Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wages in 'Toonland

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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this article.

I plan to change my career to an animator. This article is very useful!!

Thanks agin :)

Anonymous said...

I remember when we invented the survey. I was asked by a Spanish animator- How come American artists never tell each other what they make?
I stammered" uh...well, I don't know.. they just don't.."
He countered:" Well, who does it help?
I thought:" Hmm, It doesn't help me, it doesn't help you... IT HELPS THEM! (meaning THE MAN.)
So lo and behold, the survey came to pass. So let it be written, so let it be done!

Anonymous said...

Tom is too modest.

While at Disney, he published his salary in the union newsletter THE PEG-BOARD.

Peter Schneider, head of Disney Animation, was not amused.

Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed, but one thing is important, "regular" animators get paid for overtime (hopefully), whereas Supervisors are not (not all places). Clarify overtime pay when in negotiations.

Anonymous said...

The more we ask, the more likely they will take the business overseas eventually. It is already happening, the problem is you can never compete against the people who are willing to work with 1:5th of your salary no matter how good you are!

Particularly, the CGI-3D animation industry is not as revolutionary as it used to be, it is now a well understood and mature business. There is a flood of feature animation movies coming into the theaters and they started to "bomb" already, the demand for the artists can not be too separated from the demand in the movies eventually. So, the efficiency and pipelining are the major management issues as the content gets richer. This explains the increases for the supervisor positions mostly...

Unfortunately, they will find more and more cheaper labor --here or overseas, the wages will probably stay stagnant compared to the inflation, nobody is to blame too much, imho. I suggest you guys to find an extra source of income eventually when this business does not meet your financial goals, unless you are a "star" artist --those will always do better...

Anonymous said...

Here's a naughty idea. Since many of the overseas studios have American liaisons (non-management, naturally), how about equiping them with the latest Wage Survey Information (plus lots and lots of copies) and leaving them around over there? Maybe when these people see how they're being screwed the studios will run out of sweatshops to threaten to send the work to.

Anonymous said...

So foreign = sweatshop?

Anonymous said...

Regarding my use of the word "sweatshop", this is the way many Americans see many overseas companies regardless of what the actual facts are. I was exaggerating. You remember exaggeration? It was what the comic and animation business were built on before the Political Correctness Police came on the scene, finding something to be offended by in even the most trivial circumstances. I still feel that the sharing of knowledge about payscales among all studios as the most important part my previous post.

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