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How Much does Animation Cost? by Mike Milo

Great blog post by Mike Milo

I just simply don’t know what it is about art that makes people think it’s so easy to do. Why do people think animation is cheap to produce? Is it the fact that we can all pick up a pencil? We all have ideas? We’ve seen so much of it we think we know what stuff should look like?

I don’t know… but I will tell you the average client puts no value on artwork.


They can’t at the prices they expect artists to work for them.

I have had people ask me for an entire 22 minute television show and want to pay me $100 to make it. No I’m not kidding. That would take me a year to do by the way. I have had people want me to draw 300 panels of art for their children’s book for $300. That’s a dollar a drawing. I have had people want me to produce a full color 22 minute storyboard for less than $250 bucks.

I have also had people call me up and berate me when I won’t do work for these insane prices.

It takes the average artist about 2 hours to rough out a drawing of a cartoon character, and another 2 hours to color it and finesse it. Never mind the twenty notes the said client will give you wanting the art changed for no other reason than to be a part of the process.

There are 24 animation drawings per second of film. times that by 60 and you get 1,440. That’s how many drawings per minute it takes to produce animation. times that by 22 ( the average half hour show length) and you get over 30,000 drawings.

Think how long it takes you to draw just one drawing and you get a pretty good idea why animation is expensive.

To do a half hour of animation takes about 3 months with a crew of 15 and yet I have had people want that to be done for a few thousand bucks. Even less! So I should pay my people $1.50 an hour to complete their show? That’s not even legal in the U.S.!

It’s really ridiculous and highly insulting to think that what artists do is so easy that it can be done for nothing. That there’s no value to it whatsoever. That it’s so easy to do that it shouldn’t cost more than $20 to draw a portrait of their dead dog or daughter or wife.

It’s even funnier to think that they hope to make millions on their big idea if only they can get it made first. They want to gamble on their concept but don’t believe in it enough to pay decently for it.

Go figure.

A half hour animated television show costs anywhere between 150k to 600k depending on what show it is.

That’s just animation not designing it, storyboarding it and coloring it.

Just animation.

And when you approach a small studio that doesn’t have dozens of people working for them the price may go down but it’s still expensive.

For the record, unless you’re getting someone right out of school that’s desperate to get work on their reel a seven minute cartoon will cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the level of detail.

Perhaps you can find someone who will do it for less but I would worry about what it looks like at the end.

Another thing to think about is content. If you have a ninja show and there is lots of fighting then it’s going to be expensive. there’s just no way around it because it takes time to pose the characters and get a sense of realism there. Similarly if you have a show with music, dancing, or any sort of choreography it’s going to be expensive. there’s research involved in the dance moves, and quick cutting makes for more scenes, more characters, more costume changes and more settings to design.

People talking and occasionally gesturing? Really easy! Great idea! That’s not so expensive.

But if your concept happens during the Boston marathon, someone has to DRAW all those people that run behind them and that takes time.

It’s going to be expensive.

Also another thing to consider is what your character looks like. If you want Pokemon style animation with no movement except jittery eyes, flapping mouths and sliding characters, that’s not so expensive, but if you’re thinking you should get Disney quality then consider that Beauty and the Beast cost millions to make.

Lastly you may have heard that Flash is cheaper than drawing on paer and it can be but it still takes time to do.

The design of the animation needs to change according ly. Look at the difference between Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones and you’ll se the animation is of different qualities. the Flintstones makes a good example of something that would work well in Flash animation, Bugs Bunny makes a poor example.

Why do I write this you say? Am I biting the hand that feeds me? No I don’t think so in this case because I physically can’t work for those rates anyway so I can’t do business with someone like that.

My hope is that people might find this on the web and realize that animation doesn’t cost a dime to do, it takes time to do just as building a house would take time. It’s NOT cheap just because it’s for kids and there is no friggin’ ANIMATE button on the computer that will spit out an entire episode of Fuzzy Lummox for you instantly and in color.

Respect the Pencil People!



One Response to “How Much does Animation Cost? by Mike Milo”

  1. I agree with you SO much! I work in the animation industry and I get really angry when someone wants a minute of animation …..done in a day…and they’ll pay about 50 bucks for it. I want to SCREAM!!!!! That’s why I work in a studio where I get paid a proper professional rate! Freelance is the worst.

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