Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Animation's Pay Rates vs. "Average American's" Wages

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)*

1965 $28,599

1975 $33,148

1985 $42,847

1995 $39,186

2005 $41,386

* 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 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.


Anonymous said...

Some truck drivers make more than that.

Anonymous said...

I found this also a very telling statistic from Barry Rithholtz's above link.

Personal Savings Rate

1965 8.5%
1975 10.5%
1985 11%
1995 5%
2005 -0.4%

samacleod said...

Cool post. Not much talk about money out there, I found it a very interesting read. I just spoke recently with an animator for disney that said he always had a hard time getting more money. He just wasn't good at playing hard to get b/c work was so scarce. I felt really bad. It's such a tough industry sometimes, financially.

Anonymous said...

i am a personal animator and well i make more then that a year

Dave Stephens said...

Dang - I might have to re-think my plan to get back into animation if the wages are that low! Maybe drawing funny pictures at events ain't so bad, after all...

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