If you’ve been following behind-the-scenes entertainment news for a while, you’ve probably heard the reputation that animators have as low-paid peons that, despite providing a valuable and necessary service for both the obvious animated films as well as any movie that relies heavily on computer animation, often get paid meager wages and work hellishly long hours.

Some, then, might reverse that logic to assume this is all because animators are basically the burger-flippers of the entertainment world; cranking out a desirable product through simple, mindless repetition. Hence the low pay, right?

Well, if this Touei Animation employment exam “question” – among myriad other evidence – shows us anything, it’s that animation is hard work that requires creativity, sure, but also a fair bit of mental agility in addition to all those long hours.

This is the infamous “Boy and the Hammer” entry on the exam, and the task is as follows:


“This boy is about to swing his hammer to nail down the stake in front of him, but the hammer is so extremely heavy the boy is only barely able to raise it with all his strength. Animate the boy driving down the stake in five or six panels. Do not change the size of the character.”

Simple, right? You just sketch out two or three panels of the kid raising the hammer, then another two or three of him smashing it down. Then it’s just a matter of swaggering out the door and waiting… and waiting… and waiting for that employment call.

Except the hard part is in animating all the details in a believable way: Specifically, the heaviness of the hammer. According to the creator of the test question – the late animation legend Yasuji Mori – this is where most people are out. The kid can’t just raise up the hammer with ease (I mean, look at that grip. It’s like his absentee father never taught him how to do basic yardwork). A passing grade means the kid not only hammers down the stake in five or six frames, but that those frames capture him struggling with it like it’s made of dark matter.

Oh, and you only get two hours, so don’t think you can just spend the next two days in the interview room painstakingly drawing out the sweat trickling off the boy’s face. Animators need to be able to give the impression of the kid’s effort with basic sketches.

Japanese animator, Yasuo Otsuka, who worked at both Toei and Studio Ghibli before retiring and who managed to pass the test in the early days of its use, explains why many get it wrong – and how to do it right – here (Japanese only, sorry):

Maybe it’s time we gave animators the better wages they’ve been demanding for a long, long time?

Source/image: Himajin Sokuhou