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Cadernos EBAPE.BR

On-line version ISSN 1679-3951

Cad. EBAPE.BR vol.15 no.1 Rio de Janeiro Jan./Mar. 2017 


Human resource management in creative industries: the case of Brazilian animation studios

Marta Corrêa Machado3 

André Luiz Fischer4 

3Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina / Departamento de Artes, Florianópolis - SC, Brazil

4Universidade de São Paulo / Faculdade de Economia e Administração, São Paulo - SP, Brazil


The main purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of human resource management processes in animation studios, which are part of the creative industry. This study adopted Chaston’s (2008) definition of creative industry as the meeting of business and culture. Chaston - among other authors - perceived the dilemma between artistic fulfilment and commercial objectives as central to this industry. But, in what ways does this dilemma translate into the operation of human resource management in Brazilian studios? In order to answer this question a qualitative research was conducted through case studies of four Brazilian animation content production companies. Data was collected through interviewing a business partner and an employee of each one of the companies. The data collected points out that human resource management tools are still rare in these work places, although managers are conscious that employees are their main business resource. In addition, it was observed that the retention of employees in these companies is related to their identification with the activity itself rather than for gratifications, such as salary or other benefits.

Keywords: Creative industry; Animation; Human resource management.


The number of Brazilian animated films produced has increased significantly in the last decades, as a result of the expansion of access to the means of production promoted by digital technology, as well as the government incentives that have grown throughout the audiovisual segment since the resumption of production in the mid 90’s. The number of Brazilian works enrolled in “Anima Mundi”, the most important festival of the genre in Latin America, shows this growth: in 1997, 26 national films were enrolled in the event; In 2007, reached 322 (BRASIL ANIMADO, 2015).

It is estimated that the global marketing of animation content, in its various formats, moves annually worldwide figures around $ 242.92 billion in 2016 (MARKETS and MARKETS, 2015). Aiming at this market, several countries have built policies for the structuring of national animation industries. The US continues to lead the segment’s production and consumption, accompanied, by far, by emerging economies such as Korea and India, which position themselves as outsourcing, offering cheaper labor than in Europe and the US (RAUGUST, 2004).

Faced with a perspective of growth and importance, the animation industry demands research that seeks to understand its characteristics and possibilities for improvement. Among them, we highlight the ways of dealing with human resources, since these are fundamental inputs for the production of contents.

As there is no specific literature for the management of people in animation studios, this article has been directed towards some referential universes that permeate this sector, such as the management of people in small companies and the management of the creative industry.

Brazilian animation today basically counts on small companies (MACHADO and MARINHO, 2015). The literature points out that human resources management has received little attention from researchers in the context of small firms (CARDON and STEVENS, 2004; DUNDON, GRUGULIS and WILKINSON, 1999; EDWARDS, RAM, GUPTA et al., 2006). This finding contrasts with the numbers that indicate that small firms are the work environment in more than 90% of organizations in several countries (CORNING, 2010, HENNEMAN, TANSKY and CAMP 2000).

Theoretical Framework

This section presents the theoretical framework that guides the investigation of the proposed research problem. To understand the context of the topic addressed, initially, we will define animation and creative industry; then we will address the issue of people management and small businesses.

Animation: definition and origins

Designers and painters have been dedicated to creating the illusion of movement since ancient times, because movement is the most intense visual attraction of attention, once their perception has become vital for the survival of human beings (BARBOSA JÚNIOR, 2005, p. 28). Animation is, therefore, the art of movement expressed with images that are not obtained directly from reality.

Stahl (2005) states that American animation production began almost artisanally, only years later developing the complex division of labor we know today. Art evolves over time, taking the form of an industrial process in the second half of the twentieth century, when the demand for a systematic production of moving images from frame to frame drawings has reached higher levels (FIALHO, 2005). This division of labor follows a systematic process, compartmentalized in several departments.

The story of animated cinema in Brazil, as far as it is known, begins in 1917, with the attempts of the cartoonist Álvaro Martins, known with Seth, to animate cartoons. His first film, called The Kaiser, premiered in Rio de Janeiro and was on display for very little time. According to researches in newspapers of the time carried out by animator and researcher Antônio Moreno, in the same year, in São Paulo, the efforts of production company Kirs Filme were also shown in animations. Equally frustrated, Chiquinho’s Traquinices and His Inseparable Friend Jagunco were only a few days in the making. Seth then goes on to focus on advertising films, and it is only in 1929 that new news about animated films reaches the newspapers (MORENO, 1978).

In 1966, Maurício de Souza founded his company, Mauricio de Souza Produções (MSP). He had been drawing the dog Bidu since 1959, whose stories were published in a São Paulo newspaper. The producer came as a need to support her creations in a good distributor. Until the late 1970s, according to Antônio Moreno (1978), MSP had about 600 types of merchandising and more than 100 registered characters. In addition to the company’s well-established distribution work in Brazil, the strip characters created by Mauricio have also won the world through contracts with United Press International and United Feature Syndicate.

At the turn of the millennium, Brazilian animation gained momentum, with the popularization of computers and the consequent cheapening of the productive process of animation. As a reflection, the production of Brazilian films, which in the first 100 years since the invention of animated film had only counted 12 films, had produced six other works in the first five years of the 21st century (ABCA, 2015). In this sense, it is estimated that today there are around 150 animation studios dedicated to the production of short films, television series, advertising and animations for the Internet and mobile media (MACHADO and MARINHO, 2015).

Animation production is a labor-intensive work (TSCHANG and GOLDSTEIN, 2010), and this is one of the essential aspects addressed in this article - people. In a 2D animation project, human labor consumes between 70 and 80% of production costs (MACHADO and MARINHO, 2015). Also in this sector is a cyclical productive behavior, and there was a revitalization of the segment in the 1990s, mainly due to the already mentioned lowering of the production process, with the popularization of computers and the dissemination of digital animation (TSCHANG and GOLDSTEIN, 2010 ).

The production cost of a feature film animation can reach 100 million US dollars. In the case of TV series, this figure can reache up to $ 1.5 million per episode (WINDER and DOWLTABADI, 2001). The number of people in animation productions can vary widely, considering the size and budget of each project (TSCHANG and GOLDSTEIN, 2010).

