Creature Animator

Learn about the role, salary, software and skills needed to become a creature animator

Creature Animator Job Description

A Creature Animator is a specialist in creature creation. They animate real life creatures as well as imaginary or fantasy creatures for films, TV shows and video games. They specialize in the movements of animals, reptiles, insects, birds, etc recreating them in a virtual environment.

When developing fantasy characters they may draw on the traits of humans or animals, and may even integrate both to bring these original beings to life.

This can be the most inspired form of animation, as Creature Animators need to imagine creatures that don’t exist in the natural world. This can be creatively freeing as well as daunting, especially when dealing with main characters with which the audience must empathize. Imbuing such creatures with human qualities requires a keen eye and understanding of what connects us all.

Role & Responsibilities

Creature Animators create animations of non-human characters. These could be from the natural world such as animals, reptiles, bugs, dinosaurs, etc, or they could be fantasy, myth or alien creatures. While these creatures are not human they may sometimes need to be imbued with human traits, in these cases the Creature Animator must be able to give ‘personality’ to imagined beings while rendering their non-human physical characteristics. 

When animating animals, reptiles, etc the Creature Animator must be familiar with their movements, expressions and poses to make them believable and relatable. 

The responsibilities of the Creature Animator may include:

  • Working from brief from the Lead Animator regarding the characters to be animated
  • Researching styles, genre and specifics of the project
  • Creating 3D animations from sketches provided by designers
  • Working from storyboards to create sequences
  • Developing the look and feel of creature movements
  • Ensuring creature consistency 
  • Reviewing and maintaining animation standards
  • Revising sketches and animatics as per feedback from Lead Animators
  • Animating creature mood, emotion, facial expressions, movement and behavior
  • Producing animatics of scenes and sequences, providing options of creature movement and behavior
  • Working to a tight schedule and delivering amendments to deadline
  • Collaborating on and creating improved workflows and procedures
  • Integrating creatures into animated scenes and background environments
  • Animating to dialogue/voice track
  • Syncing animation to dialogue, sound effects, sound track, foley, etc
  • Brainstorming with colleagues regarding the best creative solutions for the production
  • Applying motion capture to animation

Software and Other Tools Used

Creature Animators work exclusively with computer software. Some studios work with their own customized software, so animators must be fast learners. They must have a working knowledge of some or all of the following:

  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • LightWave
  • Flash Professional
  • MotionBuilder
  • Unreal Engine
  • Substance Designer/Painter

Skills Required

Creature Animators have a special affinity for giving personality, idiosyncratic movement and a psychology to animated characters. 

Employers may look for the following skills when hiring Creature Animators:

  • Artistic talent, with an affinity for drawing character
  • Training in the basics of visual language - perspective, point of view, proportion, color, composition, framing, etc
  • Visual storytelling skills 
  • Creative problem solving skills
  • Knowledge of acting styles and techniques
  • Solid understanding of anatomy
  • Understanding of movement of limbs, the effect of weight, and the behavior of skin, fur, feathers, scales, flesh
  • Ability to recreate animal and human movements 
  • Ability to work well within a team as well as independently
  • Ability to take direction and deliver amendments within deadline
  • Training in animation, character/creature drawing and fine art
  • Familiarity with rigging, modeling and texturing 
  • Experience with task management and scheduling
  • Some knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies
  • Awareness of interactivity and user experience principles 
  • Working knowledge of the laws of physics - gravity, acceleration and the laws of energy

Average Salary

The average salary for a Creature Animator varies from USD $56,000 for an entry-level position to USD $111,000 for a senior position. Salaries depend on experience, location, and industry.
(Source: Glassdoor)

The Creature Animator role is highly specialized and not usually an entry-level animation job. Consider taking an animation course to learn the skills to get started as an Animator, then narrow your focus once you've built up some experience and high quality creature animation work to show potential employers.

To learn more about this field, visit: What is Animation?


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