So You Want to Work in Animation...

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Recently, I was asked by a student studying animation at the Centre for Arts and Technology in Kelowna some questions about the animation industry.  This was for his professional development class.  Here are his questions and my responses.   

1. While working as an animator, what is the work environment like? Was it strict and all business or laid-back and easygoing?

From my experience, the animation industry is pretty intense at times, especially when deadlines are involved.  Many animators work long hours but animation and video game studios try to make the work environment a fun place to be.  Therefore, there’s lots of time to be social but when it’s time to work, you’re working hard and long.  Although, it’s a dream job for many animators to be working in animation so it’s always amazing to get paid for doing something you love.

2. How did you go about opening up your own studio, like what kind of process did you use or have to go through in order to make it come about and keep it going?

It took a long time to get my studio, Meditating Bunny Studio Inc. up and running so that I could wake up everyday and focus solely on just creating.  I was fortunate to have the chance to teach animation in high school and college.  But now, I’m really happy that I can spend every day just animating and creating new projects.  Basically, it took a lot of struggles and lots of dedication but now I wake up happy everyday that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.  I can take the commercial projects I want to work on and I have the ability to pass on the ones I don’t want to do.  I get to travel around the world with my films and know that millions of people are watching my films on the internet and television.

3. In the animation/game business industry I understand that you work sometimes with rather large groups of people and have some rather tight schedules so I was wondering did you ever find yourself being stressed out at all about a project or it’s deadline?

Stress is definitely part of the job.  Although, like I said before, it’s good stress because you’re doing what you want to be doing in life.  I believe I’ve found my bliss and if you have a passion for animation it doesn’t feel like work.  Some days I can work over 16 hours a day 7 days a week to meet a deadline….and yes, it totally gets to you sometimes but the reward is seeing the final finished commercial or film and knowing you’ve done a great job.  I just finished a contract where I was working 12 hour days, 7 days a week for over 3 months.  Since it was with a German client, I had to work through the night so I could communicate with them.  I didn’t see daylight for those three months.  I can say I got pretty stressed near the end but it was great because I liked the German production company I was working with so it made it all worth it!

4. The animation industry is a very competitive one and that you really have to prove yourself to not only get a job but to secure it. What do you believe gave you an edge in this regard?

My edge was that I was driven and motivated.  I work hard and never give up.  As a studio owner, I work twice as hard and twice a long as most people.  But I love it.  I can wake up in my pajamas and work all day if I want.  I love that.  I don’t really like how the animation industry works sometimes.  Most animators work contract to contract and don’t really know where their next gig is coming.  That can be stressful sometimes.  But it also means that as an animator you can always be doing different projects and have different roles with each production.  So it’s a great way to have variety in your work.  Yes, it’s very competitive because there are so many schools pumping out animators but stay creative because creative people are the ones with the best positions and have the most fun!

5. What was the most challenging project you've worked on to date? What made it so challenging for you?

The latest German project I worked on was pretty challenging.  It was for a German insurance agency and the client needed a 3 minute long animated corporate video created in less than three months.  Normally, it takes me 3 months just to create one minute of animation.  Since, they wanted a particular style…my style, I couldn’t hire out the animation to other animators. It was also challenging since there were a lot of revisions at the end that required that I sometimes had to reanimate entire scenes.  But we finished the project and it looked great!

6. In an industry of ever changing technology, how do you go about keeping up to date and informed of the latest changes and additions?

Personally, I’ve made a career out of not advancing with technology.  I personally hate using computers to animate with.  I love to create animation by hand using old school techniques.  This is my niche and I’ve landed many commercial contracts because of it.  People still love that classical animation look and that’s what I hope to do for the rest of my life! 

Me animating the ending of Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam at my home studio in Vancouver, BC. 

About the author


Jeff Chiba Stearns is an Emmy® nominated and Webby award winning animation and documentary filmmaker. Born in Kelowna, BC, of Japanese and European heritage, he graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design with a degree in Film Animation in 2001. Soon after he founded Meditating Bunny Studio…

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