More Details on the JAniCA/Agency for Cultural Affairs Animator Training Project

…in condensed bullet point form of because there’s no way i’m completely translating a 39 page technical PDF just for fun, even if the project is really interesting.

Anyway, this project was announced earlier this month and the initial announcement about the basic form of the project (4 23-minute original animations to be produced with a 38 million yen budget each, with production focusing on the training of young animators) was picked up by the usual suspects. However, the general reaction on the comments sections seemed to be on the negative side, which was a little baffling to me. I have a lot of trust and respect for JAniCA, as they’ve been one of the most staunch supporters of animators (see translations here, here, and just about every substantial report over the last few years about animator salaries) and so the endless comments of “what is government doing???? just give money to the animators!!” were a little disheartening. These complaints seemed especially silly since the government funding is only coming in at around $2 million US, which in my admittedly rather business-ignorant mind isn’t going to do a whole lot if they just threw it towards wages. (Though if they took the proposed $130 million LDP budget for the manga library and gave that cash to animators, then maybe it’d be a different story…)

Anyway, I got to looking at the detailed application sheet that JAniCA put out a few days later, and wouldn’t you know it, it looks like a very well-meaning, intelligently drafted, and fast-acting plan! Anyway, here are your bullet points, as promised earlier. I’m doing this on a bit more of a rush than normal for me, so goyaku gomen. Please leave comments if you have any corrections/questions.

Basics

  • The basic requirement for a firm/studio/company to be chosen to produce this project is that it is based in Japan, and that it has both proven results in producing commercial animation as well as a desire to nurture young animators.
  • The application period for studios was from 5/10 to 5/21. Selections will be made from late May to early June.

What’s in the application package?

  • Main staff list: Names and resumes of the project’s director and producer. Names and resumes of character designer, animation director, and other staff may also be included here.
  • List of young animators: Number of animators to be trained as well as information about each is to be listed here. Animators must fulfill one of the following criteria to be included here:
    1) Six months to three years of keyframe (genga) work experience and also thirty years of age or under at the time of the application deadline. The company must also have an expectation that the animator will benefit from the training.
    2) An animator 27 years of age or under with fewer than six months of keyframe work experience but an individual who the project’s animation director who will oversee him/her strongly wishes to receive training.1
  • A script that provides an outline of the work to be created. The script must have been created under the active supervision of the project’s proposed director.
  • Basic character designs on the level of idea sketches created by either the project’s director or an animator affiliated with the project.
  • Storyboards for a ~1-minute preview of the project created under the supervision of the director.
  • Proposed budget for the project. If the cost of the project ends up exceeding 38 million yen, the production entity will have to bear the additional costs.
  • An outline of the production entity that shows that it is suitable to be chosen for the project based on structure, financial strength, prior accomplishments, technical strength and general know-how.
  • Selection of the firms that funds will be allocated to will be carried out by a committee of anime industry experts unrelated to JAniCA and its direct financial partners. Both JAniCA and the Agency for Cultural Affairs is not allowed to influence this committee in any way.
  • Applicants will be judged on appropriateness and feasibility of the project, its meeting the schedule, its budget, and its meeting the aims of the project as a whole.

Provided production schedule (only animation production side):

  • Pre-production:
    Script: 6/10-7/8
    Storyboards, character designs, art designs/settings: 7/8-8/5
  • Production:
    Layout: 8/5-10/21
    Keyframes: 8/19-10/28
    Inbetweening: 9/2-12/2
    Inbetweening checks: 9/9-12/9
    Paint (shiage): 9/16-12/16
    Backgrounds: 11/4-12/16
    CG: 11/18-12/23
    Photography: 12/23-12/30
  • Post-production:
    Cutting: 12/30-1/6
    Voice recording: 1/6-1/13
    Dubbing: 1/13-1/20
    Video editing: 1/20-1/27
  • Project finished by 1/27
  • Test screenings on week of 2/3