The UK gaming industry, as well as the Brazilian animation industry, is made up of a large number of micro and small independent studios and only a few major players (Hotho and Champaign, 2011, MACHADO and MARINHO, 2015), hence the need to understand how people management works in small companies to address the context of Brazilian animation studios.

Chaston (2008), Hotho and Champion (2011) point out a relationship between reluctance to grow and the tension between commercial orientation and artistic orientation in these sectors. In both studies, the authors found among managers the tendency to see marketing as something that compromises the artistic integrity of their content and preference for lifestyle above commercial aspirations. Hotho and Champion (2011) also indicate that small game studios share growing difficulties with small businesses in general.

Hotho and Champion (2011) also affirm that in this sector there is an expectation that companies will be directed towards the creation of copyright and that this presents itself as a challenge for innovation. Work for hire is a necessity to generate the necessary financial resources to cover the costs of creating such intellectual property. At that point, game studios are once again approaching animation studios, which generally see publicity as a springboard for larger, more authorial flights (COLE, 2008). Again, we find here the dichotomy between artistic and commercial goals, which intersects these two sectors of the creative industry.

All these aspects raised in the literature on sectors related to animation helped us to configure the variables that we seek to observe in the data collection of the case studies of this research.

Creative industry: definitions and concepts

The creative industry is seen today as an area of production where the fields of business and culture meet and therefore, both a logic of artistic practice and an economy is present (CHASTON, 2008). In this sector, knowledge and creativity are key elements to maintain a competitive advantage (LAMPEL, LANT and SHAMSIE, 2014). In animation, this is not different: both an artistic creation and a need for studio management as a business environment is present.

Horkheimer and Adorno were the first to use the term “cultural industry” in their criticisms of the commercial production of mass culture (LAWRENCE and PHILLIPS, 2002). However, according to Yoon and Malecki (2009), cultural industries are not exactly the same as creative industries. For these authors, the creative industries are at the crossroads between crafts, services and industrial sectors. The production of culture has expanded to include advertising, photography, pop music, films, comics, fashion, design, weaving and other artifacts and symbols of style and fashion that make up the creative industry, including animation (YOON and MALECKI, 2009).

Howkins (2002), in his landmark work The creative economy: How people make money from ideas, states that people who work with ideas and, even more, those who hold the rights to ideas, have become more powerful than those who work with machines and, in many cases, even more powerful than the owners of these machines. Creativity alone, according to the author, is not an economic activity, but becomes one when it produces ideas with economic implications or marketable products. In the case of animation, the work of artistic creation and design of the designs engages the creativity in the return of financial results to the studios.

Bendassolli, Wood Jr., Kirschbaum et al. (1990) credit the growth of interest in the creative industry to a sort of “cultural turn” in which “the emergence of the knowledge society and the transition from materialistic values to post-materialist values” (BENDASSOLLI, WOOD JR., KIRSCHBAUM et al., 1990, p. 11). For Lampel, Lant, and Shamsie (2014), even the cultural industry, in its broadest sense, has not received much attention from management researchers. For them, there are few studies on managerial and organizational issues related to these economic sectors. Also the animation industry, because it is a very specific segment, has not received great attention from researchers, hence the relevance of a study like this.

Among these few, there is one that Chaston (2008) conducted on small creative enterprises in the south-east of the United Kingdom with the aim of understanding the relationship of managers with the undertakings they commanded. He noted that most of these companies are run by individuals who are more interested in maintaining a life-oriented lifestyle in creative work than in becoming financially successful. For the author, a dilemma that stands out in this segment is the dichotomy between producing something that is personally pleasurable or something for which there is market demand (Chaston, 2008). This is another aspect that interested us to observe in the study presented here: to what extent this dichotomy between the pleasure of creating and the market demand is also established in the middle of the animation.

Management of people and small businesses

In order to understand the management of people in animation studios, it is necessary, first of all, to use the basic definitions of these practices. Boxall and Purcell (2008) define human resource management as all activities associated with work and people management in companies and other types of organizations. For the authors, “human resources management is a process that accompanies the expansion of organizations: it is a result of the correlation between entrepreneurial success and organizational growth” (BOXALL and PURCELL, 2008, p.2).

For Youndt, Snell, Dean et al. (1996), the notion of best practices does not fit into the universe of human resources management. The improvement in performance only happens when there is a composition between the human resources practices that potentiate the human capital and the strategy of quality. Hence we realize that in very specific segments, such as animation, it is complex to list a system of best practices to be adopted by studios.

Legge (2005) also distinguishes two approaches to human resources management that privilege different configurations: on the one hand, the hard approach focuses on the alignment of human resources with the organization’s strategy, in order to ensure that the objectives outlined in the strategy are achieved, understanding people as a necessary resource for this purpose. The soft approach, in turn, sees human resources as fundamental to the organization’s strategy, but is more interested in people’s collaboration, in their commitment to the organization and its values, seeing them less as passive resources and more as productive processes (LEGGE, 2005, p.105). In this article, it is assumed that, because it is a segment of creative production, what we find in the animation studios is more for the second type of approach than for the first.

By focusing on the small business, Heneman, Tansky and Camp (2000) pointed out the difficulties of research in these organizations, as well as the lack of systematization of official data, lack of time for managers and low acceptance in publications with greater support in the academic environment (HENEMAN, TANSKY and CAMP, 2000). Most of the Brazilian animation companies, as already pointed out, fit into the micro and small, hence the expectation of coping with these same difficulties in data collection.

In the literature that evaluates the relation of work in small companies, two opposite currents stand out. One considers the environment in these enterprises more welcoming and closer relationship between managers and employees, called “small is beautiful”, an expression coined by Schumacher (1973) in a publication of the same name. The other current considers this environment fertile ground for the exploitation of labor without guarantee of labor rights, since the proximity between managers and employees, in a supposedly “familiar” climate, would facilitate a situation of pressure and coercion. Wilkinson (1999) calls this negative condition a “black hole.” In this sense, this article sought to verify if these variables are present in the environment of the animation studios.

