Today, your friendly neighborhood Animation Guild sent out its annual wage survey questionnaire to members who have been active over the past twelve months. We've done this for years now.
One of the reasons we do it is that years ago, an animator called to ask if I knew the wages of some or all of his fellow studio animators. As it happened I did, and I told him. (He wanted the information because he was in negotiations with company managers for a new, higher salary. And they had told him, assured him, that no animator had wages higher than his.)
After I gave this animator the wage figures I happened to possess, he realized that the assurances he'd received from management were, ahm, incorrect. The guy discovered that he was among the lowest salaried animators at the company. The managers weren't happy when he revealed that he'd gotten the info from little old me, but it did give him fresh leverage in his negotiations (new information sometimes does that).
And he ended up with a better salary. . .
Shortly afterwards, a background artist at Warners suggested that maybe TAG could send out a wage survey to TAG members, to let them know what kind of salaries were being paid in the animation business.
When I heard this suggestion, the first thought out of my pin head was: "Why the hell didn't I think of that?"
From that day to this, The Animation Guild has sent out yearly wage questionnaires and compiled the results into a survey. This is important because every studio knows what all of its employees makes, but employees are (mostly) in the dark. Many companies, in my experience, like things that way. And several over the years have worked to discourage their artists from knowing what peers make, even though there's a California law that prohibits companies from "disciplining or discharging" employees who share wage info.
You can go here for more detailed stats, but we'll give you a sampling of where wages have been in the last couple of years (all figures based on a forty-hour week):
Animation art directors (with 38% returning surveys) earned a median average of $2,545.45 in 2006. This was up from $2,000 in 2005.
CGI 3-D animators (29% reporting) earned an average of $1,809 in 2006, down from $2,011 in 2005. But supervising animators earned $3,025 per week, up from $2,700 in '05.
Feature story artists (35% reporting) averaged $2,188.49 in 2006, up from $2,000 in '05.
Median wages, year to year, have been up and down in different categories, but overall they've been reasonably stable.