Ken Harris Ken Harris
Artist RightsBusinessIdeas/Commentary

The Joys Of Working In Animation

Animator Ken Harris becomes a meme. Via Reddit. (Ironically, Harris was one of the fastest animators at Warner Bros. and would often leave work early to play tennis. Does anybody have that luxury nowadays?)

  • Mac

    I can’t blame the producers, they don’t know what it takes to animate on production. If these morons will work 18 hour days for no overtime, the producers won’t stop them. Suddenly, animators are upset they work in an industry where unpaid overtime is mandatory? Blame yourselves. Stop doing it. Or have you vocationally trained yourself into a corner and you can’t do anything else but work at these specific places?

    • Jason

      Those ‘specific places’ lead the pack. Just unionize.

    • Karl Hungus

      Its not that easy. Often a good show – and talented, experienced, people in the industry can recognize a good show from the start – will take extra effort in the first season. You can’t reuse elements and art in the first season.Everything is built from the bottom up. so if you believe in the show and enjoy the work, it makes sense to do it during the first season, because a successful show is SECURITY. You want to be part of a success and you want a long run for the show. It builds a good argument to do some extra work. The problem is that once producers get that extra work, they expect it.

      But your attitude is another problem altogether. The industry is beset just as much by people who work free overtime as people who don’t give a rats ass about the quality of their work. They refuse to put any extra effort in and seem like they want to be somewhere else the entire day., They aren’t invested in the goal. So the show turns out mediocre and is cancelled after the first season…
      Which lends skepticism to animation as a viable medium because of its failures and cost. Which leads to less shows being made. Which leads to less work for everyone.

      If you are recognized for some extra effort, the security of being part of a great show is arguably as good as overtime pay on a show that only runs a season because it was so expensive.

      Then you are working completely for free doing tests for studios to get a new job.

      • Mac

        Those people who don’t care, are the smart ones. You’re not living some dream, you’re not getting away with anything by drawing cartoons all day in someone elses office instead of digging a hole in the street. If you think the choice in your life is unpaid overtime, or do unpaid tests, you’ve chosen a ridiculous career, that has twisted your mind. Which episode of what show caused you miss another evening in the lives of your children?

        The glass bottlers and the coal miners and the model T assemblers had this problem too. Unlike those numbskull cartoonists, who have a unique skilled labor, those unskilled hard laborers weren’t convinced by their floor managers that they should try to make really nice coke bottles, because then the factory will stay solvent, and don’t you love glass bottles? “Do it for the love of your craft”. No, they unionized, they sleep 8 hours, they work 8 hours, they spend 8 hours doing something else. You should aspire to as much.

      • Lola

        Get off your high horse. While unpaid overtime is a terribly problem, calling the artists morons and idiots for following their dreams isn’t going to help anything or convince anyone to stop.

      • Karl Hungus

        “The people who don’t care are the smart ones”.

        Spoken like someone who has never worked on any quality product in their whole life….

      • Mac

        I was only repudiating the complainers of the meme. If you love unpaid overtime, then you are golden. You’re the guy making the cold tactical decision to be paid less for the job, just one of the smart ones, who needs to put in more hours than people who can do their job in less time. Some people take great issue with unpaid OT, and their distress seems deeper than these image macros.

        Everyone I’ve ever seen in TV who is not a mental case or a lunchtime drunk, is pretty healthily detached, like Ken Harris.

      • Mac’s reply of, “Everyone I’ve ever seen in TV who is not a mental case or a lunchtime drunk, is pretty healthily detached, like Ken Harris.” is brilliant.

        Working unpaid overtime is no dream and I’ve never met someone who considers it such, even those who’s enthusiasm seems limitless. Being “healthily detached” is important, I think. If you are then you will have no problem starting to look for another job the second you realize the current one is going this route. The lustre of an excellent project is instantly tarnished by unpaid OT. There is no job security either in doing so as you’re effectively communicating to your employer that your job is so menial and easy you will do it for free. Employers see people in menial positions as disposable.

    • bones

      You nailed it, Mac. People do NOT like to hear it, but it is absolutely true.

      “chooses to work overtime” – FTFY

    • Karl Hungus


      If only you could go back in time with your brilliant advice and bestow it upon Andrew Stanton and Pete Doctor during the early days of Pixar.

      A blind and shortsighted hard line like the one you are professing could ONLY come from someone who has no experience in the industry, or whose experiences are only bad ones. Sorry bub, your heart is in the right place, but you’re wrong.

      • Mac

        Any situations like that, will come naturally. We’re not talking about that. There’s a hopes and dreams level of aspiration in this business, but then there’s the vocational end.

        People should be protected by labor policy. I don’t think you’ll find yourself in a brain trust situation off the street. Andrew Stanton and Pete Doctor and all of those guys are friends from CalArts, they aren’t exploiting each other. It’s not just a job at that point. Everyone I know from CalArts who went to Pixar in the present day, not on the ground floor, would be silly to give that much. Some of them are like you mentioned, eager to find whats next, getting stoned at work. I agree that’s bad.. The andrew stanton of your time travel situation would have been coming off of some other job not working with and for his friends(I assume). People will form their own little “brain trusts” of success based on their relationships and passion, all this labor law stuff won’t matter to that kind of thing. Maybe you get that kind of opportunity from being positive and doing unpaid OT. I’m only talking about complainers, they should unionize, to end the unpaid OT.