Mazzarol (2003) investigated the nature of human resource management in small firms experiencing growth, noting that the need to formalize human resources policies increases with the expansion of these organizations. The multiple case study carried out by the author showed that, in the view of owners and managers of small enterprises, finding, motivating and retaining good employees is a critical bottleneck in business growth. The lack of ability of the owners to articulate and communicate their vision of the business to the employees also creates a distancing between the strategy of the business and its operationalization (MAZZAROL, 2003).

Storey and Westhead (1997) addressed the issue of training in small and medium-sized enterprises and concluded that there is a relationship between the size of the company and how much training it offers to its employees. Cassell, Nadin, Gray et al. (2002) point out that training difficulties are always mentioned in a large number of studies on small business management.

Cardon and Stevens (2004) observed that several ventures are born small, but their managers consider this dimension only a step in a growth project. For these authors, some of these companies, however, grow rapidly, hiring more staff, without organizing a compatible human resources department, which weakens these businesses, highly dependent on human talent. (CARDON and STEVENS, 2004). Miller (1993) also points out that these companies are generally small and therefore can not house managers exclusively in people management or do not want to delegate these tasks to a specialist. Some studies also point out that people management practices are only isolated efforts in small companies (Marlow & Patton, 1993; Wagar, 1998).

Considering the non-monetary aspects of the rewards system in these companies, the study by Szamosi et al. (2004) listed as positive factors for working in these organizations the sense of support from colleagues and bosses, the wide variety of tasks, the feeling that being part of a “family”, opportunities to develop a variety of skills, greater opportunity For personal growth, greater flexibility to organize the work day, sense of accomplishment, opportunity to participate in all aspects of the organization and greater participation in decision making.

In this article, we observed whether the characteristics of the management of people in small companies pointed out by the authors up to here, also apply to the context of Brazilian animation studios, since most of them fit the definition of small companies. However, the aim is to understand to what extent these creative industry environments are distinguished from small enterprises in general in the application of human resource management practices.

People management in the creative industry

Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) devoted themselves to qualitative research in which they examined how art and business influence creative production and people management in German theaters. They point out that only basic levels of human resource management practices are found in this sector. In the theaters of that country, it is accepted of course the provision of services by actors to different employers during the term of contracts with a theater. The division of energy and creative and artistic potential that leads to this type of situation, according to the actors themselves, is governed by an economic logic that is also based on reward and appreciation. Thus, it seems natural for actors to seek input from sources other than their main employers, and it is therefore important to cultivate a good network of contacts. In this scenario, where contacts guarantee contracts and calls for new jobs, actors admit to invest strategically in their social capital (EIKHOF and HAUNCHESCHILD, 2007).

The authors point out that the strong intrinsic motivation contributes in the confrontation by the workers of this sector of the disadvantages that employees of other industries would not support. The abdication of aspects of the private life of the actors is self-imposed, with explicit devotion to the theater. The authors also cite the choice of actors for the bohemian lifestyle which, in Bourdieu’s definition, is typical of a specific medium of society, whose individuals have more cultural than economic capital and tend to work in the cultural or academic milieu. The logic of artistic practice is essential, according to Eikhof and Haunschild (2007), for the bohemian lifestyle, whose main objective is to integrate all aspects of the individual’s life, by itself a work of art, following the logic of art by (EIKHOF and HAUNSCHILD, 2007).

Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) bring to the fore another theory by Bourdieu that suggests that when artistic practice becomes professionalized, it runs the risk of being assimilated by economic logic, connecting artistic practices to the market, and inevitably establishing comparisons and measures between agents . Just as in the field of business, the cultural field is also governed by the paradigm of the accumulation of specific quantities and types of capital, whether social or reputational.

Despite the cultural distance between Brazil and Germany, the characteristics pointed out by the authors regarding the work in the German theaters seem feasible to be found also in the Brazilian animation studios. These characteristics, therefore, become variables to be explored in this study.

Methodological Procedure

The objective of the qualitative research is to develop concepts that reinforce the understanding of a social phenomenon within its natural setting, with special emphasis on the meanings, experiences and points of view of the participants (NEERGAARD and ULHOI, 2007). Qualitative researchers emphasize the socially constructed nature of workplaces and employment relationships and the situational constraints that shape research. Qualitative case studies are very useful when the researcher wants to get a rich and in-depth description of some event or process.

According to Marczyk, DeMatteo and Festinger (2005), qualitative studies are not concerned with quantifying their results by statistics. They, in general, involve interviews and observation without formal measurements. Case study is a form of qualitative research that focuses on the in-depth examination of a person or their context (ibid.).

This article is an exploratory and descriptive qualitative investigation of people management practices in Brazilian creative industry environments, more specifically animation studios. According to Gil (1999), exploratory research aims to provide an overview of a given fact and to develop concepts and ideas for the formulation of more precise problems or searchable hypotheses for later studies. These surveys involve a bibliographical and documentary survey, non-standard interviews and a case study.

According to Eisenhardt (1989), the case study is a research strategy that is concerned with understanding the dynamics present in a given scenario. For him, the interviewer has the possibility of personal interactivity with his informant, which allows the deeper exploration of certain topics. Sekaran (2003, p. 35) states that “the case study involves in-depth contextual analysis of similar situations in other organizations where the nature and definition of the problem are the same as those experienced in the situation under study.”

According to Collis and Hussey (2003), a phenomenological approach suggests unstructured or semi-structured questions, without a concern for anticipating results in their formulation. In this research, the semi-structured interview was chosen. It is characterized by a certain degree of pre-elaboration, guided by questions of interest of the interviewer, which explores them throughout its course. Gil (1999) recommends using it when interviewees do not feel comfortable answering more rigidly asked questions.

In this study, eight interviews were conducted during the years 2011 and 2012 in four productive environments of animation, always interviewing one of the partners of the company and a service provider. The proposal was to cover the two distinct points of view: that of the “owners” of the studios and of those who did not have this link with the company. Each interview lasted about two hours and all were recorded in the working environment and later transcribed. The excerpts referring to the variables of interest about the theme were organized and grouped systematically, so that one could understand the general context of the theme in these companies.

