This is a very common problem among aspiring animators, so I figured I'd make a post about it. Here's what to tell your parents in response to their concerns! (Edit to add disclaimer: I am based in the US and am a CG artist. I try to keep my observations of my 2D animator friends in mind as I write these kinds of posts, but it's entirely possible that I'll miss something. Let me know if that's the case! Another edit to add: The point of this post is not to be an end-all-be-all informational post about the details of working in the industry. This post is about giving things to say to your parents who might think animation or art in general is not a viable career. It's to help them understand that artists can and do make a living. I have tried to give accurate information based on my experience and observations being a CG artist based in LA, but many people may have a different perspective when it comes to the details-- see the comments. Again, this is things to tell your parents, not a definitive handbook to surviving the industry as an animator. There are plenty of other great posts for that if that's what you're looking for!)
"You're going to end up being a starving artist."
If there's only one concern that parents have about animation, it's this one.
A lot of this concern comes from your parents' conception of what an artist/animator is. To them, the first image that comes to mind of an artist is a studio artist wearing a beret trying to sell their oil paintings on the street. They might also latch onto the stories of how famous artists like Van Gogh didn't become famous until after their death, and lived rather frugal lives. Their notion of this isn't helped by the fact that they've only ever seen you "drawing all day" and not have a part time art job during high school. The only professional artists they know are your high school art teachers, who we know don't make much money.
But in actuality, there are a TON of art careers out there. Check out this quote from elestoque.org:
Jon strongly believes that the “starving artist” is a myth and asserts that the stigma that surrounds the myth mainly exists because people associated the word artist with starving during the 19th century.
“I would say that there are more opportunities in [art and design] than are there for people in STEM,” Jon said. “I feel like people are slowly starting to see that. People don’t realize who designs your furniture, the culinary tools you use, the homes you live in or the cars you drive.'"
Remember that Animation as an industry is built to make money.
Yes, you will be an artist, but you won't be "the starving artist" like you (or your parents) may imagine. If you land a job at a big studio, you will make a real income with a W-2, 401k, health insurance, and everything. Smaller studios may not offer all the benefits like 401k/insurance, but the point is that it's a real income with paychecks. Animation studios hire employees to make and sell a product just like any other business does. You aren't selling canvas paintings to scrape by. In short, you have heard rumors that artists don't make money, but that's not true-- artists are everywhere and they touch everything we consume, from billboards to product designs to commercials to movies.
Edit: Some discussion in the comments points out that the above quote might overreach a bit in saying there are statistically more opportunities in art than STEM as that may not be the case, but the core point remains the same: there's a lot more opportunities in art and design than your parents probably think there are.
"Animation isn't a real career, you can't draw all day to make money."
I would have them look through the credits of any animated movie and watch how long that list goes.
Remind them that every single one of those people listed in the credits is an employee of that company with a W-2 and probably biweekly paycheck making at least a good bit over minimum wage (although likely much higher). Look up those job titles on GlassDoor if you want to, to show them that those jobs do indeed make money. Look up the very names in the credits on LinkedIn if you want to drive the point further, and you'll find that those people have had pretty fruitful careers working in a lot of different studios on a lot of cool projects.
You can also Google search or LinkedIn search "3D animator jobs" or "FX artist job" or "Prop designer job" or "Character animator job" and show them how many jobs show up. That's how many jobs are open right now, even during COVID, that you could apply to right now if you wanted. That's a lot of jobs! And those job listings are Real JobsTM
, with real responsibilities, deadlines, and upward mobility; they're not jobs where someone takes pity on you and gives you $30 to draw their portrait and you're done. They are real jobs with real paychecks.
Speaking of paychecks: animators can make quite a comfortable living.
Click that link for a lot more info. But in a nutshell, if you work hard and network well, you won't be living paycheck to paycheck in this industry.
Even if you freelance, this still stands true. Freelance won't get you a job-sponsored 401k and health insurance, but you can make quite a bit of money freelancing if you spend a couple hours a day lining up new clients. To prove this is a real possibility, you can go to Fiverr.com
and show them how many freelance opportunities are out there TODAY. RIGHT NOW. It's a lot. And the demand only increases over time.
A final point: animation is such a big field that "drawing all day" is actually only a job for a small minority of animators in total. A lot of the most lucrative jobs in animation are people who work with software and computers, which are often categorized into "technology" jobs, which your parents might understand the implications of more easily. Half the people at Pixar, for example, are technical artists of some sort. They do art, but they also solve those creative visual problems using code or software. See this post for a list of all the different careers within animation!
And besides, even if you are just "drawing all day"... you'd still be getting paid decently for it, so I say that's a win-win. :)
"Art schools are too expensive."
Yeah, I mean, they're right. Art schools are expensive. You could be paying off that debt for decades if you don't have scholarships or steady income. But here's a glimmer of hope: you don't have to go to an expensive art school to be a successful animator. School is important, but not for the prestige of the school or degree; it's important because it gives you access to mentors, frequent critiques, software/hardware, networking opportunities, and structures and deadlines. As long as you can find a school that does those things, you can still make it without paying hundreds of thousands for art school. See this post for more info about what to look for in schools.