Objectives of / Issues underlying the project

  • A prime underlying issue that the project hopes to address is the lack of and aging of talented keyframe animators in the anime industry, which JAniCA believes is caused by the low wages and long hours that young animators face. JAniCA believes that if this situation were to occur in other industries that the natural response would be a shrinking of the pool of job applicants and a subsequent move towards improved training in order to build a young talent pool. However, due to the popularity of anime, a large number of young individuals continues to apply for these jobs, and thus there has been no attempt to focus on improving the quality of animators.
  • A 2005 study of the anime industry found the following:
  • While Japanese animation receives positive attention around the world, the low hiring standards of the industry is creating an unsustainable environment. This problem is largest for animators. While the existence of the problem is widely acknowledged, many financial and organizational impediments to a solution also exist.
  • One such impediment is that the animators themselves are not appreciated for their value.
  • Animators (those who draw keyframes and inbetween frames) are the core workforce in anime. However, inbetweeners in particular are treated as menial laborers, when in fact their contribution to the overall reputation of a given series should be more seriously considered.
  • In a creative industry such as the anime industry, talented workers are the most important resource. However, programs must be in place to discover such talent so that skilled positions can be filled with appropriately skilled workers.
  • In industries such as animation, individuals who may not be appropriate for certain positions may continue to occupy these positions due to the added “comfort” that results from working in an industry that produces content that the worker enjoys.
  • It is believed that even small increases in wages can fix many of the problems faced by the animation industry. There are two possible ways that can result in such a wage increase: first, that enough studios go out of business that producers who want to make anime take note of the reduced amount of available labor and thus begin to offer higher amounts of money to the still-existing studios. Alternatively, studios can undergo sincere negotiations with producers regarding the problems facing workers and how to address the disparity between workers’ true value and their wages. In order for this to happen, a network must be created between animation studios as well as with animator training facilities in order to increase bargaining power.
  • JAniCA’s project is rooted in these issues and aims to address them. The project hopes to address the issues of the small and aging labor pool through not the education of students, but through the development of animators through practical experience, guidance by experienced animators, and the payment of appropriate wages.

Direct objectives of the project

  • To produce animators who will be able to lead the way for the future of the Japanese animation industry. It is estimated that there are 3100 to 4500 animators (keyframe + inbetweeners) in Japan, and of these, 2200-3100 are keyframe animators. Assuming that these artists work from the ages of 25-60, that means that 63-89 new workers must be trained each year in order to remain at the current number of keyframe animators.
    The project hopes to take 20-40 young but experienced keyframe animators and allow them to develop into fully-grown keyframe animators, representing a significant proportion of this 63-89 individuals even if only half of the animators in the project successfully complete this training.
  • Due to tightening schedules and increased workloads in the past ten years, the amount of on-job training given by veterans to newer animators that is vital to the development of these animators has decreased significantly. Due to the aging of veteran animators, there is an urgent need to establish set methods of this type of training.
  • These methods will be established based on the thorough discussions of an investigative commission of skilled and experienced animators, including Ootsuka Yasuo (animation director for Hols, Prince of the Sun, Lupin TV, Future Boy Conan, multiple Lupin movies including The Castle of Cagliostro and more), Kanemura Sachiko (animation director for Touch, Gundam ZZ, City Hunter, more), Kabashima Yoshio (animation director for Lupin III: Mystery of Mamo, Lensman, Aim for the Ace, Captain Planet), Kawamoto Toshihiro (co-founder of BONES, animation director for Cowboy Bebop)
  • Training will occur in the form of both lectures and on-site guidance.
  • There will be a hearing team that judges the efficacy of the training program through examining the involved young animators. This team will consist of veteran animators and will be headed by Sugino Sachiko (keyframe artist, 20 year Ghibli veteran). This group will send reports to the investigative commission and discuss the program with them after the projects are completed.
  • Due to the trend towards anime being produced by production committees, who in most cases subcontract an animation studio rather than having them on as part of the committee, animation studios now have fewer and fewer rights over the products they create. This has contributed to the decreasing wages of animators and lowered earnings for studios. The project aims to promote works where the animation studio retains rights to the work by allowing studios to do so with the finished products.
  • Similarly, the project will provide top-class directors a rare and valuable opportunity to direct an original animation. The dramatic increase of anime being adaptations of manga and light novels has resulted in even some of the best directors working almost exclusively on non-original products. JAniCA believes that in order to further develop the Japanese animation industry, production of original works is necessary, taking as examples original works by Toei Doga, Nippon Animation, and Studio Ghibli.