The interview as a research tool, according to Ruane (2005), demands certain social skills of the interviewer, particularly, in conducting the qualitative interview. According to Ruane (2005), conducting the qualitative interview demands certain social skills of the interviewer. The author considers that the style of the interview is defined, in large part, by the respondent’s willingness to talk about the topic addressed in detail. For this, the interviewer needs to create a welcoming and encouraging environment for dialogue. In addition, the author emphasizes that two strategies are important: the interviewer needs to be an active listener and must be able to deal with the respondent’s silences (RUANE, 2005).

Two of the studios studied are located in Rio de Janeiro and two in São Paulo - the largest production centers in Brazil. The choice of the four studios was guided by the effort to cover some of the variants that exist in these companies in Brazil. In Table 1 we present a synthesis of the general characteristics of the studios chosen for this study, aiming to contextualize their universe and justify the option for them. For the purpose of preserving data from sources, companies were identified as A, B, C and D, and interviewees as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1 and D2, in order to guarantee freedom for informants during the interviews.

Table 1 Characteristics of teh animation studios selected for this work  

Source: Elaborated by the author.

It is important to point out that, throughout the interviews, a fifth company of the sector was mentioned several times, which is referred to here as Company Z. Although not one of the cases focused on the study, some interviewees went through it as service providers and mention the strategy of the same as an example of mistaken management of people, and this information is also relevant to this research.

Regarding the variables addressed in this study, we defined, from the literature review, the following aspects as relevant to our field research:

Concerning the management of animation studios:

  1. a)people as a fundamental input;

  2. b)adequate remuneration;

  3. c)degree of satisfaction X creative autonomy;

  4. d)reluctance to expand the business;

  5. e)work by project X team loyalty;

  6. f) own creation X authorship.

Regarding the management of people in small companies:

  • apractices of management of punctual persons;

  • b)absence of specialist in people management in the team of managers;

  • c)relationship between size and training;

  • d)dichotomy “small is beautiful” X “black hole”;

  • e)difficulty of research in small companies - little systematization of internal data;

  • f) how to motivate and retain;

  • g)employee-perceived management by employees;

  • h)be small as a business phase or something permanent;

As for managing people in the creative industry;

  • alow levels of people management practices in these environments;

  • b)individualized treatment in the management of people;

  • c)network of active contacts as an important asset;

  • d)strong intrinsic motivation;

  • e)professionalization of artistic practice X loss of “artistic purity”.

Next, we synthesize the information collected in the interviews.

Synthesis of case studies

Synthesis of Study A

Studio A commenced operation in 2009 and has since retained its original three-partner configuration. The company was formalized from the demand for an award for development of a children’s series and has since been divided between providing services to third parties and its own projects, all in 2D economic animation. Before joining forming Studio A, the three partners passed Company Z as animators. Also collaborator A2, according to interviewed from Studio A for this research, worked in Company Z.

In addition to the demand generated by the prize they won, another factor that led to the creation of Studio A was the dissatisfaction of the members with the conditions of work in Company Z. It was there that manager A1 made the transition from an artistic role, from animator, to a managerial function of production coordinator, who also performs in Studio A. In terms of responsibilities, the A1 member takes care of the Company’s administrative, financial and production management issues, while the other two partners focus on the artistic part of the productions.

A business plan for the organization was never set up. Interviewees believe that they are in a niche of production that involves animation and narrative, with the provision of services to third parties currently accounting for 80% of the work done, and the projects themselves, for 20%. The goal is to reverse these proportions, achieving exclusive dedication to copyright projects in the future. According to collaborator A2, the shorter commercial works are an opportunity to try new things because the consequences for eventual mistakes are smaller. The provision of services to third parties, on the other hand, hinders the effective involvement of the team in the content. The distance of the creators of the productive process, makes the creative intervention of the collaborators more difficult. Studio A has made internal selections, pitchings, and, at the moment, wants two proposals conceived by collaborators.

The company has 23 employees, all of them providing service with an invoice and no registration in the portfolio. People management is one of several roles accumulated by members, who share tasks related to the topic. The meetings between managers and employees do not have a fixed periodicity, happening with some regularity and dealing with subjects such as internal conflicts and complexity of new work.

The lack of basic benefits such as paid leave and career plans mean that these are considered additional rewards for long periods of work and dedication to the studio. A reward pointed out by collaborator A2 as fundamental to him and offered by Studio A is the space for the satisfaction of his artistic and creative yearnings. Also, the fraternal atmosphere of work is, for A2, an important factor for the permanence in the company. The artistic vocation and the need for its expression permeate the speeches of A2 as something that is stronger than his financial needs and professional security.

Synthesis of Studio B

Created in 1998, with a focus on illustration rather than animation, Studio B changed its corporate setting and operating city in 2000 to focus on the development of children’s animation series with “child-reinforcing content”, according to the partner B1. The Company began in 2008 to hold one of the first international television co-productions between Brazil and Canada. Facing an “off season” of production, Studio B operates with around 20 people, having already had a team of 80, during the first season of the series in co-production, which was also the first great work of the company. It also has a permanent structure of training within its facilities, offering courses open to the community in general and discounts for its employees. The interviewee B1 is one of the two partners in the studio, being the only one of the original corporate composition. He studied fine arts and underwent a specific training course for animators. His partner, who was not interviewed for this study, came from the editorial area and graduated in engineering, having taken a course in audiovisual executive production.

B2, the second interviewee of this case, joined the company in 2009 and has a degree in industrial design. He went through two other animation companies before joining Studio B, having participated in the initial moment of creating Studio A (focus of the previous case study on this research) and rendering services still in Company Z - mentioned in the interviews of the studios A and B. They influenced B2’s decision to move Studio B to the size of the project and team that was involved in international coproduction and the ability to act in a coordinating, learning-driven role. After the coproduction, the studio assumed the service of another series, this national and with director of outside the company’s team. Currently, prepares the second season of the author series and a feature film with the same characters.

A business plan has not been set up without start-up of Studio B. Partner B1 does not believe that planning can work in the marketplace involving such uncontrollable variables as animation. Hiring a consultancy to evaluate the company and indicate ways to bypass the management difficulties is proved frustrating for the partners, who realized that a specificity of their business is not dominated by traditional consultants. There is no company with a single organizational chart, and with a speech from the B1 partner, it is possible to see uncertainties regarding the direction the company is making. The various functions accumulated by a partner and an instability of the animation market are pointed out as causes for several problems faced by the managers in the conduct of the business.

