Lead Animator

Manage schedules, budgets, and staff for animation projects.
picture of Lead Animator

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$34,000 – $100,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Lead Animators do?

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!

Should I be a Lead Animator?

You should have a bachelor's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • High Achiever: You love the challenge of tackling difficult work.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.
  • Flexible: You're open to change and think variety is the spice of life.

  • How to become a Lead Animator

    Most Lead Animators have a Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aut9aa&chl=|certificate+%2820%25%29|associate%27s+%2819%25%29|bachelor%27s+%2862%25%29||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,62
    Schools close to

    Careers Similar to Lead Animator