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Earn Big Money At Last! Learn Animation!

“If you can draw a circle, we can teach you animated cartooning.”

Animators, the 1938 ad claims, can earn up $20,000 a year, which would be the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in today’s money. That probably didn’t happen very often, if at all, but animator Art Babbitt did make $11,363 at Disney in 1936, which would be $455,000 today. That’s nothing though compared to what comic strip artists used to earn. Mutt and Jeff creator Bud Fisher pulled in $150,000 in 1916, or $11.9 million in today’s dollars.

Alvin Epstein, the co-owner of the animation school in the ad, published How to Draw Animated Cartoons in 1945:

  • Duane

    Great to see that Catmull makes as much as a comic strip artist in 1916…

  • Ant G

    “Animators […] can earn up $20,000 a year, which would be the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in today’s money.”

    lol the 20k is so close to what I earn in an animation studio now it hurts. I don’t even know if I should be grateful that at least its not an unpaid internship

    • Ryoku240

      I wonder what the “cost of entry” was back then compared to now, how much you’d have to put into education and that.

      Is the work any easier these days?

      • truta

        yes after you finish it and get the certificate no one can’t guarantee job add to that a very competitive market with personal cutting for cost reduction u got ur answer

  • Toonio

    Funny how things like this translate to the internet age.

  • Mister Twister

    But is that enough to sustain yourself?

  • Pedro Nakama

    Check that address, Washington DC. Never send money there. It will just fall into the black hole.

  • Roberto Severino

    Amazing what adjusting for inflation can do and how upside down things are these days when it comes to who gets paid the big bucks.

  • Phil

    Maybe you should stop to think of yourself as extremely talented (that’s the fourth time I see you using those words). Your artwork is average at best, and humility doesn’t hurt. Animation is a team process ; bashing the ones that fit better in the system and calling them rudimentary or bland isn’t fair. Personality isn’t bad obviously, but you have to work harder to convince others. And frankly you haven’t much of it.

    • Thanks for following my career so closely. Can I see some of your work?

      • Phil

        No thank you, I’d prefer not to be harassed or buried under thousands of nutty messages.

    • See the reason I ask, is this is what Ralph Bakshi has said about me
      “elana–your a delight I think your animation is unique you are honest funny and good”
      “no one animates like you I love it”
      “your truly modern and funny and uninfected by bullshit”

      And see Ralph is an animator I respect, and therefor I value his opinion. Where as you are just some nobody talkin’ noise.

      Well, I don’t know, maybe you are a genius, let me see your work.

      • For those of you who don’t know I was an animator on Ralph Bakshi’s Last Days of Coney Island.

        So every quote I wrote right there IS direct from the man himself.


        So quit trying to make yourselves feel big by talking sh*t to me when you don’t even know what you are talking about.

  • Ryoku240

    Cartoons back then were more complicated to make too, but at the same time you had far more time and freedom to make them on top of a bigger budget.

    Its a shame how animators have gone from making a good living to having to drown themselves into debt to even HOPE to make an honest living in animation.

    Its that or they go indie, or they learn Korean.

    • Fully support this comment here.

    • Secs Offender

      i bet being a korean animator isn’t any easier

  • Ryoku240

    The other issue is competition, theres always someone whos going to under bid you a buck or offer “The Next Big Spongebob”.

  • Ironhorse

    “If you can draw a circle, we can teach you animated cartooning.”
    – The Seth MacFarlane Art Institute

    • WrenDavey

      “If you can be offensive and write the occasional fart joke, we can teach you to draw circles.”
      -The Seth MacFarlane School of Arts.

  • Addendum to the Kickstarter comment:

    money isn’t everything

  • Nathaniel

    In 2014, you do.

  • DangerMaus

    Is there some sort of Retro-30s thing going on with American animators? There seems to be a number of animations and animators that are using that “rubber hose” style and exaggerated squash and stretch that marked early thirties theatrical shorts. I guess what was old and tired becomes new and fresh if you wait long enough. Maybe the lessons this guy was offering then could be considered relevant again.

  • JodyMorgan

    Did anyone else click on this article hoping to find the identity of the “Former Walt Disney artist” involved in this school?

