the industry has generally been cyclical.

Much may depend on the coming year, as Fox releases its first toon entry, “Anastasia,” and Warner Bros. releases “The Quest for Camelot.”

“Common wisdom would tell us lower instead of higher, but there are too many variables to predict the future with any accuracy,” Hulett wrote. “If Disney releases two or three ‘Sleeping Beautys’ in a row, wages will likely fall. If Disney’s competitors find the animated releases from their new cartoon divisions still-born at the box office, departments will shrink and wages will certainly fall.”

He noted that the increased use of special effects in blockbuster pics has opened up new opportunities for traditional animation talent to swing into live action.

“After all, it’s easier to educate an experienced artist to use a Silicon Graphics machine than train a computer wizard the skills of a Rembrandt or Picasso.”

More Biz

  • Colin Kaepernick Kneel

    Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Reach Settlement With NFL

    Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, two football players who alleged the National Football League colluded to oust them from the game after they started kneeling in protest of racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem, have reached a settlement in the matter, according to a statement from the sports organization and lawyers representing [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Could Be in ‘Big Trouble’ Over Alleged New Sex Tape, Attorney Says

    Strong allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly for 25 years, but the singer has always managed to slip free. Yet reports that a videotape of him sexually assaulting an underage girl, combined with the outcry surrounding the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” means that public sentiment, at the very least, is definitely not [...]

  • Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in

    New Media Residuals and Feature Films Contribute to Spike in Writers' Pay

    The outlook for members of the Writers Guild of America has brightened — even amid pervasive uncertainty in the entertainment industry. According to the most recent report to WGA West members, earnings surged 2.8% to $1.41 billion in 2017, thanks mostly to gains in feature films and new-media residuals. Total covered earnings for WGA West [...]

  • Joe Dante Gremlins

    Hollywood Execs Seek Licensing Deals at the New York Toy Fair

    On Feb. 16 more than 30,000 studio executives, buyers and toy company reps will gather in Manhattan for the annual Toy Fair New York, all vying for market share and trying to snag the latest hot trend in a fast-changing industry. Those working the film side of the business will focus much of their attention [...]

  • Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper A Star

    Universal Music Group Fuels 11.3% Rise in Vivendi's 2018 Revenues

    Vivendi’s revenues were up 11.3% to €13.93 billion ($15.7 billion) in 2018, powered by Universal Music Group, which delivered such hits as the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack and Drake’s new album. UMG’s revenues climbed by 10% to €6 billion ($6.8 billion) compared to 2017. On top of the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, the [...]

  • The Blacklist 100th Episode

    'The Blacklist' EP Sues for Wrongful Termination

    A former executive producer of the NBC show “The Blacklist” has filed suit against Sony, alleging he was fired after being wrongfully blamed for a workplace scuffle. Michael Watkins is a veteran TV director and cinematographer. He was an executive producer for several seasons of “The Blacklist,” the NBC crime show starring James Spader. According [...]

  • TV set livingroom

    Studios Sue Omniverse in TV Streaming Crackdown

    The major studios filed a copyright infringement suit against Omniverse One World Television on Thursday, as they continue to crack down on illicit streaming services. Omniverse provides packages of TV channels to various streaming providers, including SkyStream TV, Flixon TV, and HD Homerun. Jason DeMeo, the head of the company, asserted in an interview with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content