How much does an animation cost?

People often ask us, ‘How much does an animation cost?’ The answer is simple: somewhere between $0 and $180m, which is how much Pixar spent creating WALL-E.

Asking, ‘How much does an animation cost?’ is like asking how much a house costs. It depends on a variety of factors: How many bedrooms? Is it detached? Does it have a pool?

I’ll be up-front; you won’t find a specific figure from this article. However, you will come away with a clear understanding of what determines the budget for animation and what a higher budget will get you.

Here are some key factors we consider when pricing our work:

Will it be challenging to animate?

Detailed animation - especially things like humans and animals can take a long time to animate. The more difficult the shot is to produce, the more it will cost. It’s not just the number of characters - animating in a similar style to South Park is much easier than animating something that looks like The Snowman.

Having some idea of what kind of style you want to work with can be helpful when setting a budget for a project. Try to approach an animation studio with some examples of things you like. But be aware, more complexity, such as details and movement, will cut into your budget.

Do you already have a style?

You might already have an established visual style as part of your brand. This can be helpful and save you money, as it will eliminate the need for design exploration in the planning of the project.

Perhaps you’ve worked with an illustrator who has established a look and feel. If you own the rights to this style, an animation studio can bring these elements to life and create new assets in the same vein.

Sometimes the animation studio and illustrator will collaborate and work on an animation together. This will likely reduce the cost of the animation studio, but you’ll need to pay the illustrator separately.

How much do you have to say?

Broadly speaking, making an animation longer will make it more expensive to produce - we advise our clients to plan the shortest animation possible. This means we can focus on crafting a succinct message so the audience doesn’t get bored and click away. It is especially important when trying to sell people a product, service or idea. In general, we recommend aiming for approximately 90 seconds.

A training animation might need to be longer than 90 seconds, which is fine, as it’s likely to have a captive audience. In this case, the cost of creating a longer animation can be mitigated by selecting a more simple style.

Are you in a hurry?

If you approach an animation studio asking them to turn around an animation in three weeks, it will likely cost you more. The studio may have to move other projects around or take on extra freelancers to fit your project in. Tight timelines are expensive as it will be more stressful to produce, and studios can name their price because your organisation is desperate to get it done.

Approaching an animation studio in plenty of time will allow them to schedule the project around other client work. This flexibility is valuable, so don’t leave commissioning animation until the last minute.

Making a series?

Are you looking to create a single piece of animated content, or do you have a series that you want to release over a few months? Knowing that you’re making several animations at the start of the project is cheaper due to economies of scale. For example, we don’t need to develop a new visual style for each animation and might use the same voiceover artist. It also gives the animation studio more control over the production schedule and allows the development of a better client/studio relationship.

If you’d like to post a couple of small pieces of animated content each month but don’t know in advance the scope or script, it’s worth considering setting up a retainer with the animation studio. This is good for the studio’s cash flow, so they may offer a better deal.

Is your content evergreen?

An animated explainer video - highlighting your organisation's services - might be something you will use for five years or more. In contrast, an animation supporting a company product launch on social media may only be relevant for a few weeks. Obviously, you’ll want to make the most of your marketing budget, so although your social media launch campaign might have many initial views, the longtail of an explainer will likely outperform it over time.

How many stakeholders are there?

Working with larger companies often means more stakeholders. For animation studios, this means spending more time on project management and, therefore, more feedback to respond to. This naturally will increase the cost.

You can’t change the size of the company you work for, but if you’re lucky enough to have autonomy within your department, mention this to the animation studio you work with as this may reduce the cost.

What do you have to spend?

If you've already allocated a budget to an animation project, share it with the animation studio you want to work with. You may feel that holding back that information will get you a better deal, but the reality is that it just becomes a game of ‘guess the budget’. You’ll either receive low-cost proposals that are unexciting and offer the bare minimum or proposals that sound amazing, but you will never be able to afford.

Being upfront about what you have to spend means that a good animation studio can propose a solution that makes the most of your budget. If you have a large budget to invest in animation, the studio can suggest something ambitious that will be rich and detailed with complex animation and immersive sound design. If your budget is on the smaller side, they might offer a simple approach that uses the budget more creatively.

Work with us.

At Jolt, clients come to us with a variety of budgets. Some contact us knowing what they want to spend, and others aren’t sure - so we work with them to set a budget that they’re comfortable with, and that offers a good return on their investment.

Whatever your budget, get in touch with us - we’d love to help with your next project.