Animator/Producer Matt Lyon discusses the cost of animation and creating the studio pipeline

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Feb
6,
2022

There’s been no shortage of great animated films over the past year, including Encanto, Sing 2, Lucas, Batman and more! Watching these films, there is always a great story that appeals to both children and adults alike, but there are often very different visual styles. If you think of the greatest hits of the last decade of toy story at Ice Age at The Polar Expressor even the latest CG version of The Lion King, these differences become even more apparent. We caught up with Matt Lyon, who has hosted projects for studios in the US, Canada and Europe, including arctic dogs, bubble guppies and more to dive deep into the world of animation.

“Each animation studio has its own production process, commonly referred to in the industry as ‘the pipeline’. It is through this pipeline that a producer can guarantee a certain type of animated film at a certain point in time. achievement, and maintain a certain predetermined cost up front,” Lyon shared.

The pipeline provides the right roadmap for successful realization and completion of animated works, limiting any guesswork or missed expectations that could ultimately compromise the quality and delivery of the final material. The value of a company that produces animation lies precisely in the production process it uses and in its ability to improve it over time.

If you look at animation leader The Walt Disney Company and compare their early work of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” from the 1930s to today’s “Luca” or “Encanto” you see a work which is certainly excellent but which has gained in quality and realization thanks to the use of applied CG and 3D techniques,” said Lyon. “An effective pipeline is like the ‘google maps’ of production, ensuring the right path is taken to complete the project. Much like navigating the field, charting the best course of action, and optimizing resources, the “pipeline” must be constantly updated and improved to maintain maximum efficiency as technology and techniques evolve.

How much a development pipeline costs before, during, and after the production process can be a moving target because it is a dynamic process. An animation studio usually applies a formula when budgeting for animation projects, because the actual cost of production might become much higher than originally planned, and so to protect themselves, it helps to realize the cost for the studio and third parties involved in the project.

Animation pipeline formula: Labor costs + hardware cost + software cost + 25% know-how (pipeline) + 7.5% buildgeneral expenses + 15% markup

For a quick example…
Cost per minute of animation $100,000 USD
Overhead $7,500
$15,000 profit
$25,000 Know-how (pipeline)
$52,500 Cost of personnel, software and hardware

When developing a project, calculating this breakdown is essential to ensure the overall completion and success of any project. You can read more about Matt Lyons’ upcoming work on IMDB.

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