Discover the world’s top animation studios that have shaped the industry with their creativity, innovation, and captivating storytelling.
Animation has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 20th century. Today, the animation industry has become a global powerhouse, capturing the hearts of both children and adults alike.
Blending conventional and cutting-edge approaches, these ten animation studios have established themselves as pioneers in the animation realm.
Their distinctive narratives, mesmerizing visuals, and inventive methods continue to enchant viewers across the globe.
Innovative Storytellers: The Top 10 Animation Studios You Can’t Miss
Although numerous animation studios produce high-quality content for audiences worldwide, we have compiled a list of the top 10 animation studios and ranked them for your convenience.
1Walt Disney Animation Studios
In 1937, the world of animation changed forever with the release of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first-ever feature-length animated picture. This groundbreaking movie, which took years to create, captivated audiences with its stunning animation, well-developed characters, and beautiful soundtrack.
Consequently, the movie earned an Honorary Academy Award for its substantial contributions to screen innovation, captivating millions and spearheading a groundbreaking new realm of entertainment.
Walt Disney accepted a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones, presented by 10-year-old child actress Shirley Temple.
Since Snow White’s release, Walt Disney Studio Animation has delivered 61 animated feature movies, the most certified classics.
Titles like Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, and Moana have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. No other studio can match the impact and sheer joy that Walt Disney Studio Animation has brought to multiple generations across the globe.
2Pixar Animation Studios
Since joining forces with Disney and releasing the groundbreaking debut film Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has gained worldwide acclaim as a beloved animation studio, bringing joy to millions of families and leading the way in cutting-edge computer-generated imagery.
Known for its stunning, eye-catching animation and compelling stories that resonate with audiences, Pixar’s skill is unparalleled.
Now a part of Disney, Pixar has contributed its animation expertise to some of the most unforgettable animated movies, such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Inside Out, Wall-E, and Monsters Inc.
Disneytoon Studios, a division of Walt Disney Animation Studios, produced both direct-to-video and theatrical films that focused on existing Disney franchises, such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan,” “Cinderella,” and “Tinker Bell.”
In 1988, the studio, initially named Disney MovieToons, produced low-budget direct-to-video sequels to popular Disney animated films, such as “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” and “Aladdin and the King of Thieves.”
In the early 2000s, Disneytoon Studios began creating original content, such as the “Tinker Bell” film series, which revolved around the beloved fairy from “Peter Pan.”
The series was commercially successful and led to several sequels. The studio also produced the popular “Planes” franchise, featuring a group of anthropomorphic planes competing in high-flying races.
4Warner Bros. Animation
Dating back to 1933 and having gone through several closures and re-openings, Warner Bros. Animation has made a name for itself through its TV shows, direct-to-video/DVD movies, and a few classics theatrically released films.
Among these are the underrated “The Iron Giant” and “Cats Don’t Dance,” providing animation for the 90s live-action/animation hybrid hit “Space Jam.”
However, it is in TV where the studio truly excels, producing highly revered animated Batman movies and series and timeless classics such as Looney Tunes and Animaniacs.
5Nickelodeon Animation Studios
Nickelodeon Animation Studios is an American animation studio responsible for creating some of the last few decades’ most iconic animated TV shows.
The studio was founded in 1991 in Burbank, California, and has since become a major player in the animation industry, producing numerous beloved and award-winning shows for children and adults.
One of Nickelodeon Animation Studios’ most popular franchises is “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which has become a cultural phenomenon since its premiere in 1999.
The show, which follows the adventures of a sea sponge and his underwater friends, has become a cultural touchstone and has spawned numerous spin-offs, merchandise, and a successful feature film franchise.
In 2011, Paramount Pictures established its animation studio, known as Paramount Animation, which rapidly gained recognition by producing a series of prosperous films.
Paramount Animation’s hit franchises include the “SpongeBob SquarePants” series, which began as a Nickelodeon TV show before being adapted into two feature-length films by the studio, and “The Adventures of Tintin,” directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the popular comic book series.
Additionally, Paramount Animation has produced other successful films, such as “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” “Sherlock Gnomes,” “Wonder Park,” and “Rumble.”
The studio has also entered the world of streaming with the release of “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” produced by Sony Pictures Animation and released on Netflix.
Renowned for its enchanting hand-drawn animation and imaginative storytelling, Studio Ghibli has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide since its founding in 1985 by esteemed filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki.
The Japanese animation studio has produced a remarkable collection of animated films that continue to captivate viewers.
Studio Ghibli’s films often delve into themes such as the relationship between humans and nature, the importance of inner strength, and the power of imagination. These movies frequently feature strong, independent female protagonists and celebrate the beauty of traditional hand-drawn animation.
Iconic films from Studio Ghibli include My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Grave of the Fireflies. Spirited Away, in particular, garnered widespread acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, further cementing Studio Ghibli’s international reputation.
Hayao Miyazaki, one of the studio’s co-founders, is widely regarded as an animation master and has directed many of Ghibli’s most beloved films.
His meticulous attention to detail, unique artistic style, and captivating narratives have earned him legendary status within the animation industry.
8Sony Pictures Animation
Beginning with its competition against Disney in its early days, featuring releases such as Antz, The Prince of Egypt, and The Road to El Dorado.
Continuing with the creation of globally successful movie franchises like Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Boss Baby, Trolls, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks Animation has left an enduring impact on the world of animation through its blockbuster films.
By establishing its niche, which includes cutting-edge animation, Hollywood A-list voice casts, and family-friendly films that appeal to adults and children alike, DreamWorks has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most esteemed animation studios.
DreamWorks Animation competed fiercely with Disney from the beginning, launching early releases like Antz, The Prince of Egypt, and The Road to El Dorado.