You also don't necessarily even have to have a degree to be a successful animator. I do suggest going to college if you can for a number of other reasons, but the degree isn't one of them. Details about that is also in that post I linked above.
But even if you did go to an art school, it is still a very helpful investment in your future as an animator. You will be able to pay off good chunks of that debt once you break into the industry and start earning paychecks/lining up clients for a few years. Plus there's always the possibility of earning scholarships if you work hard before and during college to find them. There's always a way to make it work with dedication and discipline.
"It's too hard to get a job in animation. I don't want you to rely on me for money if it doesn't work out."
Your parents are
right that animation is competitive. And I will say, it is quite hard to get your FIRST job in animation! Even after you graduate from college, you may not be able to find work for several months, even a year or more. But once you break in and get your first job, it becomes much easier to find work. You won't have as many issues finding work once you've broken in, as long as you're skilled and aren't a pain to work with.
Also: animation is a pretty versatile career. The skills can transfer between a lot of different fields and if you were ever in a pinch there would always be work out there that you could likely do. For example, when I was out of work for a few months, I spent my time doing graphic design freelance. Some animation-adjacent job examples are: graphic design, toy design, kickstarter campaign visuals, medical visualizations, exhibit design, motion graphics, video editing, the list goes on! Do have a plan in place though
in case you can't find work for whatever reason. Be smart with your money and try to have at least a few months' worth of savings built up. This will give you time to apply to more jobs or find new clients without getting evicted from your apartment or going without groceries.
"If you want to do animation, minor in it or do it on the side. Get a safer degree first."
Splitting your time is actually riskier than just going for animation 100%. If you go to school wanting to be an animator, I would not minor in it or try to double major with it. I'd just go for it all-in so you can stay competitive with those who are also going all-in.
But this doesn't mean you can't seek a safety net career. If you choose to go this path, I would establish that career first and spend several years building up experience in it. After that, you can quit that job and go full-force into animation. Basically, if you want a safety net, go for each career one at a time, don't try to do both at once. See my post about this.
"There's no job stability in animation."
It's not always stable, but that doesn't mean there isn't any stability. In fact, it could be argued that there's more stability in animation as a field than a lot of other jobs when you consider situations like the pandemic. A lot of good people lost their jobs, but animators (for the most part) did not. In fact, animators now have more flexibility to work remotely than they ever did, meaning they can tailor their work situation more easily than say, a doctor or lawyer ever could.
But even when there isn't a crisis, it is still possible to find stability in animation. There are jobs that offer long or indefinite contracts, there are many fields of work that are always in demand, and there are always freelance gigs available that one could pick up when needed. It's not guaranteed of course, but it's not like stability doesn't exist at all. See this post for more info on which jobs are stable and what stability means in the animation industry.
So yes, while your parent(s) are right about job stability being a question in animation, let them know that it's not so cut and clear. Many jobs in animation are contract-based, which means that you only work for the duration of a project and you have to look for work 1-2 a year (contracts average around 6 months each). But that doesn't mean all jobs are short-term contracts. Many people enjoy a "staffed" position at their studios where they are hired indefinitely, just like any other job. Others enjoy long contracts that keep getting extended because they are valuable employees in a high-demand field. Others enjoy taking a bunch of short term gigs and doing lots of overtime for a fast-paced life that pays a ton. Don't forget that short term contracts usually mean lots of overtime pay :)
Edit: It is good to be prepared for time in between gigs though, as u/dagmx
mentioned in a comment. Depending on what part of animation you're in, and sometimes just the saturation of the industry at any given time, you can find yourself out of work for a few months every once in a while-- stability is not guaranteed. But, as I mentioned before, have a plan in place! Be prepared financially, mentally, and physically for this possibility, and you should do fine.
Your parents are only looking out for you.
Keep in mind the reason your parents are telling you not to pursue animation in the first place: they want the best for you, and they are worried you won't be able to make enough money to survive on your own. They may also be worried that you'll never be able to move out, pay your own bills, and that you'll be dependent on them if you get a "fake" or "low-paying" career. Considering how millennials in general are doing right now financially, I can't really blame them for being worried.
Listen to your parent's concerns, and ask yourself if they are valid for you specifically. For example, are they worried that animation in itself is just a "fake" career, or are they worried that you won't be able to work hard enough to make it in the industry? If it's the former, then hopefully this post gives you conversation fodder to help them understand otherwise. But if it's the latter, ask yourself if you really do have the drive and discipline to succeed in this competitive field. Can you take critiques? Can you practice several hours a day? Are you determined to pursue this with everything you've got? Do you have ways to cope with your mental health? If you answer no to any of those, then your parents might bring up some valid points to consider.
But it all comes down to you. You know you, and you know your situation. Consider the risks, consider the rewards, and consider your ability to work hard and compete against other artists. Show your parents how and why it's possible, and prove to yourself (and your parents too I suppose) that you have the mental, emotional, and physical capacity to do this. You can definitely make it in this industry if you go all in and have a plan. The fact that you're on this sub and read all the way through this post tells me you have the passion and drive for it. All that's left is following through with the plan! :)
I'll edit this post as I think of more parent concerns to address haha. If anyone's parent had a concern that isn't listed here, comment it and I'll see if I can add it to the post!