Why Do Animated Movies Cost So Much?
A good animation movie can take $50 million or more to produce. Animation is a highly labor-centric work. During my undergrad, some of our classmates worked on a three minute animation film for a college event. That took about two months for a team of eight people. Multiply the quality by 1000X and the size by 100X and you get a Pixar movie. ...
1) The story, direction, and sound: An animation movie might have no human actors, but it does have human story creators, screenplay writers, art directors, and sound effect people. It takes a lot of effort (and wages) to create the smooth story that will capture the audience. In a regular movie, an experienced actor might carry the show even with a bad story line and could do a lot of spontaneous things. There is no saving in an animated movie.
2) Art work creation: A single frame of an animation film can have millions of moving parts. For the Sully character in Monsters, Inc., there were 2,320,413 individually named hairs on his body. When he moves, the animators have to animate each hair in the body to create a highly realistic effect. ...
3) Studio costs: Studios such as Pixar have 600 or more creative people working on a movie for three to four years. They need to be housed and provided a creative environment and tools ...
4.Server costs: Animation is a highly computing-intensive task. Each individual frame has to be rendered to integrate all the moving parts. ...
Here's a news flash: It ain't the CG, Virginia. Animation has always been pricy, relative to lower budget live-action films. But at the same time, animation costs have always varied radically, even as they were lower than many A-list movies. A few scattered examples:
Pinocchio was the most expensive movie of its time, if you base it on running length. Gone With the Wind (released at the same time as Pinoke) cost $4.25 million (three hours and forty minutes) to Pinocchio's $2.35 million (86 minutes). Do the math.
But animation could also be cheaper than its live-action competition. Twenty months after the debut of the little wooden boy, Disney produced Dumbo for under a million bucks, way less than Technicolor live-action extravaganzas of the period (Adventures of Robin Hood, Wizard of Oz, Northwest Mounted Police) many of which cost more than $2 million.
In our time, animation costs still run neck-and-neck with live-action pictures but still vary widely in cost. Of current top-drawer animated features, the high-priced specimen would be Tangled, weighing in at $250 million. (When a picture is in production for ten or twelve years, costs explode.) And the low-cost candidate is Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me, down in the $75 million range. (Chris Mededandri runs a lean ship.)
And what would be the "median cost?" for the modern animated feature? Probably something in the $100 million to $170 million range, which is right on track with budgets of modern live-action flicks. (You don't believe it, go look at Box Office Mojo and compare various budgets. Super-hero tent poles cost as much or more than the product coming out of Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Blue Sky Studios. And way more than movies produced by Illumination Entertainment.)
So to the question, "Why do animated movies cost so much?" the only sane response would be:
"Compared to what?"
Animated features have always had similar levels of costs relative to A-list live-action, no matter what era you care to do budget analyses. As it was in 1940, so is it now. CG has nothing to do with it, it's the medium.