Artist Jobs At Disney

Disney Artist Daan Jippes
Daan Jippes drawing Donald Duck in Frankfurt by Jano Rohleder

From the first Walt Disney short film to the recent release of the Disney major motion pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios is considered a pantheon for animated cartoons in the motion picture industry. As a result, there is a natural desire for aspiring artists, animators, and cartoonists who have a desire to work in the creative motion picture industry. Good News! If you are focused on your goal and are willing to learn the craft, there is a pathway for those who desire to bring the Disney Magic to life.

Where to go you go to college for animation

Long are the days of keeping a sketchbook for when inspiration strikes and a sample portfolio case of your work. Today the animation industry needs to be college-educated and technologically savvy. To apply for an opportunity, you must be able to show that you have the knowledge, experience, and necessary skills for which the studio is looking. This information is listed for each job opening. According to the company website, for animators, Walt Disney Animation Studios is looking for the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Animation or related field or equivalent work experience. The company is willing to consider a wide range of experience levels. However, you should have at least two solid years of computer animation experience with Maya Computer Animation & Modeling Software or similar computer animation and modeling programs.

The best place to learn these skills and technology is an accredited college or university. There are many colleges and universities which have animation and film making courses. However, there are programs that the animation film industry considers a step up from the rest. A shortlist of the top Animation Schools includes (but are not limited to):  School of Visual Arts, New York, University of California, California Institute of the Arts, School of Film/Video, Ringling College of Art and Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern California, Los Angeles and Carnegie Mellon University. Admission to a well-respected program like these is an advantage when looking to make connections and learn about opportunities. Professors and placement professionals will already have contacts with alumni working in your field of desire.

How to become a Disney cartoonist?

Like most studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) is continuously looking to hire fresh artistic talent. The company has a history of helping future generations of animators other artists to develop their creative and technical skills. Disney has several in-house programs to work for artists. The studio has a Talent Development Program for graduating seniors. For underclassmen, you can apply for the Art & Production Summer Internship Program, the International Art & Production Summer Internship Program, or the Technology Internship Program. To apply for all programs, you will have to fill submit an online application to create a user profile. The best overall starting place is the official WDAS website at Click on the Careers tab to create a profile and confirm the official WDAS application deadlines. In order to build your artist profile, you must upload your resume and your demo reel/website, and be prepared to tell the Disney team about yourself and why they should hire you.

There is a hierarchy to the way Disney animates. It is to manufacture animated product what Henry Ford’s assembly line was to manufacturing cars. Various aspects of each film or television program is divided up by specific activities.  A quick browse through salaried position WDAS is seeking includes the following job titles: Character TD, CG Animator, EFX Artist, Modeler, Digital Character Modeler, Character TD, Crowd FX Artist, Character Pipeline TD, Talent Development, CG Animator and Visual Development Artist, just to list some of the opportunities. Anyone interested in a job with the Disney company should understand the job description, how it’s functions and the way it works as a part of the collaborative process.

How much do Disney animators make?

Like most industries, compensation for animators varies based on skill and experience.  Disney does have an agreement with the Animators Guild, which sets a minimum wage requirement for a specified duration. As of July 2014, the minimum wage for a Disney animator is $39.93 per hour or $1,597.04 a week for the first six months of employment. For the next six months to a year, the minimum hourly pay rate is $40.84 per hour or $1,633.48 weekly. During the first year, the minimum annual salary is $83,993.52. After one year, the animator achieves Journey status, which leads to a pay rate of $42.36 per hour or $1,694.36 a week. The annual salary for a Journey animator is $88,106.72 a year. An in-betweener earns an hourly rate of $28.74  per hour or $1,149.40 for the first six months with the studio, and $29.57 an hour or $1,182.60 a week for the next six months. The minimum salary for an in-betweener during the first year is $60,632 annually. Once the in-betweener reaches journey status, the minimum salary is $30.65 an hour, $1,225.84 a week or $63,743.68 annually. Since these numbers are just the minimum, animators are free to negotiate higher wages directly with Disney when they start or down the road.

Before you think of this as a king’s ransom, consider the fact that you will work and live in Southern California. This is one of the world’s most expensive places to live. As the second-largest city in the United States, Los Angeles attracts job seekers from both across the country and around the world. Since So-Cal is the epicenter of the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry, there is an abundance of demand to live in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles and Orange County areas are magnets for many aspiring animators as well as actors, directors, technicians, screenwriters and other creatives. When the demand for items like housing, transportation, and food is high, prices naturally rise. As a result, everything is quite expensive.

What’s it like to work at Disney?

The official tagline for Disneyland is The Happiest Place On Earth. To read reviews on sites as Glass Door and Quora, you can find a wide range of opinions of both support and disagreement about the tagline. Many who made posts talked about ‘a family feeling’ or ‘a Disney spirit’ between the employees. Some talked about long days and hours when on deadline. Others were delighted to be a part of the industry, and work with one of the leading providers of animation in the world. Many summed it up by reminding readers that Show Business is a business and you will be expected to work hard on the projects to which you are assigned and deliver the desired results.  Any fantasy of a dreamy utopia of creative expression and expressing your inner muse with various pieces of sketch work will soon be short-lived.

Are you Interested an Art Job at Disney? Prepare to learn your craft,  get to work, pay your dues and do your job like a professional.

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