animated films

The Best Animation Studios in the World Outside of Disney & Pixar

From today’s computer-animated films to the hand-drawn classics, there’s no denying the storytelling power of animation. For nearly a century, this art has given us captivating stories taking place in vibrant, memorable worlds. But like any entertainment medium, it can take a passionate and talented team to charm us time and time again.

We all know how good both Disney and Pixar are, together raking in hundreds of awards in the last decade alone. Here we’ll be focusing on the many other animation studios inspiring viewers across the globe with their work. The animation industry wouldn’t be the same without them:

Studio Ghibli
Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke

This Japanese studio has been cementing itself as a prolific producer of anime films for some time now. Co-founded and led by legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has won hearts of all ages by using powerful storytelling combined with gorgeous, often jaw-dropping animation. Some of the most visually stunning worlds and characters ever to grace the big screen have come from this Tokyo team.

Spirited Away, perhaps their most successful film to date, earned several awards across the globe, including the coveted Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film in 2002.

DreamWorks Animation
Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon

Despite being around less than three decades, DreamWorks already boasts a number of franchises recognized all over the world. What else would you expect from an animation studio founded by none other than iconic filmmaker Steven Spielberg and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of Disney during the company’s groundbreaking Renaissance era.

Responsible for many high grossing animated films, this is one studio that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Kung Fu Panda Dreamworks

Nickelodeon Animation Studios
SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Doug, Hey Arnold!

Starting out as a humble little animation studio in California, Nickelodeon Animation Studios wasted no time in creating highly recognizable shows for viewers of all ages. From Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life, to Rugrats and Invader Zim, Nickelodeon has proven their ability to craft attention-grabbing worlds brought to life by memorable, often-silly characters.

Of course, no series has been able to match the wittiness and popularity of a certain yellow-shaped figure. SpongeBob Squarepants alone has earned Nickelodeon dozens of awards, global recognition, and a cool $13 billion in merchandising revenue.

Toei Animation
Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sailor Moon, One Piece, Saint Seiya

It’s pretty much impossible to have grown up in the 80s and 90s without being influenced by one of Toei’s incredible cartoons. This Japanese animation studio is actually older than most people think, having been founded back in 1948. Since then it’s crafted well over 100 animated series for viewers in Japan and the rest of the world. Today, Toei uses its talented artists to help create everything from full CGI films to video games.

Dragon Ball Z, their most successful franchise, has made the biggest pop culture impact, enough that Goku himself appeared in Macy’s 2018 Thanksgiving Day parade.

Toei Sailor Moon

Warner Bros. Animation
The Iron Giant, The Lego Movie, Batman: The Animated Series, Looney Tunes

With a history as far back as the early 1930s, Warner Bros. has one of the strongest legacies when it comes to animation. The studio saw great success with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes, and for the last few decades they’ve been providing countless hit shows for some of the most watched children’s programming blocks, including acclaimed Fox Kids and Kids’ WB, with shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid!

Warner Bros. Animation has also gained attention for feature-length films like The Lego Movie films and The Iron Giant, as well a slew of slightly more mature films from the DC comic book universe.

Cartoon Network Studios
Adventure Time, Regular Show, The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10

The Burbank-based studio began pumping out hit shows at the turn of the millenium, winning kids over with hit shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, and The Powerpuff Girls. Their second decade brought them even more success as series like Regular Show and Ben 10 became some of the most popular cartoons on television.

Adventure Time, which just ended its eight year run in 2018, won a slew of awards for the studio, including eight Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and three Annie Awards.

Adventure Time Cartoon Network

5 Animated Short Films That Pull At Our Heartstring

Sometimes all you need is a few minutes to tell a heartfelt story that leaves an impact lasting much longer than the film itself. Here are just five of the countless touching animated short films out there you can seek out and enjoy:

Feast
Directed by Patrick Osborne
Length: 6 minutes

Few animals on our planet offer the same companionship and loyalty as a dog eager to see you return home, share a meal, and follow you wherever you go. Feast touches on this age-old relationship by telling a story revolving man’s best friend.

In Feast, a single man named James adopts a stray Boston Terrier puppy and names him Winston. Along with kibble, Winston also gets to enjoy portions of James’s meals, including the junk food James especially loves. James eventually embraces a healthier lifestyle to impress his waitress girlfriend, which doesn’t please Winston, who’s now slipped vegetables. When James and the waitress break up, Winston realizes his owner’s sadness and finds a way to reunite the couple.

