My ideal production set up

How we make animation hasn’t changed much in the nearly 100 years of animation production. The rough structure has been refined and while the tools are now different, for decades, animation production looked more or less the same. We had the same department system and assembly line mentality. That approach was important when maintaining quality was of the highest order. The only way to produce full colour cartoons was with a lot of very talented artists.

Things are different now. Industrialism is slowing down, and quality comes cheap. We often bemoan the state of animation. When you watch modern television animation the production value is astounding. The technology will continue to make animation more, and more efficient. I think this means that we can create new systems to make animation.

My ideal system would not look like the big department system. It would be made up of units. Each unit would work from storyboard to final. A small team of multidisciplinary artists working to make the best episode possible. The team would be small between 5-9 people. The team would include:

  • Director – Is in charge of the storyboard and animatic, as well as leading the team
  • Storyboard Artist – Helps the director write and storyboard the episode
  • Layout Artist – Draws the various background and props
  • BG painter – Paints the backgrounds
  • And Animators – Animate the characters and effects

I like the idea of a small team working to a clear, defined goal. One things that’s missing from television production is context and collaboration. I try to structure my team so there is context and communication between artists. It’s not even necessary that each position be held by one person. My current production is a team of 5. It’s a Harmony show and is structured like this.

  • Director/Storyboard (My Position)
  • Layout/Animator
  • Background Painter
  • Rigger/Animator
  • Animator

It’s a small team but we’re able to produce a lot of work. With a small team communication is fluid. You don’t have to talk to through someone to get to someone else. If you need a quick answer you get it fast. It’s collaborative you get to work with people, and help reach a common goal. Animation production doesn’t have to look like one thing. It can be reimagined and refined. Technology will continue to shape and change the way we make animation. The whole structure of animation studios in the past was based on cel animation. Things that were impossible or time consuming then, are easy now. So now that tools are changing, why not try to adapt the system?


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