A student animator recently asked me if animated shorts make money. Or rather, specifically, he asked "Is there an international business for animated shorts?" The answer, unfortunately, is not really. No-one (or hardly anyone) makes money making animated shorts, largely because no-one (or hardly anyone) actually pays to watch animated shorts. If you doubt me, ask yourself - when was the last time you paid to watch a short film? I'm guessing the answer is "never". But, if it is true that shorts don't make money, why then do animators bother to make animated shorts? The answer is, for the love of it. And, also, to learn the craft of animation and film-making.
Back to the 1930s
Once upon a time, in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, animated shorts were released in movie theatres as part of a bigger feature presentation. But those days are long gone and, since then, short films have not really had a commercial market. Today, animators make shorts because they want to tell a story, or because they want to learn the art and craft of animated film-making, but only in rare cases do short films have a commercial life. There are exceptions to the rule; for example, the Wallace and Gromit series of shorts exist as commercial downloads. But this kind of success is rare.
Labour of Love
For most people, making an animated short is a labour of love, and an opportunity to practice our craft. It is also a chance to get noticed, to win festival awards, and an opportunity to have the chance (hopefully) to do bigger things, such as direct a feature film or TV series.
But to make money? Hardly.