So what's the difference between the way an animator used to work their way through their craft and the way it happens now? A difference that could matter so much?
Well, what you guys said in the comments is all relevant (and some of it I'll come back to) but Limbclock got where I was going. It's the drawing. He says "when the person learning animation the pen and paper way, he is able to learn all the important fundamentals, such as timing and spacing between frames, and how to actually create simple stuff like walks and so on". I believe this to be very true.
But people who end up in Flash animation likely did loads of drawing in college, or their own personal sketches and same with many people in 3D. The difference is the drawing but that's just the start of my thought process. Just take a look at how it works -
With the way it used to work, no matter which end you came in on, you would be drawing constantly every single day. Drawing after drawing. For 8-10 or more hours. How many drawings you would get done in a day depends on where you come in and what type of production you are on but let's say as an example that you're doing 4 drawings an hour. On an 8-hour day, that's 32 drawings a day. On a 5-day week, that's 160 drawings a week. 640 drawings a month. 7,680 drawings a year. That's rough of course. It could be less, it could be more, especially as I was conservative on my studio hours (we've all worked much longer hours than that).
But that's around 7,000 drawings a year during work hours. Finished approved drawings. All having to conform to certain structures, so they can't just be self-indugent. All having to be approved by animation directors, animation checkers, directors and producers. All having to work within the animation of other people. And that doesn't begin to count your own personal drawings.
They say practice makes perfect. How is 7,000 drawings for practice? Five years in the business? 35,000 drawings worth of practice. 70,ooo in ten years. Each drawing in just about any traditional animation studio (yes, even the crap ones) teaches structure, adherence to rules, flow, posing, acting, expression, control and even time management - principals and techniques that can be applied to all styles and methods of animation.
So what's the difference between the way it used to work and the way it works now?
About 7,000 drawings a year.