As the studio evolved, it created globally successful movie franchises such as Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Boss Baby, Trolls, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda, leaving a lasting impact on the animation world.
DreamWorks carved its niche by incorporating cutting-edge animation, Hollywood A-list voice casts, and family-friendly movies that appeal to adults and children, earning its reputation as one of the world’s most respected animation studios.
10Blue Sky Studios
In 1987, Blue Sky Studios emerged as an American animation studio celebrated for its unique visual style and imaginative storytelling. The studio gained prominence in the animation industry by captivating audiences of all ages with its successful animated films.
Initially, Blue Sky Studios focused on visual effects and computer animation for commercials and films. However, the studio’s true rise to fame began with the release of its first feature film, Ice Age, in 2002.
The Ice Age franchise became a global phenomenon, generating multiple sequels and spin-offs and earning billions at the box office.
Besides Ice Age, Blue Sky Studios crafted several other notable animated films, such as Robots, Rio, The Peanuts Movie, and Ferdinand. Audiences appreciated the studio’s vibrant colors, engaging characters, and sharp sense of humor.
Illumination Entertainment is an American animation studio known for its distinctive style and highly entertaining films. Founded by Chris Meledandri in 2007, the studio has quickly risen to prominence in the animation industry, creating memorable characters and engaging stories that appeal to a wide range of audiences.
One of Illumination Entertainment’s major successes came with the release of Despicable Me in 2010. The film introduced the world to the lovable supervillain Gru and his adorable Minions, who has since become a global phenomenon.
The Despicable Me franchise has expanded to include multiple sequels and a Minions spin-off movie, with each installment achieving significant box office success.
Illumination Entertainment has also produced popular animated films like The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, and The Grinch. These movies are known for their vibrant colors, exaggerated character designs, and family-friendly humor, which have become hallmarks of the studio’s style.
Established in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, Aardman Animations is a British animation studio celebrated for innovative stop-motion claymation techniques. The studio consistently delights audiences with charming storytelling, quirky humor, and memorable characters, earning a devoted following and critical acclaim.
Aardman Animations introduced the iconic duo Wallace and Gromit in the 1989 short film “A Grand Day Out.” Wallace, an eccentric inventor, and his intelligent, silent dog Gromit quickly won the hearts of audiences worldwide.
The beloved characters have appeared in several short films and the feature film “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” which secured the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2006.
“Shaun the Sheep,” another successful franchise from Aardman Animations, spun off from Wallace and Gromit. This series follows the adventures of a clever sheep and his farmyard friends, captivating viewers with its unique charm and humor.
Founded in 2005 by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, Laika Studios is an American stop-motion animation studio celebrated for its visually stunning and emotionally resonant films. Based in Hillsboro, Oregon, Laika pushes the boundaries of stop-motion animation by incorporating cutting-edge technology and creative storytelling.
Henry Selick directed Laika’s first feature film, “Coraline” (2009), which is based on Neil Gaiman’s novella.
The film captivated audiences with its dark, whimsical style and intricate animation, establishing Laika as a force in the animation industry and earning numerous award nominations.
After “Coraline,” Laika continued producing critically acclaimed stop-motion films, such as “ParaNorman” (2012), “The Boxtrolls” (2014), “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016), and “Missing Link” (2019).
Laika’s films consistently demonstrate the studio’s commitment to compelling storytelling and innovative animation techniques, often merging traditional stop-motion with digital effects and 3D printing.
Founded in 1999 by Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey, and Paul Young, Cartoon Saloon is an Irish animation studio celebrated for its visually stunning, hand-drawn animated films inspired by Irish folklore, mythology, and culture.
Based in Kilkenny, Ireland, the studio has earned critical acclaim and a devoted following for its unique artistic style and captivating storytelling.
Tomm Moore directed Cartoon Saloon’s first feature film, “The Secret of Kells” (2009), mesmerizing audiences with its lush, intricate visuals and rich narrative rooted in Irish history and mythology.
The film received widespread praise and secured an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Building on the success of “The Secret of Kells,” Cartoon Saloon produced a series of critically acclaimed animated films, including “Song of the Sea” (2014), “The Breadwinner” (2017), and “Wolfwalkers” (2020).
Each film garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, reinforcing Cartoon Saloon’s standing as a premier animation studio.
In recent years, Netflix has shifted its focus towards producing more original and exclusive content, leading to the emergence of Netflix Animation in 2019.
Coinciding with the launch of Disney+, Netflix Animation made a splash with the critically acclaimed Christmas feature “Klaus.”
The film became a huge success and, along with “I Lost My Body,” was the first animated film from a streaming service to receive an Academy Award nomination.
Since its debut, Netflix Animation has released nine additional movies, created numerous TV shows, and garnered more Oscar nominations. Its productions have consistently received high praise, with viewership numbers reflecting the studio’s success.
Netflix Animation continues to show no signs of slowing down, with the recent success of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” adaptation and an upcoming collaboration with Aardman on the highly anticipated “Chicken Run” sequel set for release later this year.
16Reel Fx Animation Studios
Since its establishment in 1993, Reel FX Animation Studios has been creating animated content for film, television, and advertising. Based in Dallas, Texas, the studio has gained recognition for its high-quality animation and creative storytelling.
The film “The Book of Life” is one of Reel FX’s most notable productions. Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez, the film is a vibrant and visually stunning animated adventure inspired by Mexican folklore and tradition. Critics acclaimed its unique art style and imaginative storytelling.
Reel FX has produced several other successful films, including “Free Birds” (2013), “Rock Dog” (2016), and “The Wish Dragon” (2021). In addition to feature films, the studio has worked on numerous commercial projects, creating memorable advertisements for brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, and McDonald’s.