  • John Richardson

    It’s pretty remarkable to see what Art Babbit risked in the Disney strike, knowing how much he himself was pulling in. He really went to bat to help others make more.

  • heymcdermott

    So, those tiny fangs on the duck on the cover: To distinguish it from Donald & Daffy, or an early concept for County Duckula. Discuss.

  • Hey Ryoku240 – you did make some valuable points, where I really agree with you. It’s really unfortunate that it’s an uphill battle and a frustrating one as the bigheads (no, not the neighbors from Rocko) at these networks continue to dictate and control, instead of looking for experimentation.

    Some responses to your points:

    1. This problem of time management with the workload is not just a work problem, it starts with the animation schools demanding these fast turnarounds, and it follows them into the industry. This makes it sad and frustrating, as they accumulate a lot of debt doing this kind of work for classes, then turn around in the work force and not receive the funds to pay back the schools. A total unfair situation for animators and students, only the executives and school administrators win. Not fair whatsoever.

    2. I wholeheartedly agree with this (as with the first point). Most of the old guard are either doing independent stuff (as more CGI is taking over for the preferred medium) or moved on to other movie production studios instead of television. So it might have to be up to the new guard to be those mentors, if possible.

    3. Bruce Timm had it right by not being worried with tests. lol What is stupid however is the executives will continue to swear by this format until we get back to the ways of where the artists had more control over the content and focus.

    4. Oh man – I so want better stuff on Cartoon Network. It seems that Disney lately has had better shows both in animation and writing. CN has too many people from Adventure Time create brand new stuff to where it’s too obvious that it’s a cop off of Adventure Time…and it’s boring! Cartoon Network used to be about experimentation and variety (Dexter’s Lab, PPG, Ed Edd n Eddy, etc.) I honestly can’t get into the new shows for CN (except for Amazing World of Gumball – that is actually a wonderful show).

    5. We do, we really do. I think more and more animators need to follow Ralph Bakshi’s advice which is to do your own thing and find ways to get paid for it.

    • Ryoku240

      1. Quick work times keeps the budget low, less pay to the crew, episodes are done quicker so they can be revised like mad.

      2. Its either that or no one wants to pay them good money, no one but Disney.

      3. The way I see it, they should stick to user feedback on the internet and episode ratings, free things without the trouble of a controlled enviorment. That or let the writersartists decide things, the people who’ve been trained in their profession.

      4. IMO They have too many Calarts graduates, nothing against the school, they should just look in more spots.

      5. Agreed with that, its the harder route, but you wont go into debt in the proccess.

  • To discuss this further, there are some things and ideas I wished was more explored for animators, studios, and executives:

    1. For animators (both students and professionals), creating more and more indie content actually is a refreshing product for internet viewers. Networks and executives have yet to grab the product of internet produced animations like indie animators and indie animation studios. At some point, the switch from cable to internet/stream based content will be obvious, and the networks will not be ready for that.

    I think animators should continue to produce their own stuff (when they can) and find ways to make it more of an opportunity for them. That way they won’t be forced the kind of hours and hardships with the push of the networks/studios…but in due time, as not every animator who makes internet content are making the right pay.

    2. For Cartoon Network, I feel they have forgotten who they are (Mufasa anyone?) and they forgotten how they got such great content in the first place. They had a great showcase called What a Cartoon! It really shared all the different styles, storytelling, and projects people (not just kids) were willing to watch and demand. They can still do that now, find what’s great, and make them into series.

    But instead, they just grab people to do the same thing of Adventure Time, just a little different. It’s really boring and disappointing. Should they bring that back, force a budget, and get great ideas from creators, we could see better potential shows on CN, that’s far away from being another Adventure Time…and something way better.

    3. For executives, they have forgotten what the 80’s and the 90’s were like, where artists had a little more control and were able to actually create. Should executives bring that back that control to the artists, who knows what we’ll see. It’ll be as huge as when The Simpsons first appeared, or Mickey Mouse, or even Looney Tunes, but it’ll be for this generation. Until executives learn to not wear tight undies, it’ll get harder and harder to create interesting shows…and in the end, it’ll hurt them just as much as it hurts fans and artists alike.

