I was a professional animator and animation director for television series and major motion pictures for thirty years and I was the Instructor of Character Animation for the Freshman class of Cal Arts for a couple of years. As an independent producer of animated films I followed my muse and made award winning * animated music videos. So I have some experience in the Animation Industry.
My students at Cal Arts would occasionally ask how one gets rich as an animator. Back in the Second Golden Age of Animation newspapers reported that Disney animator Glen Keane made a million dollars and the students came to believe this was the going rate. I pointed out that Glen Keane's salary made the news because it was the exception, not the rule. Also, the papers did not give details. The million could have been a potential if the films he worked on since separately profitable, he might have been given royalties and his million may take the rest of his life to accrue. It made a big impression on the students never the less so I tried to answer their question of how to get rich in animation.
The quick, easy answer is; You do not. Again, Glen Keane was an extremely rare example and very, very few individuals will ever attain his status. He rose to the top of his field when the field was blossoming into what became known as "The Second Golden Age of Animation" and was during the economic boom time of the 1990s. Like the good old times of the Clinton years, the Animation Industry in America is long gone for pen and pencil artists but I did develop a plan to give the students back then that I would still recommend today.
To get rich in the field of Animation one must own a character that becomes a "star". Please notice, I said "own" and not "create" since there is a not too subtle difference. Most of the famous and successful animation legends we remember from our youth did not actually create their signature characters but hired a designer to do it for them. Does anyone remember who actually designed the character of Fred Flintstone for Hanna- Barbera?
First, you need to have a character with "star" potential which means a unique enough concept that is readily identifiable. An example might be my former Cal Arts student's creation for Nickelodeon Studios, Dexter of Dexter's Lab. Take one quick look at him and you can instantly tell he is a "child scientist". Or another student's show, The Power Puff Girls who are super heroes that are in Kindergarten. In both of these cases they took a simple character; A little boy and three little girls, andave them "jobs" traditionally associated only to adults; Scientist and super heroes. Instantly understandable and funny. It is also extremely important that these characters are of very simple graphic design, easy toimate, easy to recognize at a distance and easy to print onto …