The production of animation content today in Brazil depends, a lot, on government incentives, according to B1. The resources that come from these sources suffer problems of prediction of disbursement, jeopardizing greatly the internal organization of the companies. Even depending heavily on these sources, managers discard the possibility of dedicating part of the studio to the production of content.

The lack of skilled labor in the market demands training throughout the production process itself, increasing the risks for the studio. Within the work of animation there are creative functions and others more manual. For the collaborator B2, the involvement of the artists with a project is given more by the content that is being produced than by the degree of autonomy that the company has about the decisions involved in the realization process. Already the space for the development of original ideas of the collaborators is seen, by partner B1, as something that can retain talent.

Regarding the size of the company, B1 considers that despite what it has done so far, Studio B remains a small company with management problems that characterize a business of this size.

There is no point control in Studio B, with flexibility for employees to make their schedules as long as they maintain productivity. The institution of bonuses for those who produced more had a negative effect and was discarded by the team itself. B1 comments that money is not what motivates the professionals involved with animation, but that, even so, it is necessary to guarantee survival conditions so that problems of this nature do not compromise the other motivating efforts. As for labor claims, the studio has not suffered any until now.

In the speech of collaborator B2, the disposition for the sacrifice of personal life stands out for a future reward through the consolidation of the studio and the Brazilian animation as a whole. Partner B1 refers to the signature of the employees’ portfolios as a desirable future reward, but, at the moment, impracticable. The ability to learn from work appears in the statements of Studio B representatives as an additional subjective reward.

Synthesis of Studio C

Studio C has been operating since 1996, having at first been dedicated to making games. From 2002, animation started to gain more importance in the company’s sales. In 2006, due to the demand, it was necessary to open a new legal entity that was dedicated only to the production of animation content. The provision of 3D economic services was the flagship of the company from then on, mainly supplying a customer who was selling DVDs of products considered “clones” of works of the great American animation studios. The short films were always performed by Studio C in parallel to the commercial productions, maintaining a specific team for this.

Two of the company’s four partners were interviewed: C1, trained in Fine Arts, learned how to animate in practice within the studio where he worked before opening his company; And C2, graduated in Architecture and coordinator of the company’s 3D core, began to study animation inside a laboratory in college. C2 began as a freelance collaborator and was invited to join the corporate structure for her involvement with the company. She considers that this participation is a recognition of her dedication to the Studio and that it further compromises her with the future of the company. The policy of inviting prominent employees to take part in the company was adopted by the company as a form of motivation, which in some moments had a negative return, Estudio C operates today with 20 employees. It has 3D and 2D cores and develops its first 3D authorial long.

The studio did not have a business plan before starting its operation and now prepares a specific one for the animation arm. Participation in copyright work is seen as a step up in the career of new entrants. C1 attributes to the scarcity of animation labor in Brazil one of the limiting factors to the growth of companies in the sector, since this workforce represents 80% of the business. Outsourcing the work to other companies is considered by the manager as a possibility of flow for the great volume of work that is to come.

Those who come to the production company to work with 3D bring the expectation of producing sophisticated things, such as those made by the great American animation studios, and are disappointed with the economic approach adopted by the company. The possibility of support for the realization of their own short movies was a form found by C1 to give discharge to the expectations in this sense of some collaborators. This experience, however, was not very positive and is being reviewed by the partners.

In terms of company scope, C1 expects it to triple in size in the future. In the short term, it is projected that the number of employees will reach 34 until next year. The seasonality of the works in animation is perceived in the variation of these numbers: the producer had only six people working, before being able to release the resources to play the film. C1 points to the strong dependence on incentive resources as a factor restricting the stability and growth of the company.

Regarding human resources management, C1 has doubts about the urgency of a department within the company to address these issues. In the view of partner C2, a small company brings employees together, creating affective bonds between them and opening space for a greater interference of these in the realized contents. As negative points, it indicates the most direct perception of the problems faced by the company and the lack of space for the specialization of the technicians, who must perform several tasks. Even so, the partner considers better “be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion”.

In the studio, there is an option for recruiting young people on their first job, which demands a constant training process in their own work. There is no formalized career plan, but there is an expectation of progression of the professionals through the projects of the company. In terms of hiring, two modalities are adopted: most of the employees have their portfolio signed; Team leaders and managers are service providers as a legal entity. The hiring is not done by project, and C1 believes that the signed portfolio and the bond with the company itself, not with a specific project alone, are uncommon practices in the sector. For him, however, this form of hiring is ideal because it offers the tranquility that the professional needs to produce well, in addition to decreasing the chances of labor claims. Partner C2 understands the regularity of the work schedule offered by Studio C as a positive aspect for those who want to create a personal life routine, but comments that some employees complain that this routine limits their creativity.

Studio C does not take any kind of reward for increasing productivity, because it understands that any bonus in this sense can be harmful to the good working environment. There is currently an effort to standardize salaries in the company, which has reduced the space for individual salary negotiation. It was adopted a policy of not “insuring” employees through financial rewards, preferring to offer other advantages to those who remain in the staff.

Synthesis of Studio D

Acting from 2008 on the animation market, Studio D is one of the youngest companies in this research. Created by the demand of animation for publicity, it is one of the few studios of the country that dominates the technology for the accomplishment of stereoscopic animation. The four partners met in the advertising faculty and worked together in another studio before they opened Studio D. Two partners of the project were interviewed for this work: D1, who takes care of the general direction of the projects, and D2, who is responsible for the administrative, financial and commercial aspects of the Company. Three partners are focused on the productive process, and only one, D2, takes care of all other matters that are not directly related to the realization of the animations.

According to D2, the goal of entrepreneurs has always been to focus on content projects, running away from the path the company had taken with all four partners and having strong dependence on the customers it served. They always sought to build an environment with quality of life for employees and for themselves, where there were fixed hours and a regular work bond, without the need for long hours of overtime.