Indirect objectives of the project

  • Encouraging greater compliance with contract laws: Due to the multiple layers and subsequent recommissionings between a production studio and an animator, subcontracting laws may be abided by, but contracts are often never issued. According to one study, fewer than 20% of subcontracting studios receive paper orders from a main production studio. In order to prevent ill effects on both animators as well as studios that may arise from pay or schedule disputes, greater usage of contracts is desirable. The project aims to help normalize this practice through the issuing of contracts for all work orders.
    Additionally, no standardized “model contract” exists in the industry, and thus the project hopes that its contract and the experience that those related to the project have using this contract will help inform any future attempts to create such a document.
  • Due to the largely freelanced and subcontracted nature of anime production, production schedules have continued to deteriorate over the years. This deterioration has negative effects on both animators as well as productions. The project hopes to lead the way as an example of what needs to be done in order to address this problem.

Distribution of funds

  • Each production will be given 38 million yen as funds. Generally, 1 23-minute tv episode costs 10-12 million yen, while a TV special costs 20-30 million. However, each production team must bear the costs of preproduction, music production, and PR/Marketing, while the animators on the project must be paid enough so that they will not have to take outside work during the course of production and training. Thus, the amount of 38 million was chosen.
  • Production details: Format is OP+ED = 3 minutes, main section 20 minutes 30 seconds, for a total of 23 minutes, 30 seconds. 380 cuts in total, including OP and ED. 11,000 inbetween frames in total, including OP and ED.
  • Based on the numbers, animation quality is expected to be above that of a TV series, and below that of a theatrical film. Roughly as good as a well-produced TV special.
  • The amount of work to be given to each animator is roughly in line with what they will face in the real world while working on a TV series.

Fixed pay rates for project animators

  • Animation takes place from Sep-Dec, 380 cuts and 11,000 inbetween frames.
  • 1 Director: To be paid a 800,000 yen one-time fee for planning, script, and storyboard. To also be paid 400,000 yen a month for 6 months for active duties throughout the project.
  • 1 Character designer: To be paid a 800,000 yen one-time fee for character designs.
  • 1 Animation director: to be paid 600,000 yen per month for 4 months.2
  • 1 assistant animation director: to be paid 400,000 yen per month for 4 months.
  • 6-12 Keyframe artists: To be paid 20,000 yen a cut x 380 cuts. Total keyframe budget is 7.6 million yen.3
  • 33 Inbetweeners doing 300 drawings each for a total of 11,000 drawings: to be paid 600 yen per drawing. Total inbetweening budget is 6.6 million yen.4
  • 1 Inbetween checker to be paid 750,000 yen.
  • Reserve funds for animation: 450,000 yen.
  • Total: 23.4 million yen for animation.

Sample/model budget for non-animator expenses:

  • Management expenses: 10%, 3.8 million yen.
  • 1 Producer: To be paid 350,000 yen a month for 6 months.
  • 1 Production Assistant: To be paid 200,000 yen a month for 6 months.
  • Paint: 180 yen x 11,000 frames, 1.98 million yen in total.
  • Backgrounds: Department is allocated 1.3 million yen
  • Photography: Department is allocated 1.4 million yen
  • Sound, including seiyuu: Department is allocated 1.5 million yen
  • Music: 1.05 million yen
  • Editing: 270,000 yen.
  • Studio profit: 0 yen
  • Total including animation budget: 38 million yen.
  • Half of the earnings generated by the product created will be returned by the production companies to the organization running the project until 50% of the budget has been recouped.
  • Each production company will retain full rights to their produced work.
  • Fees for animators and animation directors are fixed at the amounts indicated above.

