Down below a commenter asks:
[W]hy haven't animator wages exploded through the roof?? The successes we're seeing today vastly, vastly exceed the "2nd Golden Age" of the early 90s. Disney, Dreamworks, Fox, and Universal have all seen big profits from animated movies.
We know there have been collusion agreements between the studios in the past. Do we know there aren't still going on now? According to the free market, folks working in animation should be among the highest paid in the industry. ...
I rattled off an answer in comments, but allow me to expand here.
1) The early to middle nineties ("The Second Golden Age") saw an explosion of animated features getting produced. Fox, Turner, Warner Bros., DreamWorks were all jumping into the game. Sadly, most fell on their large, corporate backsides in a very compact period of time: Less than a half dozen years.
2) During that happy but now far-away decade, there were a few things that caused wages to explode. A) A small number of animation artists with production experience were pursued by multiple (and eager) bidders for their services -- Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Turner Feature Animation, DreamWorks SKG, Fox Feature Animation (Phoenix), etc., etc. B) There was a feud between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, and Mr. Eisner gave Disney Feature marching orders to do "whatever it took" to prevent Disney artists from defecting to DreamWorks (or other places).
As a result, wages at the Mouse House (and elsewhere) skyrocketed.
But that "high wage window" turned out to be unsustainable. Production costs climbed dramatically, and many of the resulting hand-drawn pictures didn't perform well. Several of the newer feature divisions closed their doors, and suddenly there was a surplus of animation labor. And we all know Adam Smith's axium regarding supply and demand.
What goes up, also goes down. Pay rates tumbled.
Of course, now there are far more successful CGI animated features than there were hand-drawn specimens in the nineties, so why haven't wages shot up again? I would submit it's largely due (once more) to good old supply and demand. CGI features have been ramping up for fifteen years, and universities and colleges have had lots of time to turn out CG animators and technicians. So a far larger pool of animation talent exists in 2011 than sixteen or seventeen years ago.
Lastly, you don't have studios actively bidding against each other the way they did in the middle nineties. Today you have the reverse, as evidenced by the recent track records of some of our fine entertainment companies. Cartoon factories now work diligently to make sure the go-go nineties don't repeat themselves. And if a few (alleged) illegalities occur, kindly note that we live in a corporatist age where the only consequences for companies' misbehavior are a few gently-rapped knuckles, after which we all take a deep breath and move on. ("Nothing to see here, people! Let's continue with the tour!")
So there are more jobs, but also more people to fill them. And there are lots of eagle-eyed execs to make certain nobody's pay packet becomes overly weighty.