Help! Timeframes for production!

For those of you with clients or even producing work for yourselves, what’s your timeline from start to out the door, for a 30 minute 2D Animation? how long is a one person production taking everyone?

Trying to see how I stack up compared to averages in the field


Your question can only be answered if you provide more information, because it depends entirely on the quality and style you are after.

2D Animation with early 90’s Disney style animation, with HD quality resolution.

Disney broadcast TV animation at that time was done animated on two’s @ 24fps mostly, with very quick actions on ones sometimes. I’d say 12-18fps, but of course you could re-use stills quite effectively as well with only small parts of the characters moving/animated, such as a head turn only, or blinking eyes.

Disney animated feature films are animated at full 24fps, mostly complete redraws of each frame.

It’s easy to calculate your production time. It depends on your drawing speed and speed at which you are able to animate. If frame-by-frame animation like early 90s Disney animation for TV or direct to video is your goal (which is pretty crappy quality compared to the old 40s/50s cartoons), on average 12-18 seconds a week, if you work really, REALLY hard.

So, let’s take 14 seconds per week for a Disney-type 90s quality style. This will be frame-by-frame animation (no cut out characters!). Let’s say the animation’s output is 24fps, animated on twos only.

Per week: 14 seconds * 12 frames = 168 frames per week you will have to produce. You want a 30 minute animation: roughly four weeks per minute of work by yourself:

4 weeks * 30 = 120 weeks. That boils down to 2.3 years of pure animating production time. This does not include drawing storyboards, coming up with stories, the scripts, finding voice actors, recording voices, planning dialogue, music production, editing, drawing backgrounds, creating characters, etcetera, and so on. Also multiple characters in a scene would slow you down more.

I’d say three years of non-stop work on your own? For a typical 30 minute TV / direct to video Disney 90s quality animation. Probably longer, because you’d have to do all your own cleanup in Toonboom as well. And you’d have to produce 24 frames per day from Monday to Sunday.

That’s a very good and accurate analysis. When I worked at Michael Sporn’s studio doing hand-drawn animation the artists would do about 15 seconds per week. The animation was mostly on 3’s, but we did our own clean-ups, coloring and compositing, too. We animated on paper or in Photoshop and assembled the scenes in After Effects. Harmony really speeds this up. If you use the rigging tools in Harmony you can get the animation done much quicker. Many TV shows are now being done with rigged cut-out/puppet characters and the results look great. I’m still learning how to do this in Harmony. It’s a very deep program and takes a lot of work to figure it out, but the learning portal on this site does a good job of explaining how the program works.

I think if your goal is to produce a lot of animation fairly quickly, rigged characters is the way to go. But some people like Bill Plympton and Paul Fierlinger are prolific and produce huge amounts of animation very quickly doing hand-drawn. They have drawing styles that work well.