I got to thinking about just how cool it is that I get to do what I do for a living. It got me to thinking just how small this niche really is. Check this out…
Based on various conversations and public data this is my very rough estimate of the number of professional character animators working in feature film animation/service studios in North America:
Disney Feature: 60
Sony Imageworks/Animation: 60
Digital Domain: 20
Blue Sky: 35
Rhythm & Hues: 20
Other feature film service shops (Tippett, Wildbrain, Orphanage, Hydraulix, Blur, Vinton, Warner Bros., ReelFX, etc.) approx 150.
Rough Est. Total: 650
Of course I'm not right on the money with these estimates, but as a ballpark number, I think this is a pretty good first whack. If I were to include other animation film studios outside North America like WETA, Animal Logic, Aardman and more my guess is the worldwide total of character animators working on top end film projects is less than 1,000 max.
Compare that to...
Number of professional football players on NFL team rosters: 1,696
Number of professional baseball players on MLB team rosters: 750
Number of professional basketball players on NBA rosters: 450
Number of air traffic controllers in the US: 675
On the other side of the coin, consider this:
2,000 Secret Service "special agents" in the US
7,250 jobs at sound recording studios in the US
15,600 locksmiths in the US
22,200 winery jobs in the US
28,600 taxi drivers in the US
35,000 jobs at nuclear power facilities in the US
69,900 graphic design service jobs in the US
71,000 museum jobs in the US
115,000 jobs in broadcast radio in the US
127,000 jobs in broadcast TV in the US
530,000 mining jobs in the US
593,000 insurance agents in the US
1mil law firm jobs in the US
2.58mil grocery store jobs in the US
2.9mil fast food jobs in the US
The numbers don't lie. I'm sure there are millions in this land who would love to be film animators. Only a few hundred are. Our work will be judged in the crucible of the market and under the unflinching review of our peers. We need to be at the top of our game, collectively and individually. Just like being a professional athlete is a special privilege and honor it's an equally high honor to work at this level in this field. It takes commitment, serious effort and a driving desire (on top of your God given talent) to be the best you can be. The ones who make it are among a special group. We should take that honor seriously, consider what it takes to not only get to this level, but to stay at it, succeed at it and excel at it. We are the very, very, very few who can say that we make animated films for a living. Take pride in that and work hard to maintain that honor.
OK, that oughta get your engine revving!