The impact of pre-production on your animation's success

Pre-production’s role in animation is like that of noodles in a stir fry. It’s your base, your foundation, and one of the core contributors for success. Plus, it’s what holds together all the other fun, flavour-packed and decorative elements that you add on top.

Written by Jack Last

If you’re about to embark on the process of developing a new animation, it’s critical that you understand the pre-production process and all the steps it covers.So, to help you create content that hits all the high notes, our animation experts have shared their guide to the pre-production process. Keep reading to find out what pre-production encompasses, the value that it adds, and what a successful pre-production process should look like.

What is pre-production in animation?

As its name suggests, pre-production is the phase of the animation project that comes before its production. But, what does this actually mean in practice? 

During the pre-production phase, the project’s groundwork is established. This is the first phase of the animation process, and encompasses all the preparation for the project, including the concept development, the design of the visual elements, and the storyboarding. In short, it covers everything that needs to be completed before the content can be animated and finalised. 

Depending on the scope of your animation and the project’s requirements, the pre-production process can include: 

  • Creating the project timeline 
  • Fixing the project’s budget
  • Confirming who will be involved in the project, and what their roles will be
  • Confirming the content’s core message and KPIs
  • Developing design ideas
  • Creating the storyline 
  • Bringing the characters to life 
  • Designing the video’s setting and backgrounds
  • Writing the script 
  • Shaping the video’s style and visual identity
  • Creating the animation storyboard 
  • Deciding what music (and other sounds, if required) will be included

Once these pre-production steps are all completed, the project is able to progress into production. At this point, the animators and illustrators start to create the final, fully-designed version of the content.  So, to ensure that this time-consuming step is kept accurate, efficient and hassle-free, it’s imperative that the pre-production process confirms as many details as possible. 

Why is pre-production essential for animation projects?

The pre-production process helps animation projects to achieve a wide range of core benefits, spanning everything from more impactful, consistent design, to improved communication with all the stakeholders who are involved. 

The top benefits of a strong pre-production animation process include:

  • Confirming the vision, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page
  • Implementing careful planning and organising
  • Clear storyboarding, which opens up effective reviews and detailed feedback 
  • Effectively planning creative direction
  • Impactful script development
  • Keeping costs down 
  • Effectively managing the available resources and skill sets 
  • Making project deadlines easier to stick to
  • Ensuring strong visual consistency, both across the animation and with your company branding 
  • Unlocking more rewards from your collaborations 
  • Increasing client satisfaction 
  • Improving the quality and originality of your content

How does effective planning enhance animation success?

Across the entire marketing board, better planning usually translates to a more effective and higher quality piece of content.  By deploying a more sophisticated and collaborative planning process, you can tap into the skills of a wider network of your team. If people have more time to leave their feedback (and give you more detailed insights), then you will be able to refine the content far more effectively, across a broader range of elements. 

What’s more, careful planning also supports the strategic element of your animation. With better planning, comes more opportunities to review and refine how your content is achieving the KPIs. This includes how well it aligns with your branding, is set to achieve your key deliverables, and communicates your core message. So, what does ‘good’ project planning entail? 

The success of your animation project can be enhanced, when your planning process includes the following:

  • Communicating a clear vision 
  • Allowing sufficient time for discussions and refinement 
  • Creating precise SMART goals for your content
  • Establishing a clear timeline
  • Maintaining high time efficiency 
  • Identifying and managing any potential risks that might occur during the project
  • Managing your budget carefully 
  • Giving contributors sufficient notice, and fixed deadlines for their input 
  • Assigning clear roles and detailing the role responsibilities 
  • All the skills of your contributors and team are utilised to the maximum possible value

What are the key components of pre-production?

As we outlined earlier on, pre-production encompasses a broad range of steps. Essentially, it includes all of the early stages of the animation process, which come before creation starts for the actual animation itself. 

