How Much Does Animation Cost?

I’d like to know how much it costs to make an episode of an average animated TV series. Also, how much time does it take?

What?! You mean no one knows this?! This from the board that knew about Orap and grapefruits when my sister who’s a medical student didn’t?! Come on, people, someone must know!

Uh, yeah. I don’t know. SDMB rules for explanations of bizarre sexual peccadilloes like felching, but isn’t the greatest board in the world for animation details.

I seem to recall that Animaniacs went for about $450,000 per episode, and was considered very expensive for a kiddie cartoon. Most of the added cost was for the orchestration and musicians - Richard Stone used a full orchestra.

But that was so many years ago. I’d guess that’s about normal now.

Don’t know if this’ll help any:

Star Trek Animated Series
“The high standards of authenticity and quality drove the production cost to about $75,000 per half-hour episode, making it the most expensive animated series of its time.” (This was in 1973, according to the site.)

Quick Kick’s Theatre’s FAQ (G.I. Joe)
“As noted in the sponsors section of the episode summaries, an article in The Wall Street Journal stated that the cost of producing a half-hour animated episode was between $250,000 to $275,000.” (This was in the 80s.)

Finally, I knew I could find at least one more…
Cartoon Crazy
“The cost of a half-hour series starts at something like $500,000 an episode.” (This is in 1998, discussion of animated series in general.)

Generally, from off the top of my head, production of an half-hour animated series takes six to nine months.

[sub]Found this thread using a search on animation[/sub]

I bet your typical episode of Dragon Ball Z costs far less than that. I watched one episode with my hand on the stopwatch, there was almost 20 minutes where there was NO animation, just still shots or panning across still shots - and when there was animation it usually appeared to be the same 2 or 3 frames repeating. Considering also how long that show has been on the air and how much ‘stock footage’ they have, I bet they probably only drew a hundred or so frames of new animation on that one episode.

Well, it varies a lot considering who you get to do it. Helpful, huh?

In the US, there are basically two ways of doing animation. (not counting computer animation) Either with domestic studios (Disney and dreamworks might actually be the only ones around these days) or by doing the layouts here, and having the actual drawing done in the pacific rim sweatshops(usually in Korea) which is where pretty much all TV shows and most of the cheaper movies are done. I think it was Hanna Barbara who set them up in the late 60’s/early 70’s.

Obviously, the latter is much, much cheaper. (Iorn Giant, with it’s 30 million budget, was considered unbelivably inexpensive for a domestically produced movie) South Park cost 1.5 million or so, but then, “animation” fans insist that that wasn’t animated at all. :slight_smile:

Anime, unless they’ve changed a lot over the last few years, (Which it might have, shows like Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne obvioiusly cost more to produce than thier competitors) is made pretty much entirly in Japan, on budgets that would make american animation producers wet themselves with terror. :slight_smile:

They do this by generally streamlining the process, cheating a lot, (as Badtz Maru mentioned) and by exploiting thier animators. Animation is one of the default “geek” job in Japan, and a lot of the people involved are willing to put up with nutty conditions to be allowed to work in the industry at all. Just like comic books in the US.

Tricks arn’t all of the price difference, though. Ghost in the Shell, which used very little cheating, cost 10Mil to make. Akira, which kept it to a reasonable minimum, cost (if I’m remebering correctly, it was ten years ago) a shade over one mil.

Apparently one show (I’m pretty sure it was either Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z) actually DID have a “budget” of 200 cells an episode, if my admitadly unreliable memory can be trusted.

If you want more specific numbers, seeing as I haven’t answered your question at all, I’d suggest asking in the feedback area of We don’t have similar tastes, but the guy who runs the site knows his #@%!! when it comes to animation.

“Something else Satan created, Japanimation!”

Ura, I didn’t know you post at Animation Blast.

Depends on the situation, though. Twice in the last year, “South Park” has undergone significant plot and animation changes within a few days of airing, in case (this past Easter) within 24 hours of air time.

Yeah. It’s been pretty quiet there recently, though.

Well, South Park isn’t animated in anyway close to the way most shows are. They use scanned pictures of paper cutouts, which isn’t that entensive either in processor usage or layouts. The only thing that takes any time is the lip-matching. I love the show, but you can’t really compare it to “classical” or computer animation in terms of time involved.

“I like the show, but the animation’s terrible!”

I was reading the other day (like I do every day) and I caught a snippet saying that the Tigger movie cost a measly 5 million dollars to make.

South Park isn’t even represenative of CG animation, though I remember the ep you’re talking about. It was the Romanian acrobatic “quints” (I don’t know remember exactly how many there were). The episode had the fortune of being scheduled after Reno called the gang to retrieve Elian. As Ura said, it’s mostly paper cutout manipulated by PC. At most it’s probably as complicated as making an animation with Flash.

The Tigger Movie cost $15 Million to produce according to Brandon Gray. Which makes sense if you think of the movie as an episode of Winnie the Pooh that’s three to four times as long.
They sent the work to Japan, where it was cheaper to make.
To compare, Fantasia 2000 cost $80 Million, Tarzan cost $150 Million and South Park (the movie) cost $21 Million.

When South Park was originally shopped around, it was paper cutouts. The earliest pre-greenlight episodes that are circulating on the net for example.

But the series proper is not paper cutouts. It’s entirely CG (in a more advanced form than Flash, but probably not dissimilar) made to look like paper cutouts. Including flaws like shadows, misplacement, dust and hair, etc, all artificially computer generated to make it look real.