Pre-Production In Animation: Definition, Process & Challenges

a year ago   •   3 min read

By Gwénaëlle Dupré
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Anything is possible in the magical world of animation, if you get the pre-production phase right! Pre-production is the secret ingredient that makes every animation project come to life: it's where the magic begins, and where the imagination is let loose to come up with stunning visuals and captivating stories.

But what is pre-production, exactly? In this post, we'll go through the artists, steps, and challenges behind this key phase. So, grab some popcorn, and let's discover the fascinating world of pre-production in the animation industry!

Pre-Production Definition

Pre-production is the process of planning and preparing the production of an animated film or series episode. We'll dive into each step of the pre-production process in the next sections, but you can already guess how important it is.

Why Is Pre-Production Important

Pre-production is key because it sets the foundation for the entire animation process:

  • Animation is complex and time-consuming: making changes during production is expensive, so pre-production makes sure the project is well-planned and follows a coherent vision.
  • Pre-production provides an opportunity to establish clear communication channels between team members, define roles and responsibilities, and ensure that everyone is working towards the same vision to make the process more efficient. This is especially important in animation, where multiple artists and technicians collaborate on different parts of the project, sometimes remotely.
  • Pre-production is where the project's scope and boundaries are established―where artistic freedom clashes with financial and time constraints. It's where the team has to make tough decisions about what to include and what to leave out.

Without pre-production, ideas remain just that: ideas. It's the phase where reality takes shape. The better the planning, the faster the production.

The Pre-Production Process: 7 Steps

Pre-production is the step that takes place after concept development. The director imagines a concept and pitches project ideas to producers and executives, who approve the project or not. Given a green flag, the concept is developed further to include story outlines, rough character designs, the literary and visual bible, etc.

While the pre-production process varies depending on the type of project, we can already list down common steps in most animation projects:

  1. Scriptwriting - This is the step giving birth to a screenplay including dialogues, scene descriptions, action sequences, and characters.
  2. Art direction - The art director establishes the visual style and overall look of the production, including the color palette, backgrounds, textures, and lightning style.
  3. Storyboarding - The storyboard artists create a visual representation of the script as rough sketches that show each shot of the film or episode, along with camera angles and movements.
  4. Character design, sets & props - The character designers create the characters―illustrations for their appearance, clothing, and accessories, but also technical guides on how to reproduce and animate them. You can find construction steps, turns, detailed body parts, expressions, and attitudes―everything you need to avoid guessing how to animate them in the next steps.
  5. Casting - Where directors choose voice actors for each character during auditions.
  6. Music composition & sound design - Composers and songwriters plan the project's soundtrack and sound effects.
  7. Animatics - An animatic is the combination of the storyboard and audio elements to give a rough idea of a scene and make sure it remains coherent with the overall artistic vision.

The creative and technical teams work together throughout the whole production, but it's even more blatant during pre-production. By carefully planning the project during pre-production, animators can identify and solve potential problems early on. They make informed decisions about how to achieve the desired visual and narrative effects, and validate the costs while bringing as much artistic and technical creativity as possible.

Pre-production ends when asset creation begins―modeling, rigging, surfacing, etc.

Challenges Of Pre-Production, And Solutions

As you can read, pre-production isn't less complex than the production phase itself.

The pre-production phase of an animated film involves challenges like balancing creativity and budget constraints, meeting deadlines, and maintaining artistic consistency. It also involves conceptualizing unique ideas and planning for changes, which may require adjusting the timeline, budget, and creative process.

Effective communication and collaboration are essential. You also need to manage large amounts of digital assets throughout the whole process. Technical limitations and constraints need to be considered, requiring further creative problem-solving and innovation. Overall, pre-production is a complex process that requires careful planning and coordination across different teams, which is why a solution like Kitsu exists to track the progress of productions.


Whether you're a seasoned animation artist or a newcomer to the industry, remember that pre-production is where the journey begins. Embrace creativity, push the boundaries, and bring your wildest dreams to life!

If you're interested in learning more about the pre-production process and the persons it involves, we also run a Discord community where you can connect with more than 1000 animation professionals. No matter where you come from, join us―we will be happy to help you with your animation projects!

Spread the word

Keep reading