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A Lead Animator is the “Animator in Chief” in charge of an animation project for a film studio, a television studio, or a game development studio. You see, animation is a complicated process. Whether done by hand or on a computer, it needs a team of talented Animators, led by a Lead Animator.
Animation used to be achieved by making a series of drawings — each slightly different than the last — that were photographed onto motion picture film and then displayed in rapid succession in order to create the illusion of movement. Today, most animation is done on computers. Still, it takes more than a keyboard and mouse to make Shrek sing and dance, to make Super Mario stomp on Goombas, and to make the toys in “Toy Story” save the day. When you’re a Lead Animator, therefore, you have a lot of work to do.
Whether you’re working on an animated film, a Saturday morning cartoon show, or a virtual-reality video game, it’s your job as the Lead Animator to function simultaneously as an Animator, a Supervisor, and a Project Manager.
From an animation perspective, you’re typically in charge of animating your project’s main character. That means doing all the typical animation tasks, such as drawing the character, plotting his or her movements, and developing a final three-dimensional rendering using 3D animation software.
While you’re doing that, however, you also have to make sure the project is progressing smoothly as the Animation Director ’s right-hand man. That means managing budgets, enforcing deadlines, and supervising, mentoring, and training employees, including 2D Animators, 3D Animators, 3D Modelers, and Character Riggers, among others.
Basically, you’re the team captain at an animation studio: Your job is to create and motivate!