Top Tips for getting in the animation industry

As an animation studio we believe animation is the best industry to be in, and a very attractive one too. Thousands of people are wanting to get into it because it’s fun, full of adventures and, let us not forget, extremely cool.


So how do you do it? Generally, the route into the industry is:

•    Have fun playing with animation

•    Choose the right subjects at school

•    Learn to use the right programs

•    Get some work experience

•    Get a degree in animation

•    Get some more great and varied work experience

•    Create an awesome show reel

•    Land the job of your dreams However, as most things in life, its never actually that simple. You’ve got to make this happen. Depending on how old you are, we’ve created some handy tips on how to take that daydream of “maybe one day…” into “crikey, I’ve only gone and done it!”

Under 11s:

•    Make your own films! Borrow your dad’s video or photo camera and make mini movies.

•    Take an audio bite and then take your character - get them to do the same thing.

•    Watch films and work out why are they good.

•    Draw all the time!

•    Practice, practice, practice and have fun.

Under 16s:

•    Explore. Experiment. Have more fun.

•    Keep drawing.

•   Choose the right courses for GSCEs and A-Level. Check out the animation degrees you can apply for and what they require (although design is imperative, maths can be important too). University students:

•    Try and get experience in a studio in the early years of your studies, as it will help make your time at university or college, and the projects you undertake for your studies, a lot more grounded.

•    Keep on drawing, making short films, and undertake tutorials online.

•    Learn as many programmes as you can.

•    Look to specialise: In your first year, experiment in all the different areas animation offers. By your 2nd and 3rd year make sure you focus on the area you want to progress in. Are you destined to be a generalist, a storyboard artist, a character designer, a 2D or 3D animator, a model maker, a texture artist or a technical director? There are also producers, directors and runners. Know yourself and your skills, choose a direction within animation and be the best you can be in that area.

•    By the end of your 3rd year you need to be a competent operator, and be able to create 2-3 seconds of animation a day at best, as projects move so fast in the studio.

•    And don’t forget to keep having fun.


Regardless of your age, there are some key things to take to heart about working in the animation, and what you need to do to get there. Here are our 8 Ps on breaking into the industry:

Passion You’ve either got this or you don’t. You probably do, as you are reading this with eagerness. But the passion we are talking is in your blood. This is a great thing to harness. But make sure you turn this passion into being animation savvy. Analyse the animations that you love so much. How has it managed to create an emotion with the audience? Why the choice of camera angle? Why was that colour used? Why do Happy Feet and Despicable Me work so flawlessly? Constantly be on the look out.

Perseverance If I was to tell you ‘Getting into the animation industry is dead hard. Too many people are trying to do it. You’ll never succeed.’ and you believe me, this is not the industry for you. NEVER believe this. You make your own future, and if you’ve truly set your heart on breaking into the animation world then you will make it. The only person stopping you is you. Keep punching down those boulders. Keep pestering people and be persistent. And then keep being persistent a little more. If you have this drive you will succeed.

Practice The top athletes and sports people of this world become the best at what they do as they train, and they train hard. This is the same principle in being great at animation. Practice, practice, practice. Give yourself projects, ask for work experience to work on other people’s projects, download tutorials online. Never stop learning and keep challenging yourself to be the best you can be, and then be a bit better still.

Peter Pan Syndrome Never grow up. Enjoy yourself and have fun. This industry requires it. Love animation and love creating. You will work for 40-50 years of your life and you want to be doing something you love not loath.

Presentation is everything - plan your show reel

•    Plan your work and work your plan – every second counts.

•    Don’t try and be all things. When you get into the animation industry there are a team of people working on a production, each with different skills. Concentrate on your key skill and get your show reel to promote it.

•    It’s better to provide 10 seconds of brilliance than 30 seconds of rubbish. Don’t dilute it.

•    Don’t send your show reel Ccing all the animation companies you can think of as they will see this and immediately delete you whilst tutting. Do your research on a company first before approaching them. Pipe up!

•    Keep asking people how they got into the industry, and keep opening your network so other animators know you.

•    You can never make enough tea: When doing work experience offer to make tea and coffee for the designers – it’s a great chance to interrupt them and ask how they got into the industry and ask their advice.

•    The more people who know you in the studio, the higher your chance of getting back into the studio as the team influences this decision.

•    Network and get business cards

•    If they say “not at the moment” that doesn’t mean its always a no. Keep asking to be involved. Please, don’t worry about being cool Don’t worry about trying to be cool when you work in animation. The industry itself is cool enough. If you need to work out how a penguin walks then act it out in the office. Animators are frustrated actors so don’t be shy.

Programmes You will need a good working knowledge of the key industry programmes, essential for working (well playing) in the grown-up world of digital media. The list is long (but essential) and includes Maya, Max, Softimage Combustion, Toon Boom, After-effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. Learn as many programmes as you can. So to summarise, you can get into the animation industry if you really want it. You are responsible for your own future – but to predict the future you must first create it. Promise yourself never, ever give up and you will become a very successful and happy animator with the world at their happy feet. Go create.

RJDM 2D and 3D Characters
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