Dear Basketball
Directed by Glen Keane
Length: 5 minutes

It’s in our nature to admire the people who inspire us. From comic book heroes and musicians to filmmakers and our own parents, most of us go through life receiving motivation from those we look up to. Whether you grew up watching Kobe Bryant dominate the NBA, or recall when your favorite athlete played their final game, Dear Basketball is a moving hand-drawn animated film that hits close to home.

With Dear Basketball, co-creator Kobe Bryant chose animation to express the myriad swell of emotions felt on the eve of his retirement from the NBA. Bryant goes on to describe the dreams, challenges, and glory that basketball gave him across a career spanning two decades. The short film resonated enough with sports fans that in 2018 it made Kobe Bryant the first NBA player to win an Academy Award.

Bao
Directed by Domee Shi
Length: 8 minutes

Who knew that a sentient steamed bun could be used represent a bittersweet moment in a parent’s life? Winner of the latest Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Bao tells the emotional story of an older woman feeling so lonely that she somehow brings a traditional Chinese treat to life. The woman raises the steamed bun, pampering and coddling it throughout its life, only to become devastated when it grows up and prepares to leave the house.

In the end (spoilers), it’s all an allegorical dream. The steamed bun simply represents her actual human son planning to leave with his fiance. A touching story of a woman suffering from empty-nest syndrome, Bao offers a special glimpse at what most mothers and fathers go through when the children they raised for years are ready to set off on their own.

Bear Story
Directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas
Length: 11 minutes

This film tells the story of an elderly bear and his mechanical diorama featuring a bear similar to himself. The bear takes his diorama down to a street corner and rings a bell, hoping that someone will pay a coin to look into the peephole of his contraption. When a young bear does, he gets to watch the story of a mechanical bear taken from his wife and child by militant figures. Captured, he’s forced to perform in a circus for years before making a great escape and reuniting with his family.

At the end, the bear with the diorama takes out a photo of his family, implying that he too once had a family that he’s currently separated from. Serving as the first Chilean film to win an Academy Award, Bear Story is inspired by the director’s grandfather, who was imprisoned during the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and then exiled for the rest of the dictatorship.

Peter & the Wolf
Directed by Suzie Templeton
Length: 33 minutes

A multinational production, this film was a collaboration between talent from the UK, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, and Mexico. Their efforts paid off as Peter & the Wolf went on to earn plenty of praise and awards, including the Academy Award in 2008 for Best Animated Short Film. Along with its stirring story, this short film is also memorable for its unique puppet animation style.

Peter & the Wolf tells the tale of a young boy named Peter living with his abusive grandfather. Forbidden to enter the forest surrounding their cottage, Peter nonetheless does so to play with his only friends, a runner duck and a hooded crow that can’t fly. When a wolf appears and eats the crow, Peter’s furious grandpa shows up just in time to help catch the wolf and take it into town. When the caged wolf gets taunted and abused by the same bullies who chastise Peter, the boy shows compassion for the wolf by setting it free.

NYFA Congratulates the 2017 Annie Award Winners

In the midst of awards season buzz and entertainment industry busyness, the animated entertainment industry gets a chance to shine every year during the Annie Awards. More than 30 categories of animated television and film entertainment grace the nominations ballot, begging to take home a coveted award.

The year, Disney’s “Zootopia” swept the 44th Annie Awards by taking home six trophies, including Best Animated Feature. Disney had secured 11 bids before heading into Saturday’s ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. NYFA was honored to welcome “Zootopia” animator Darrin Butters as a guest speaker last year. In addition to winning Best Animated Feature, “Zootopia” took home Best Directing, Best Writing, Best Character Design, Best Storyboarding. Jason Bateman tied with “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho for Best Voice Acting. “Moana” had been presented to NYFA students in a special sneak-peek guest speaker event with Disney animator Eric Goldberg.     

While “Zootopia” scored the most nominations and secured six awards, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” came in second with 10 nominations, but only took home three awards. Disney’s “Finding Dory” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” were nominated, but the sequels didn’t take home any awards.