        Jorge Guiterez speaks of how he gives 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. It got him the only full ride scholarship through undergrad and a graduate degree at CalArts and carried through every job no matter how small. Super positive attitude, and it always worked out for him. He’d never author that meme. If you’re like him, you’re fine. If you feel exploited, Unionize. Unionize. Unionize.

  • Trevor

    paid overtime is relatively standard in the major feature studios

    • Hey now

      …and almost nonexistent in Los Angeles TV animation studios.

      • Knowing this make sure to negotiate your rate to reflect the reality of the situation. When I work on commercials I know damn well they own me for 2 weeks and I am not going home at a reasonable hour, ever. So, I charge a rate that reflects this so I don’t feel bitter. I won’t do good work while hating my employer.

  • chris

    Your choice, go work at McDonalds and get pay for overtime. Or make CARTOONS for a living.

    • Buck

      Your choice, go work at McDonalds and get pay for overtime. Or become a LAWYER for a living.

      It sounds just stupid. You’ll never become a great artist unless you care about your work. Comparing art to Mcdonalds isn’t a good idea.

  • Here’s a better “meme” to go with Ken Harris’s photo:

    “Worked hard from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm every day and consistently turned out 30 – 35 ft. of high-quality character animation a week …

    Anyone for tennis ? “

    • wever

      Oh, YOU!! *shakes finger toward Ken*

    • *raises hand for tennis*

      Seriously, if half the animators who complain about unpaid overtime and “being forced” to work long hours (everything you do is your choice) worked like Ken Harris, can you IMAGINE the amazing animation we’d be seeing on TV today?

      It would be a wonderful thing to see.

    • Not Me

      Yes, work smarter not harder. I is possible to do 30ft a week. But the first thing you have to do is stop working free OT, force yourself to leave on time. “It gets better”

  • Jody Morgan

    Animators aren’t the only workers facing that situation; my father retired early from accounting because he was tired of unpaid overtime and being forced to forego taking vacations while also not being paid for his unused vacation time.

    • TLS

      Yeah, unfortunately this is pretty common in all professions these days. If you don’t want to do the extra work, there are plenty of other people out there willing to step up and take your job. :(

  • Irving Mendez

    The problem, I think, is that we are in a completely different period of time right now, in the past there wasn’t that much competition, but now if the studio doesn’t like the quantity and quality of your work, they can lay you off. There are hundreds of other professionals willing to take your job. There are not many options right now. Every year hundreds of talented students are added to this industry every year. So I can only guess this will get only worse.

  • JC

    The problem is if you are a business you automatically push everything to the limit, you lean hard on all the people below to maximise profits (even at the cost of efficiency it seems). This is seen as good, typical business.

    If you are an employee and push the otherway and regulate your own rights you are a bad egg, lazy, disloyal, unmotivated etc.

    • Kevin Martinez

      How many of these lugubrious comments are by people actually working in animation, or any other field for that matter? I’m guessing few or none.

  • wever

    Isn’t the message in the image marco true for all jobs?

  • Tim Hodge

    Surely all the unpaid overtime gets overshadowed by the residual checks…


  • TimeForTimer

    What studios don’t pay overtime? Are they non union? I worked at Warner Bros. TV Animation for many years on about 6 different series. I was always paid for overtime. Always. Because I got the overtime pay and was treated fairly, I also worked a number of hours free. Not because I was their patsy, but because I was happy working there and enjoyed my job.

    • wever

      I worked at a studio who had to create a 3-episode pilot for a TV series in record time because it was tied with the release of a feature film months later. We spent all of a month doing nothing but layout day and night, and they even got other animators from elsewhere in town to help.


      And now, 4 years later, they’re closed.

      Bet they regretted THAT move!

  • IMO – Overtime is only for producers who have no idea how to schedule and hire properly- or director who don’t know how to direct. In an effort to be fair to employees and control costs for employers- employees should have a fixed salary per project- tied to reasonable deadlines (NOTE – Reasonable Deadlines).

    Of course, things can always go drastically wrong (again usually due to poor planning). In which case everything needs to be adjusted- deadlines and pay.

  • Does a dancer or musician get paid for learning the notes
    or steps in rehearsel? No,he or she gets paid for the performance.
    Animators often complain that they are treated like factory workers rather than artists.Well if you like to think of yourself as an artist than overtime pay is kind of abstract
    as to the amount of time spent getting the performance right.A lot of hits and misses,especially a lesser experienced animator.
    If you like to think of yourself as a factory worker than you have a right to complain about overtime pay or lack of it.

    • Hey Now

      Eesh. What a lousy, inaccurate analogy.

  • Tim

    It’s a tough economy out there right now so it’s not that easy to switch careers, and believe it or not, the animators, which for some there are no unions, do not run the business, which runs on overtime. Animators go to school to learn the notes, on a production they deserve to be paid like everyone else.

  • Ryoku

    The world of animation is a bit crooked in some ways, I just wish that animation writers had the same determination in a quality product that the animators do.

  • The current industry has a glut of animators to choose from, which creates greater competition and less positions.
    I agree with ‘fregem’, that the biggest problem is scheduling and that is a producing issue. Ultmiately you have to set work boundaries, which requires you to respect yourself and once you’ve done that your workplace will change.

  • Unpaid overtime is the norm in the video game industry ( as I’m sure many of you know). Exploiting talent is nothing new and this is especially true when it comes to the creative. Management just wants a product to box and sell, a good product, one that’s done on schedule and under budget ideally (Think Leon Schlesinger). And your reward for working hard and being brilliant? You get to keep your job. Wooo Hooo!!!!