Industry Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 4 percent growth of multimedia artists and animators through 2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth will be fueled by an uptick in demand for visual effects in movies, television, and video games. As consumers call for 3-dimensional content with higher degrees of realism, the industry will need to use the latest technologies and hire more multimedia artists and animators. Although growth is expected, competition for animation jobs will be fierce, with many new graduates applying for jobs. Those with skills such as computer programming or drawing will have an edge when seeking work. Additionally, the use of overseas animators may impact job growth through the mid-2020s.

The software publishing field as a whole is projected to experience strong growth. Software developers should experience job growth of 21 percent (much faster than the average) through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of the animation jobs in software publishing will be in video games, which seem almost immune to recession. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the American entertainment software industry generated record revenue of $43.4 billion in 2018.

The proliferation of mobile devices, such as smartphones, will also create a need for software with animated elements.

The movie-going public's taste for animation and computer-generated images (CGI) keeps growing. Films with action and adventure elements remain popular, and many blockbusters achieve their market clout by incorporating spectacular CGI effects. The top grossing films of 2018 included titles with breathtaking special effects and animation, such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Avengers: Infinity War, Mission: Impossible—Fallout, and Incredibles 2. In mid-2019, box office leaders included The Lion King, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Toy Story 4.

Animators who work in show-business settings, like most workers in the entertainment industry, face keen competition from talented and motivated newcomers. Much of this competition is now on a global scale. American animation companies are losing business to foreign companies that take advantage of the latest computer technologies and tax breaks from their governments. For example, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs has awarded grants to anime studios to help finance film projects in which apprentice animators could get training. British Columbia offers tax breaks for postproduction work done in the Canadian province even if the film was not shot there.

Video game development is one field employing large numbers of animators that has benefited from generous tax breaks here in the United States. Unlike motion pictures, the video game industry is able to combine loopholes that apply to software development, entertainment, and online retailing. As a result, video game shops are among the most heavily subsidized businesses in America. In addition to the federal government, more than 20 states offer tax breaks to this industry. 

Foreign competition has forced some American animation shops to lay off workers or close down entirely. Foreign-owned companies, even if based in the United States, are more likely to ship animation work overseas. In addition, American animators face some competition from foreign animators who obtain visas to work here.

At the end of the decade, it appeared that American entertainment industry leaders were strengthening ties with overseas animators. One example was the Walt Disney Company, which welcomed a contingent of 20 Chinese animation executives, animators, and government officials to the United States for three weeks of training in 2018. According to a September 10, 2018, Xinhua News Agency article, Disney provided the participants with insight into its "complicated process of nurturing an animated TV series from story and character concept, through script development, character design, musical composition, storyboarding, final art, production, post production and scoring, to the finished product." Disney established the multi-year training program in 2015 to help Chinese animators.

Both domestically and abroad, technologies such as artificial intelligence were playing a more prominent role in animation. In India, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Industry reported that the government was working to make Kolkata the "visual effects (Vfx) and animation capital of India," according to a July 22, 2019, Plus Company Updates article, which explained that the country desired to capture projects from streaming providers like Amazon Prime and Netflix, which were developing more of their own exclusive content. In mid-2019, India was home to between 15,000 and 20,000 animators who worked at 300 animation studios. Plans were underway to establish a dedicated center offering advanced technologies such as analytics and artificial intelligence.

In Australia, some animation and visual effects studios were beginning to use artificial intelligence to handle the more mundane, labor-intensive aspects of animation. Rather than resulting in job losses, the CEO of Animal Logic (a studio whose contributions included The Lego Movie, Captain Marvel, and Peter Rabbit) claimed that artificial intelligence would enable the company to take on more challenging projects, according to the March 11, 2019, issue of Australasian Business Intelligence.

The best opportunities in this field will probably be for workers who are highly skilled with computer graphics. This is true even though stop-motion animation is far from outdated as a technology, especially for 3-D movies.

Animation production continued during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic but at a slower rate than in 2019. Although technology allowed animation professionals to continue collaborating while working remotely, the necessity of sharing huge files among computers added time to the work. Production teams worked while split up across locations but continued generating material for televised programs like Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons, unlike live-action programming, which faced additional hurdles to bring cast and crew together for productions. And unlike traditional production companies, many animation companies have been hiring during the pandemic. As Variety described it in a May 2020 article, "the animation industry is a rare sunny spot in an otherwise dreary-looking entertainment landscape...". 

in 2020, the global animation and VFX market size was valued at $156 billion, with segments of the animation industry growing at up to 3 percent year over year according to a Research and Markets report. The demand for animation continues to grow, and production work has become global due to more countries and regions offering tax incentives, subsidies, financial support, low labor costs regionally, and other financial benefits. The report notes that "cloud computing is playing a key role in character rendering and modeling processes, as cloud-based rendering of animation films is more effective and efficient as it reduces the time and cost compared to traditional rendering."