Stills from BUCK's recent collaboration "All in a day's work" with Mailchimp. Image courtesy of BUCK.
As the pandemic halted live-action productions, postponing the release of hundreds of movies and television shows including The Batman, the Spiderman sequel and Grey’s Anatomy, the animation industry -- despite facing its own challenges -- saw recognition and success.
“We’ve been through two major crises as a company: September 11, which decimated our business, and the 2008 financial crisis,” FlickerLab Founder and Creative Director Harold Moss told The Org. FlickerLab is a full service animation, production and technology studio founded by Moss in 1999.
Going into the pandemic, he said he “was prepared for a major devastation for our business, but then quite the opposite took place.”
With live-action productions on pause, film and television producers began focusing on creating content that involved greater computer generated components.
“There was a need to satisfy and replace live experience with virtual ones, whether it was trade shows, sponsorship events or other kinds of experiences,” Moss said. “We were also stepping in to fill the void of live action shots in post production.”
Moss noted that even prior to COVID-19, he had begun to see changes in the industry, noting that his company had already largely gone virtual before the lockdowns.
“The animation industry in New York is not the most robust, and we had already started working with more people remotely,” he said. “So when the pandemic hit, it was a less dramatic transition going 100% remote.”
Other animation agencies have echoed similar sentiments. BUCK is an animation studio founded through a Craigslist ad by Jeff Ellermeyer, Ryan Honey and Orion Tait. Since its genesis in 2004, the company has taken off to where it currently has an estimated 350 staff members and 150 full time freelancers.
“BUCK was growing steadily before the pandemic and once March 2020 hit, we just kept growing,” Emily Rickard, BUCK’s Chief Production Officer, told The Org.
“The biggest change has been the shift to working from home. It’s brought many positive outcomes with the more flexible working environments — especially for those who are able to spend more quality time with their families.”
In the past, animation was widely perceived to be part of the children’s market, but recent trends towards the advancement of virtual realities and artificial intelligence technologies have shifted this perception. Furthermore, adult oriented animated shows and movies have proved to appeal to a wider adult audience.
In order to continue nurturing company culture and talent, BUCK gifted their staff VR headsets and hosted parties virtually, building custom BUCK clubs, DJ’s and art shows.
“It was a good time and our monthly global company meetings have become a fun way to see everyone and show off the amazing work that BUCK’s been toiling over,” Rickard said.
As demand for skilled animators rises, the notoriously underpaid and overworked industry will hopefully see a shift in their salaries as well.
“The need for video and the need for content has grown exponentially, there are definitely opportunities for artists who are looking to go down this career,” Moss said.
“Animators are more expensive than they were a year ago, it makes me happy because a lot of animators are underpaid, so in general I think it’s good news that there is demand for the industry.”