It can play a part, but it as with any movie it does not a winner make.
Take for example the Academy-Award nominated short, Let’s Pollute. Can you guess how mush it took to make it? That’s right, $15,000 or in other words, less than the cost of a new MINI Cooper.
This should be seen as a sign that films do not need to cost the earth and that with careful planning and execution, you can make a really funny film for very little money. It makes me think of the many student films on display at the annual ASIFA-East Festival. I’m sure they were made on a shoe-string but they are often some of the wittiest, humourous and inventive pieces of the evening.
The great thing about the rise of the internet is that distribution costs have now approached zero, so getting an audience for your film costs next to nothing. Now there are folks out there who decry the internet as a terrible place that will steal your first-born before making you money, but I beg to differ.
I have found that people tend to focus on different aspects of animation when it comes to judging quality. Some people look at backgrounds, others look at the direction, still others focus on the writing. I tend to focus on the characters, if they are interesting and complex enough to capture my attention then that is what makes a good film for me. Creating good characters costs next to nothing (in comparison to everything else).
So just keep that in mind when you think that good animation has to cost a lot of money. (It also takes away another excuse you had for not making that independent film!)