Other notes

  • Each production will also feature 3 or fewer experienced keyframe artists who will assist in the instruction of the young animators. The animation director will also be tasked with instructional duties.
  • Inbetween animators chosen for the project will all have less than a year of experience.
  • Once selected, each production company will submit a training plan which will be drafted with the assistance of the project.
  • “Original” anime is defined as a work written by the director and a work that is not based on a manga, though works based on novels may be allowed in certain cases. Works based on novels that have been turned into anime in the past will not be allowed unless they are folk stories or myths. Sequels to any previous work of animation will not be allowed.
  • The character designer of the work must be an animator on the work or its director.
  • All animation and paint work must be performed in Japan. Over 90% of this type of work is now performed overseas, and the outsourcing of inbetweening work is believed to be a major cause of the lack of talent in the animation industry, as it is a vital step in the development of an animator. However, it is also recognized that many studios lack the staff to fill these positions, and in the case that all of this work cannot be filled, Anitus Kobe, a studio with 25 animators and 10 painters co-founded by Wish and JAniCA, will act as a backup studio.
  • Animators and animation directors involved in each project will be expected to work on the project full-time (weekdays from 9-6, minus 2 hours for lunch and break)
  • Cuts will be assigned difficulty “ranks” by the director on the storyboard indicating estimated difficulty. More difficult and time-consuming cuts will pay more than lower-ranked cuts. This system is similar to the one used in the Detective Conan films.
  • Five full-group lectures will be given: one each on drawing ability, perspective, the production process, production management, and legal information (dealing with contracts, health insurance, pensions, and copyright). More individualized lectures will also be given to keyframe animators and inbetweeners on their specific jobs.
  • The project committee is looking into fan-oriented exhibitions of the works produced. They are also investigating television broadcast opportunities with stations such as the NHK.
  1. I believe that these are qualifications necessary for keyframe animators, not inbetweeners, but I may be wrong []
  2. average pay according to a previous post is around 200,000 yen a month. 600,000 is calculated by 300,000 for animation director duties + 300,000 for instructional duties. []
  3. i believe industry average pay per cut is roughly 4000 yen. []
  4. industry average pay per drawing is roughly 200-250 yen. []

5 Responses to “More Details on the JAniCA/Agency for Cultural Affairs Animator Training Project”

  1. wah says:

    Well I sure wish them the best! It’s a well meaning project, and hope they–at the very least–inspire an iota of change in the industry, because lord knows it needs it!

    The most interesting part to me was a lot of the technical details. The numbers of cuts used, the scheduling, etc. I take it that schedule is a lot different for actual productions, though. Like, I can’t imagine any studio taking 6 months to complete one episode of TV anime.

  2. welcome datacomp » Blog Archive » Studios, Directors Chosen for the JAniCA Animator Training Project says:

    [...] JAniCA has just posted a press release announcing the four companies out of the sixteen that applied who will be given 38 million yen each in order to create a 23-minute original animation primarily utilizing young animators as detailed in my earlier post on this project [...]

  3. Dr. J. Sil says:

    My grand-daughter, Age 16 (Born in 1995), a reasonably good student (securing 9.8 out of 10 in a 10 point gradation at the final of 10+ examination with the Central Board of Secondary Education, Inia,) is very keen to take up Japanese Cartoon and other Animation as a career. She is good at free hand drawing but thinks a proper and regular course in any institution in Japan may be of help.
    Can any one help her with proper guidance to achieve her goals?
    All communications may kindly be addressed to me at my email-ID: drjsil@yahoo.co.uk

  4. Primavera 2011 « Tora Shinai says:

    [...] Young Animator Training Project (Acension, Telecom Animation Film, P.A. Works, Production I.G.): 4 capitulos de 23 minutos cada uno, diseñados para entrenar a nuevos animadores en el arte de la animación. Los detalles sobre la preparacion de los proyectos se pueden encontrar aqui (En ingles) [...]

  5. Young Animator Project: The Old Man’s Lamp | tsundere says:

    [...] animated short, sponsored directly by JAniCA – more details are available courtesy of 2chan.us for those interested. If the business aspects are just flying over your head, that’s fine too [...]

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