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Do you want to work as a special effects artist – animatronics?

  • Read about the most important info you need to decide on following this career.
  • ​Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
  • If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community in step 8 where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential animatronics creators and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

CAREER MENTOR

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UPDATED: 8 October 2020

1. What is a special effects artist with specialization in animatronics?

Special effects artists are the people behind the scenes in creating movies or TV programs, as well as the various animal puppets used at theme parks and other animal attractions. They are the experts in creating computer graphic images (CGI), animatronics, explosions (pyrotechnics), atmospheric effects, and creative makeup.

In this career, we are going to look at one of these specialties, animatronics

Animatronics is the art of creating incredibly large or small mechanical puppets that can be manipulated using remote controls. These artists are model makers that create models that can actually move with the help of electronics. Animatronics requires a team of specialized artists and engineers.

Places known for their animatronics is Disney World, and movie franchises, including Jurassic Park.

Animatronics experts work with puppets that have electronic components or mechanical parts to help them move. OZT does have an entire career on animal puppet designer/makers (without mechanical parts, requiring humans to move them around), if that was what you were looking for.

Large Designs?

One of the largest animatronics is a gorilla of 13 metres (42 feet) tall, at Carthageland theme park in Hammamet, Tunisia.

Movement?

Creations can move either through pre-recorded movements that repeat, or through manipulation by puppeteers

2. What do they do?

Category:

Art & Design / Business

Focus:

Although the concept of animatronics expert encompasses both areas (creating just the latex “skin”, or just the the mechanical parts), we look at the artistic side, creating the latex skin.

The primary focus of animatronics art experts is to create a mold of the creature or animal, usually out of a foam based material or latex which can be painted and placed over an electronic or mechanical frame.

Daily Tasks:

  • Discuss brief with directors
  • Discuss the mechanical requirements with the engineers
  • Draw a sketch of the proposed puppet, with the necessary features and colouring
  • Prepare model drawings of each component or part that needs to be molded
  • Finish the external latex part of the puppet with paint, covering and fittings
  • Construct the final puppet
  • Test the puppet for final presentation and filming
  • Administration and filing

Where they work:

Environment

Animatronics experts normally work indoors in a design studio or office setup. They do also spend some time in the outdoors, studying the animals they need to recreate.

Places of Employment –

Most animatronics experts work privately, under contract for various clients. They can also be employed by TV and film production houses, large animatronic companies, and even large zoos, aquariums and theme parks.

Average Salary:

As most animatronics experts are self employed, their income is based on obtaining contracts. On average the income per year is around $55,000. This will differ from country to country, and the size of the project. It is also slightly less than the expert who can create both the skin, as well as the mechanical parts of the puppet.

Difficulties:

The most difficult part is always to get your first creations to be seen by future clients. Additionally, experts are faced with the usual constraints in tight deadlines, long working hours and sacrificing time over weekends and holidays to finish work within tight deadlines.

​Future growth and Possibilities:

The industry has seen very good growth with many of the film production houses using a blend of computerized CGI and animatronics.

3. Which Skills are required?

The skills required for a career as an animatronics expert can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship

Career Skills:

  • ​Good business knowledge
  • Good artistic skills
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Excellent computer literacy (drawing software)
Life Skills
40%
Career Skills
60%

4. Which Subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

5. What will I need to Study?

Minimum Requirements:

Formal education is necessary, with at least a minimum of a college diploma in arts. Most animatronics experts, who only focus on creating the actual animal puppet skin, will study an advanced Bachelor’s degree in visual arts, with specialization in sculpting.

If you are interested in also learning how to create the mechanical parts of some of the puppets, you can study towards a degree in robotics.

Focus:

A good background in drawing is essential, so be sure to perfect your doodling and sketching skills.

Major –

Some colleges and universities do offer degree programs in animatronics, but if you are only focusing on the foam/latex covering of the puppet, then a Bachelor’s degree in creative arts will be required.

Short Courses –

Short Courses are also available in basic animal anatomy, behaviour, movement, as well as artistic methods in molding, sculpting, working with clay, plaster and latex, as well as creative makeup skills and techniques.

Duration:

The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

Possible Career Preparation Paths:

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths:

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career:

Being an animatronics expert can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship:

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a cartoonist will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior animatronics expert.

Join the Special Effects Artist – Animatronics Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.

Professional Associations:

7. Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards visual arts and animatronics

Special Effects Artist Animatronics Career_opt

8. Join the OZT community

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animatronics expert.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animatronics Expert, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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