    Now, there are other things that could be brought up, like better pay for these artists who do many hours for your product you want to sell, as they are worth way more than some minimum wage job, but this is just a start of the conversation. Would be interested to hear your response back when you can.

    • Ryoku240

      Thank you for the long thought out responses.

      1. They did try Annoying Orange with mixed results (if we can call that animated), but its true that cable TV will be a thing of the past eventually.

      2. Thats a “house style” they’re shoving on everyone, at least they’re keeping CNReal dead though. I agree that their cartoons need variety.

      3. If anything with all these tie in cartoons (Sonic Boom, Pac Man World, Lego, TMNT) we’re going back to the early 80’s.

      Executives need to hire people, make sure cash in flowing in, and let the animatorswriters do whatever they want. You don’t pay a taxi driver and then tell him how to drive.

      4. I’m sure that pro-cartoonists are paid above minimum wage, but I doubt they’re paid equivalent to the effort they put into their work.

  • DangerMaus

    Yeah. I don’t mind that technique in small doses, but I hope it doesn’t become the standard. Animation came a long way from those crude techniques. I think things should progress, not regress.

    It seems like not only do they want to bring back techniques used in the ’30s, they also want to bring back the work practices and wages that went along with them.

    • Ryoku240

      They wanted to look to the 30’s to re-capture their “creativity” and “surrealism”, yet all we get are the superficial aspects with average animation and very modern writing (eg needlessly wordy).

      .I’m moreso concerned with new artists, remember what anime did to high school artists about 10 years ago?

  • Ryoku240

    1. Mindsets like that just remind me of the 70’s, when anime took over with its silly-ness and more fun style vs the Scooby-Doo recycling we got. If Japan gets its stuff together (and dubbing gets decent again), we’re in for a vast revolution.

    4. And with the success of CalArts the higher ups pigeon hole their recruitment selection and Calarts gouges their prices more.

    Some people think its silly to take animation seriously, I sorta see their point, but if its silly then why does it cost so much to get into?

  • Ryoku240

    2. Well maybe its not a house style, Regular Time have both been successful for them so they’re probably pulling in students who can draw anything semi-similar. Its that or they want the next Spongebob.

    4. Oui, I know someone who lives there and one key trouble they’ve had are the nasty apartment rates.

    • They definitely want the next Spongebob, or in this case for Cartoon Network, the next Adventure Time. And most of the creators came from Adventure Time or the Misadventures of Flapjack, so the trend is easy to spot.

      4. Yeah, I heard apartments are really terrible there…no choice but to share rooms with roommates.

      • Ryoku240

        True, they don’t get that saturation just ends up hurting their already existing properties.

        You’d think with todays computer, data driven world they wouldn’t have to move to CA.

        Thats about all I have to say though, its been a fine chat.

        • Pleasure chatting with you as well, and hope to do another one soon.

  • I know I’m dropping it a ton… and the reason is there is always some kid who has never heard of me because I am new, trying to talk noise to me like I’m just some untrained idiot.

    You’re established now, and you don’t have this problem anymore I’m sure, but I swear it seems to happen to me every time I try to say anything.

    I had to train in this old style of animation for like 5 years just to be good enough to be hired on by Bakshi, and I just want people to understand who I am and where I’m coming from.

    Beyond that I get what you are saying… but its hard to swallow that, especially after working with Ralph. He purposely pushed everyone to bring their own style to the table, which is he opposite of what most studios do, but I will have to say the end result is something completely unique and different. And refreshing and wonderful. It’s like a jazz band where everyone has their own sound but they all play together in harmony.

    I mean you work for Spongebob, one of the more creative and skilled cartoons out there… but a lot of them…. I don’t know… they are just not what I want to do with my career.

    I don’t know what to say… I’m an oddball… I’m just going to have to bounce around until I figure how to make what I want to do work… I don’t have the answer now.

  • Jeff Missinne

    Yeah, Warners and Fleischer; they were still pretty much just putting a round head on top of either a round or sausage-shaped body for most of their character designs.