I've been in the animation business long enough to see a couple of booms and at least one or two busts.
In the middle nineties, I saw animation artists making five and six and eight thousand dollars per week, and picking up fifty thousand dollar bonuses. In 2002, I saw former animation artists working at Trader Joe's...
The 'toon business has done several full pirouettes in the time I've been in it. It was comatose in 1988-89, then going at full throttle (with wages to prove it) in 1995. I started as a trainee at Disney at $135 per week, and left Disney a decade later earning $40,000 per year. In the seventies and early eighties, Disney continued a decades-long tradition of steady, long-term employment, paychecks pretty close to scale wages, and stock options.
Eisner put a stop to most Disney Animation stock options soon after he stepped over the hill from Paramount in 1984, but salaries soon shot up as animation exploded, and long-term jobs became the norm...
Today, long-term employment has ebbed from where it was a decade ago, but animation staffers and free-lancers (and I'm talking about animation employees who work at least six months or more a year) still earn from $45,000 to $200,000+ a year. (Obviously, there are outliers on both sides of these figures, and many suffer long stretches of unemployment.)
But how does our micro wage environment stack up against the national macro? These stats from Barry Rithholtz's "Big Picture" web log provide a dandy snapshot. A couple of sample statistics:
Median Income (Men)*
* All figures in 2005 inflation-adjusted dollars, except where noted. Source: Census Bureau~~~
Median Income (Women)
1965 $9,533 (33% of men)
1975 $12,697 (38% of men)
1985 $27,720 (65% of men)
1995 $27,990 (71% of men)
2005 $31.858 (77% of men)You could find it fun...or maybe depressing...to check the Average American's pay day against your own via the links above. The "Big Picture" also gives us snapshots of the dollar's earning power, median income, and what CEOs have earned over the last forty years. That's yet another eye-opener.