Here’s the complete list of 2017 Annie Awards winners:

  • Best Animated Feature: “Zootopia”
  • Best Animated Special Production: “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
  • Best Animated Short Subject: “Piper”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial: “Loteria ‘Night Shift’”
  • Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production: “Bob’s Burgers”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Preschool Children: “Tumble Leaf, ”episode: “Mighty Mud Movers / Having a Ball”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children: “Adventure Time,” episode: “Bad Jubies”
  • Best Animated Feature-Independent: “The Red Turtle”
  • Best Student Film: “Citipati”
  • Animated Effects in an Animated Feature Production: “Moana

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  • Animated Effects in a Live Action Production: “Doctor Strange,” Mirror Dimension
  • Character Animation in a Television/Broadcast Production: “Dreamworks Trollhunters,” episode: “Becoming, Part 1”
  • Character Animation in a Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • Character Animation in a Live Action Production: “The Jungle Book”
  • Character Animation in a Video Game: “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”
  • Character Design in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Dreamworks Trollhunters,” episode: “Win, Lose or Draal”
  • Character Design in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”
  • Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Directing in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”

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  • Music in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Music in an Animated Feature Production: “The Little Prince”
  • Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Production Design in an Animated Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • Storyboarding in a TV/Broadcast Production: “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” episode: “Win, Lose or Draal”
  • Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”
  • Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show,” episode: “Ponce de LeÛn”
  • Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (Tie): Auli’i Cravalho as Moana in “Moana” (Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde in “Zootopia”  
  • Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Bob’s Burgers,” episode: “The Hormone-iums”
  • Writing in an Animated Feature Production:“Zootopia”
  • Editorial in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Disney Mickey Mouse,” episode: “Sock Burglar”
  • Editorial in an Animated Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Did you get a chance to watch any of these animated television shows or films? What was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

3 Disney Renaissance Lessons on Animation

Roy_E._Disney_Animation_Building

The Disney Renaissance changed the way the world experiences animation. Of all the companies that need no introduction, Disney is perhaps at the top. Boasting one of the world’s greatest libraries of highly marketable intellectual property, Disney will no doubt continue as a household name for years to come. What can aspiring animators learn from this company’s continuing success?

There are many answers to that question, but today we’re focusing on lessons from the Disney Renaissance — a time period that led to the creation of some of the most iconic Disney films. From 1989 to 1999, Walt Disney Animation Studios was putting out hit after hit that to this day still serve as some of the best animated films of all time. In fact, many of them are receiving anticipated remakes, including a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Below are three things both animators and the industry as a whole can learn from the team of animators responsible for the Disney Renaissance era:

1. Animation Is Competitive, and That’s a Good Thing

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It’s easy now to look back and see how successful Disney was during this period. But before the studio began their creative resurgence, they found themselves in a tough spot. Disney struggled for a while; some of their films (like “The Black Cauldron”) failed while new rivals emerged. One of these rivals was Don Bluth Productions, which was founded by an ex-Disney animator who left with 17% of the animators working on “The Fox and the Hound” at the time.

Don Bluth’s team began producing successful films like “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” This put pressure on Disney to compete at the box office. Many believe the intense competitiveness with Don Bluth Productions is one of the reasons Disney pushed hard to create memorable classics. Though Don Bluth Productions closed its doors in 1995, Disney clearly benefitted from the competition thanks to the work of individual animators who clearly wanted to prove they were the best in the industry.

2. Never Settle: Instead, Do Better

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Of course, those animators we just mentioned wanted more than to simply “beat” the competition. They also strove to surpass their previous work, which is why so many films released during the Disney Renaissance period seemed to have just as much creativity and passion, if not more, than the last.

Imagine releasing “The Little Mermaid,” which earned a whopping $84 million during its initial release, and then being told to do it again — only better. The Walt Disney Animation Studios team did just that, releasing “Beauty and the Beast” two years later, only to follow that up with with “Aladdin.” The next six films of this era, which include “The Lion King” and “Mulan,” were also great box office hits. The lesson? No matter how well you do, try to do better next time.

No matter what field or industry, success can sometimes be a studio’s downfall. Pressure to repeat the same success can be devastating, but it can also push animators to new heights. As an aspiring animator, follow in the footsteps of the animators of the Disney Renaissance era and work to always do better than before, whether your last work was a success or failure.

3. Animate Because You Love It

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Even though Walt Disney had passed on decades before the Disney Renaissance era, his influence is arguably one of the reasons Disney has continued to grow. In fact, many of his principles are still applied throughout every Disney branch more than 50 years later, including his motto: “Do what you love.”

Disney himself began as someone who enjoyed drawing in his spare time. When he decided he wanted to do what he loved for a living, he had to go through many random jobs — including working as ambulance driver for the army during World War I — just to fund his passion. With a desire to draw for a living as his focus, Disney pushed ahead until he had his own animation studio. His love for animation fed his perseverance.

We’re confident that the animators during the Disney Renaissance era felt the same way. Despite growing pressure to release success after success, they simply went on doing what they loved and didn’t hold back. Now, Disney is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. Coincidence?

What great lessons have you learned from the Disney Renaissance? Let us know in the comments below!