An animation director is the director in charge of all aspects of the animation process during the production of an animated film or animated segment for a live-action film. This may include directing the character design, background animation, and any other aspect of animation.
The role is not the same as the director of an animated film.
"Animation Director" can sometimes refer to somebody who handles the technical aspect of animation while a director works out everything on storyboards.
Differences between the American and Japanese Models
In the United States, the terms animation director and supervising animator are sometimes used interchangeably, and in essence, they refer to the same thing. As they are usually called supervising animators in the American tradition, animation directors who work in the United States will henceforth be referred to by that term. However, one key difference does exist: under the classical Disney model of American animation, supervising animators directly oversee the animation of a single character. For example, Eric Goldberg was the supervising animator of the Genie in Aladdin, but he was not involved in the animation of any other major characters or sequences.
In a Japanese production, on the other hand, the animation director (Sakuga Kantoku or "Sakkan") oversees all characters, actions, and sequences, unless his or her duties are split among one or more other animation directors. The animation director in these sorts of productions is expected to supervise sequences, not characters, and often draws many of the key frame poses that are the basis for the creation of the rest of the scene. Because characters in a Japanese production are interchangeable between artists and are most often drawn by all the animation directors, the kind of specialized "character acting" found in American productions is rarely replicated or attempted. Instead, an emphasis on action and detail is the focus, especially in feature films. One of the most famous animation directors in Japan was Yoshifumi Kondō, who worked for Studio Ghibli and was considered by many to be one of the best animation artists in Japan.
However, the animator is divided into the character animator who mainly draws living things, such as characters and the machine animator who mainly draws inanimate objects, such as a robot, a car, and an airplane in Japan these days.
Mechanical animation directors are a group largely unique to anime. They oversee the animation of all objects which move under their own power, such as automobiles, tanks, and giant robots. Occasionally, they also animate large, non-human characters, such as monsters, dragons, and living machines. Even more frequently than in character animation, there is a high level of cross-over between mechanical designers and animation directors, and far more often, the mechanical animation directors will be required to animate effects, such as explosions or shell casings being ejected from weapons.