In terms of people management, the company prepares an adjustment in the remunerations so that the bonus associated with the work performed has less weight in the fixed salaries of each employee. The creation of a career plan is also under way and should be adopted shortly. As in the other studios analyzed here, the training of new employees in the same job is also a practice of people management adopted in Studio D. With regard to hiring, D2 points out that the company adopts a portfolio signing policy for all fixed employees and that usually have some freelancers working as service providers for specific jobs. Although D2 considers that the ideal would be to have someone dedicated exclusively to people management in the company, he admits that at the moment this is not possible mainly because of budget issues.

As for the rewards, besides the signed portfolio and other benefits associated with it, the bonus for jobs that have been participated and a future career plan are differential of the company to compensate employees. The good work climate, according to D1, is perhaps the great motivator for retaining talent. Staff turnover is relatively low in Studio D, although the partners recognize that they are not in a position to retain the best professionals in the market due to the financial demand involved in these hirings. D1 believes that it is not primarily for the money that people work with animation, but for the ability to put some of their ideas and their creativity into the projects generated through this work.

Results and Analysis

Management of animation studios in the literature and the cases studied

Tschang and Goldstein (2010) concluded from their field observations that animation involves a lot of manpower, and that it consumes up to 80% of the project budget. From the data collected, it is possible to perceive that all managers consider people a fundamental input in their field of activity. However, even with such resources being so important, none of the managers claim to pay their teams well, which confirms Stahl’s (2005) finding that work in animation is demanding and poorly remunerated. Collaborator A2 reflects this in his lines:

{...} we have a much longer workload compared to my friends, engineers and lawyers {...} (A2)

{...} I believe that the animation professional, here in Brazil, compared to other professionals, for example, an engineer or a lawyer, he still earns less than he would get out there. An entertainer out there would obviously gain a lot more. I compare the relationship between the salary of animator there and that of any other profession. I think that there is still a great disparity here, which is reflected in the social value of the professional. (A2)

Another aspect addressed by Stahl (2005) refers to the relationship between satisfaction and freedom of creation perceived by employees of animation studios. In the discourse of the participants of this research, it is possible to find traits that confirm an association between the ability to decide on work and to feel good in that place. You speak like that of B2 - “{...} I think that you are looking for this a lot, at every step you ask yourself: Do you want to do this? Are you guys up to this? Do you think this is good? “- and C2 -” I can have more important participation in the projects, I can be listened to, my ideas are heard and we have more to collaborate as a professional “- demonstrate the importance attributed to” having voice in the decisions of the company “for those who work in this sector.

Hotho and Champion (2011) point out, in the ventures studied by them, managers’ reluctance to grow because they consider that the larger size of the company can be a risk for creative work. Manager B1, for example, who produced a series of 52 episodes of 11 minutes, equivalent to 572 minutes of animation, comments on the need to pasteurize a product like that, in which the realization needs to work synchronously, remembering the assembly line of a factory. In spite of signaling that he would do this course again, at times B1 seems to be hesitant as to be in fact the ideal path for his creative career, which reinforces Hotho and Champion’s finding(2011) about company size and their projects be defining in the creative space to be occupied by the workers involved in the achievement.

The relationship of work around projects is something observed by Hotho and Champion (2011) in the game company and also finds resonance in the animation studios addressed in this research. Project financing and the need to establish a more permanent relationship with employees seems to be one of the great paradoxes of the sector, as can be seen in the following statements:

{...} We continue to do work for granted. {...} It’s a complicated situation to think about, because you put a person who does the job very well, but when you finish the project you need to resume those tasks again. (A1)

{...} it’s hard for you to feel part of a place that you know the project will end and you’re going to leave. (B2)

{...} When we had the outsourcing flowing, with one project after another, we did not talk about people hiring on a project basis, it was a hiring for the Company. (C1)

The expectation that the gaming company, over time, would be directed towards authoring intellectual property, investigated by Hotho and Champion (2011) in their case study in England, is also observed in Brazilian animation studios. The provision of service to third parties is seen as a necessity to obtain the necessary resources so that, in the future, reverse the relationship of dedication of the structure between these projects and those of the studio, as demonstrated by the speech of A1:

We want to do our series and not get more service. The goal is to develop your own content, because it is where you will create harmony, balance. In creation, people will feel part of that work {...}.

It is interesting to note, however, that Hotho and Champion (2011) concluded in their study that the most interesting thing would be to maintain, parallel to authorial work, the provision of service to third parties, serving, on the one hand, as a source of financial resources for maintenance of the company and, on the other, as a training platform for labor. This relationship is very close to that sought by manager C1:

{...} If this client was still active, I think it would be very interesting to have a team working for him, which was a kind of training, a training to get on our long.

It should be noted, however, that only manager C1 presented this vision among the interviewees, not having been mentioned by the others.

Cole (2008) highlights work for publicity as a springboard for larger flights and more copyright in the animation studios he studied in Europe. For Studio D, to carry out copyright content is in fact a step forward in the company’s history, which, although not yet given, represents a present desire since the foundation of the enterprise. In this projected future, however, managers do not envisage abandoning advertising production altogether, seeing in it, too, as a path to the creative expression of their team.

After evaluating the relationship between the literature on the creative industry and management of animation studios with the cases studied, the data collected in light of the theory about people management in small companies are analyzed in the next topic.

Management of people in small companies and the cases studied

Marlow and Patton (1993) and Wagar (1998) have indicated in their writings that the practices of people management in small enterprises are only punctual, and in these organizations there are no policies built to subsidize decisions and align them with the strategic plan from the company. In the four cases studied it is also possible to verify this difficulty, with the studios adopting practices only in response to the demands of the business or the collaborators, something noticeable in the lines of A1: “I would like to sign the people’s portfolio right away, until the end of year”; B1: “We want to have {career plan} and we’ve tried to do it, but it has not yet been successful.”

For Miller (1993), one of the reflexes of the lack of structure of small companies is the lack of a person-management specialist who helps in the construction of human resources policies, which also happens in the four cases studied. None of the research companies has a manager exclusively dedicated to people management issues, which are usually solved by the partners themselves. It is possible to perceive in some statements a certain doubt as to the importance of this manager in the current context of the company, as attests A1, “(...) if we reached 40 people, should have a person dedicated to the management of people,” and C1, “I think if we had the triple, some 60 people working here, maybe, did not have a person to handle people management.”

