As a character animation student, I was obviously interested in researching the animation industry before I got involved into it. However, I did not go as deep as I could.
Fortunately, this term we were asked to research the roles in the animation industry and critically analyze them compared to our role in our group project. Even though it is a topic I had brushed before thanks to animation books, the research revealed to be harder than I thought. It turns out not many people are interested in knowing how it works, or giving us a precise animation hierarchy distributed in roles. The reason is, yes not many animators are not famous enough to talk to interviewers, and yes animation industry is always evolving, nevertheless, the main reason is because we cannot compartmentalize animation into one group. Every company is different. Every one has a different hierarchy and animators usually have a tiny job in a huge bee house.
Moreover, in most companies, animators end up doing a few jobs, dabbling here and there. So when trying to compare my role to a specific one, I was a bit lost. I do know from watching years of behind the scenes and documentaries from Disney and Pixar animations that people working in these type of companies usually are given one or two specific jobs. They are hired for a very specific talent, and this is the talent the company wants them to use.
However, when I started working as a freelance animator, I quickly noticed a big difference. I mostly had to handle the whole project from top to bottom.
The only way for me to understand what was really going on was to directly contact a professional. Denise Dean, head of assistant animation at Lupus Films, tried to shed a bit of light on the matter by describing the process in TV based animation. And I discovered there was one more way to do animation.
In retrospect, there are many ways to do animation. Trying to categorize a role is next to impossible. Truth is, depending on the company or client, an animator will do many various things.