The key components of pre-production are:

  • Concept development - determining the storyline, characters and location, all of which should be shaped by the branding and the video’s core message.
  • Scriptwriting - writing and then refining the video’s script, to ensure it is succinct, easy to follow, and enhances all of the animation’s other elements. 
  • Storyboarding - the first outline of all the elements of the animation, and how they work together. This should combine rough sketches of all the animation scenes with the final script, plus annotations and other important notes.
  • Character design - creating the animated character artwork, then refining the character’s design and identity, to create an original and engaging character.
  • Visual style development - creating the signature style for this animation. This involves ensuring it harmonises with existing branding, while successfully standing out from the crowd, and being bold enough to secure high engagement levels. 
  • Voice casting - finding the best-fit voice actor for the video, then recording the voiceover. 
  • Music and sound - identifying any additional music and sound effects that would help to enhance your content, then determining the best place(s) to insert them into the video. 
  • Budgeting - fixing the budget for the animation, and creating a cost breakdown for all the associated costs. This will also need to be reviewed throughout pre-production, to check that the process is still in-budget. 
  • Client collaboration - working closely with the clients, and keeping them involved in all the review and feedback sessions. 

What are the main mistakes to avoid in pre-production for animation?

Unfortunately, time alone doesn’t make a strong pre-production process. Although you might think that better planning is automatically unlocked by ensuring everyone has more time, there are a number of other ways that you can more effectively strengthen the process. There are a number of common pitfalls that marketing teams fall into during the pre-production stage. But, knowing these mistakes is the first step towards avoiding them! The most common mistakes that marketers make in the pre-production stage include: 

  • Lack of a clear vision - this could include if the vision for the video is not clearly communicated, it is being changed too regularly or there is a confusing back-and-forth, or if the vision is generally weak, uncreative or vague. 
  • Not understanding the KPIs - a common mistake teams make is failing to understand the full nuances of the content’s KPIs. What is the purpose of the video? What message are you trying to communicate? Who is your key target audience? What action do you want your audience to take? What is the best way to engage these viewers? What engagement metrics are you aiming to achieve?  
  • Skipping script development - if the script is written without its own review and feedback process, then it will not be as strong as it could be. Although this might not be immediately evident during the early stages, this will become very clear in the production process. 
  • Neglecting storyboards - storyboarding is a critical step, and the foundation of the pre-production process. It is the final opportunity for all parties to review and amend the planned content, before it starts getting designed. As a result, it’s one of the most effective ways to refine the animation, and minimise costly, time-consuming changes later on. 
  • Ignoring character design - the most common results of this are multiple characters having an inconsistent design or visual feel, or the one central character having an inconsistent voice, personality or style of movement. 
  • Not confirming a consistent visual style - if the design style is not pinned down and understood by all contributors, this can result in a piece of content that feels mismatched across different scenes, weakens the company’s brand identity, and has a compromised level of engagement. 
  • Ignoring client collaboration - failing to involve clients in the pre-production step can lead to either unhappy clients, or more expensive and laborious changes being required later on in the process, after the content has been designed and animated. Or, if clients don’t ever get the opportunity to input their feedback, then the content won’t hit the KPIs that define its success. 


Pre-production is about far more than the ‘steps before’ animation starts. It’s a methodology that ensures more effective organisation, collaboration and fine-tuning, which allows you to create content that is bolder, more impactful, engaging, and firmly on-brand. It just goes to show - there’s a lot to be said for the power of planning. 

Why work with an animation agency like OK Social?

At OK Social, we are a specialist motion graphic studio, encompassing a team of skilled animation, illustration, branding and marketing specialists. 

We work with some of the biggest companies in the world, and enable them to bring their brand story to life. 

We create a huge range of animated content - spanning everything from social posts to explainer videos, and digital out of home adverts to product demos - for a client base spanning a wide variety of industries and services. These include Ford, Deliveroo, Coca-Cola, Harper Collins and KFC, just to name a few. 

Our talented team achieves this through a combination of bold design, crisp alignment with brand identities, creative concepts, precise targets, and a sleek, professional finish. 

So, if you’d like to find out more about how we can enhance your business marketing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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I’m Jack, the Motion Director here at OK Social. I’ve been working in the world of motion design and animation for nearly 10 years. I had the pleasure of working with leading agencies and brands around the world, such as Samsung, Ford, Shell, Deliveroo, and Starbucks, to name a few.

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in animation, from making stop-motion films in my room as a kid to learning animation on my first computer. It started as a passion and still is to this day. Part of what I do now is more than just animation. I help craft the narratives of the stories we tell to ensure they make an impact to the audience and remain worthy of their attention.

So how do I do that? It starts with asking the right questions, leading to solving the right problems. First, diagnose what the problem is. Then, we can start to see if we can help. I believe that communication plays a key role in delivering a smooth and successful project. Looking into the future, I’m excited to expand my knowledge into creating more engaging stories that make a difference.