Cassell, Nadin, Gray et al (2002) and Storey and Westhead (1997) point out the direct relationship between the size of companies and the training offered to employees. In the cases studied, it was observed that the managers are concerned to establish permanent training practices in their structures, due to the insufficiently trained workforce available in the cities where they operate. This finding goes in the opposite direction to that pointed out by the authors cited. It indicates that the training process in the analyzed studios is constant and permanent, with some of them betting on the creation of schools within the companies, both to complement the training for the already active team, and also as a resource to attract new talents to these organizations. This is the case, for example, of the reference center that operates within Studio B and that offers discounts for employees interested in their courses. So, at this point, field data point to a difference between small creative industry business and those in other industries.

The dichotomy between the “small is beautiful” and the “black hole”, emphasized in the literature by Wilkinson (1999), runs through the discourse of collaborators who, in a way more clearly than managers, can point out the advantages and disadvantages of work in a small company. For some, the preference for being “the head of the dog rather than the tail of the lion” (C2) is justified by the proximity of the decisions about the organization’s directions, by the possibility of interference in the contents produced and by the familiar climate of the work environment. Even considering the negative aspects of these small businesses, such as the lack of certainty about their permanence in employment, the lack of basic benefits (such as the thirteenth and vacations) and the lack of career paths to foresee a growth path, most Interviewees seems convinced that it is worth continuing to work in an organization of this scope and does not mention the possibility of seeking a placement in a larger company.

The only respondent who proposed this future alternative was B2. It is important to note that this is precisely the only collaborator interviewed who did not participate in the foundation of the company in which he works, nor did he become a partner of the enterprise, being also the only one that does not act directly in the creative part. For him, going to a larger company could also represent the exploration of new sectors of activity other than animation. It can be inferred then that, in the cases studied, the proximity of the construction of the companies makes the employees consider the option to work in these smaller organizations as something positive and desirable.

Heneman, Tansky, and Camp (2000) comment on the difficulties for research in small and medium-sized enterprises, including the lack of systematization of official business data of this size. In this study we can see that the internal data of the companies have little organization, since there is no systematic information compilation process, and it is difficult to know exactly how many employees have gone through these places. As some managers say: “I think over time there were between 30 and 40 people in the studio” (D1); “In the art itself, I would say that we had 60 people” (B1). This may be due to the diversity of hiring formats adopted, which hinders a more systematic view of the workforce. Also, the absence of organizational charts, found in the four cases studied, demonstrates the low adherence to information dissemination practices, even for the internal public, regarding the structure of the company staff.

Mazzarol (2003) points out that finding, motivating and retaining good employees is a critical bottleneck for small businesses. In the cases studied, it is observed that the tendency to create permanent training structures within the studios demonstrates a preoccupation with the formation of labor, precisely because it is difficult to find it ready in the market. The motivation and retention of the collaborators appear in several managerial talks, as a crucial question for the operation of the studios surveyed. All show that they are looking for a path that guarantees employees’ commitment to projects in progress and to the future of companies in general, and project-based operation, as pointed out by A1 and B1, jeopardizes this essential relationship for the studios. In this sense, Studio D seems to be the company in which managers feel most comfortable with the composition of rewards they offer. Companies that give more space to providing services to third parties better equate the sustainability of their business and, consequently, their reward system, offering better working conditions and low turnover.

Another finding of the studies of Mazzarol (2003) is about the distance between the strategy aimed at by small business managers and their operation. It is caused, according to the author, by the lack of ability of the managers to communicate strategic visions to the collaborators. In the four cases studied here it was pointed out that situations where the lack of knowledge or adherence of the team members to what would be the objectives of the organizations are confirmed, as explicit B2: “if you ask the people who work here today, ‘do you know where the Studio B wants to arrive?’, I think they will not know how to respond; At least most would not know.”

Cardon and Stevens (2004) have been concerned with observing the extent to which being small is a temporary fact or a permanent condition of small businesses by the type of business they operate. In some of the cases studied, growing appears as a secondary goal, with managers aiming to create their own content and continue to develop the activity with deep involvement. The size of the company is still associated by some interviewees with the passion for the animation activity. According to D1, “the tendency is to keep as lean as possible, to keep making things with passion.” Therefore, it is possible to conclude that, in the specific case of the animation studios studied, the size of the company is closely related to the type of business operated, where there is an artistic involvement with the content and proximity between the collaborators.

Szamosi et al (2004) found in their research factors that are considered positive for work in small companies, such as the feeling of support from colleagues and bosses, the great variety of tasks and opportunities to develop various skills, the sense of belonging to a family, the flexibility to organize the work day, the sense of accomplishment and the greater participation in the general decisions. These elements were also explicitly mentioned by the respondents as present in the organizations surveyed, as indicated by the following statements:

The sense of support from colleagues and bosses:

{...} everyone can participate, the initial idea is this. If you have a better idea, you have room to propose, I’ll listen, we’ll negotiate {...}. (B1).

He said it would be nice for me, who already had a partner position, {...} then it was a recognition of my participation. (C2)

We believe that the people who are in here will become responsible for their departments. (D2)

The wide variety of tasks and opportunities to develop various skills:

{...} I left the animation and came to work with production management here, with B1 helping me to structure and understand the process {...} (B2).

We have to open to a much wider range of skills to be part of a company like ours. (C2)

Regarding the feeling of belonging to a family:

Here is an almost familiar relationship, it’s very close indeed. (A2)

{...} and hearing the whole story is part of management, because it’s a bit of a family {...}. (B1)

{...} some people have to work here because they feel at home {...}. (D1)

The flexibility to organize the working day:

{...} everyone knows why they are here, nobody needs a nanny {...}. (A2)

{...} there is no need to punch the card here, or anything like that {...} here. (B2)

People arrive late, walk in slippers, sometimes productivity is low, sometimes it is high. (D1)

Concerning the sense of achievement and greater participation in general decisions:

{...} that’s when I realized that it made sense to do all that, to see that moment happening. (B1)

{...} I really enjoy working in a small company because I have a great participation. (C2)

From the results pointed out so far, it is possible to affirm that, in the studied studios, several data were found that corroborate, in a general way, what the literature says about people management in small companies.

Regarding the peculiarities of the management of people in small creative industry companies, we comment the following, in light of the findings of the study of Eikhof and Haunschild (2007).

Management of people in creative industry environments and the cases studied

Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) found low levels of human resource management and individualized management of people in the German theaters they studied. Manager B1 states that paying attention to each other’s problems in the company ensures a better relationship between employees and managers. Also the individual conversations practiced by D1 and understood as important for the management of Studio D can be listed as efforts in the same direction. In the A and C studios there were no systematic actions that characterize the presence of this individualization of people management.

On the other hand, the presence of low levels of human resources management practices and the fact that none of the studios studied have a manager dedicated to HR matters - this work being carried out by people who are not qualified to do so - besides the absence of a plan in the four companies surveyed, there are other signs of the low level of practices adopted in these environments. There are, therefore, in these two points, correspondence between the findings of Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) and the data collected in the field.

The authors also found that the network of contacts is strategically cultivated by actors from German theaters, since its capital is an important source for the guarantee of future works. In interviews conducted for this research, no indication of the use of contact networks was found as a strategy for the relocation of animation professionals. The manager B1 commented on the difficulty of articulating the employees for future work, even though they had already been informed in advance that the work contracted would have to end. It is possible to consider that, in this respect, the nature of the work in animation studios is different from that of the theaters, mainly because of the long time necessary for an audiovisual production and the intensive work involved, which hampers the engagement in the maintenance of a network of contacts and, on the other hand, can generate a sense of permanence and belonging.

The strong intrinsic motivation is pointed out by Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) as a collaborative element to deal with the disadvantages of working in theaters, which employees from other sectors would not support. This characteristic was also identified in the animation studios studied, due to the ability of the collaborators to sacrifice their personal life to contribute to the construction of the initial phases of the studios.

A last aspect mentioned by Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) that deserves consideration in the light of the collected data concerns the professionalization of the artistic practice and the risk that this causes of taking of the same by the economic logic. The authors argue that creative goods and services are embedded in a context of economic use, making the actors involved in creative production constantly move between the field of art and business. This movement and the dilemma involved in it are present in the speeches of several interviewees of animation companies, demonstrating that there is a real concern about how “business” becomes more important than “art”. The resistance to this domination becomes noticeable in the following statements:

{...} I really believe that, from now on, we can still get out of this visual and entertainment level and maybe someday feel that we are doing real art {...} (A2).

{...} there’s one thing we want to do: to make content that is empowering, which sometimes conflicts with our commercial side. (B1).

{...} fortunately we never had to do publicity, {...} I really like the perspective of always working with content, because it’s a moral issue for me. (C2).

From these lines, it is possible to perceive that there is an understanding that the artistic doing needs, somehow, to resist the commercial character in these undertakings, maintaining the keynote of a certain “artistic purity” that would be essential for the filmmakers.

When confronted, therefore, the data collected in the field with those brought to the fore by Eikhof and Haunschild’s (2007) research in German theaters, it is possible to state that, although they represent two segments of the same creative industry, theater actors and Animation studios develop relationships in some aspects close, and in others distant, in the management of people.

Final considerations

The main purpose of this study is to understand the management of people in animation production studios, these being considered small creative industry companies. For this, a qualitative survey was carried out in four organizations that produce animation in the national territory, in which it was possible to verify that the practices of people management in the sector are still modest and little valued by the managers. These companies have small administrative staff and have limitations to attend to management issues; including those related to human resources.

The need for a greater relationship with content and creative interference in the final result appears as characteristics that differentiate workers in this sector from those in other branches of the economy. From the discourse of the interviewed collaborators, it is possible to perceive that the space occupied by them within the organizations is considered, in general, of great creative autonomy, which motivates them to continue investing actively in the consolidation of this industry. Several clues were found in the interviews that confirm a trend pointed out in the literature in relation to other segments of the creative industry: animation workers consider financial reward less important than artistic achievement and social recognition.

The companies evaluated in this study were all small, and confirmed the literature on people management in organizations of this scope that indicates the valuation of family climate, informality, space for interference and proximity between managers and employees as positive characteristics. A negative counterpoint was the lack of labor benefits, the uncertainty about the future of the organization and the professional within this structure, and the lack of greater specialization of work.

Regarding the practices of management of people incorporated, it was possible to perceive that these are still quite punctual and basic, calling for a greater development so that they become a strategic element for the organizations. There is recognition by managers of the key role of people in this type of business, but there is an understanding that the good management of these professionals can contribute to their motivation and retention, improving the quality of the work performed. Raising the awareness of entrepreneurs in the animation industry to the importance of professionalized human resources management should be part of any program that intends to encourage the growth and consolidation of this industry in Brazil.

Several of the managers who were interviewed demonstrate cultivating a view that being an “artist” is positive, while being an “administrator” is negative, or just a function delegated to those who do not have enough talent. It must be considered that, in order to be a manager, entrepreneur or administrator, it is necessary to have specific talents and knowledge that are not available to all people. Some of the interviewees, because they have been working for a longer time, value the role of these competences, admitting their limitations and stressing the difficulties they generate.

The intrinsic motivation found in workers in this segment indicates that they value artistic achievement above financial rewards, and this seems to be a topic that deserves further investigation in future studies. In a way, this characteristic of the sector made the Brazilian animation reach the point of development in which it is, producing content to the detriment of the lack of a business structure. At this stage of development, this segment needs to associate this natural motivation with the managerial training of its members to professionalize the generated product, making it competitive on a global scale. However, this construction must be done very carefully so as not to fall into the danger pointed out by Eikhof and Haunschild (2007) that the commercial side overlaps with the artistic aspects of these environments, sacrificing an important resource for the sector: creative freedom itself.


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*Source: Animators Lightbox 1541658.

6André Luiz Fischer - PhD in Adminstration at FEA/USP; Professor of Business Administration at FEA/USP. E-mail:

Received: July 15, 2015; Accepted: October 18, 2016

Marta Corrêa Machado - PhD student at FGV/SP; Master of Business Administration at FEA/USP; Assistant professor at UFSC Cinema undergraduation. E-mail:

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