A few years have passed since I wrote my Top 100 Most Influential Animation Studios of All Time list and I wanted to take the pulse of the current animation industry. I organized my studio rankings with the criteria for influence being: how many releases they had in 2013 and 2014 combined, how many people watched their new animations when they were released, how many people still watch their older animations today, what do they have coming out in the near future, how unique are their animations, and how much competition from other studios do they have?
To separate the world of 3D animations from video game developers I wrote an entire 2014 Top 100 Most Influential Video Game Studios list first, and then I also excluded all animated Web series. Over one hundred other studios met the requirements but still didn’t make the cut, making it one of the closest competitions we’ve ever ranked on the site. Next year we’ll evaluate the industry once again and post the new rankings to see how much can change in a single year.
100. Exceptional Minds
Established in 2011, this is the first American computer animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. Despite only being in existence for a few years, they’ve already been given several high profile projects to work on including the credits and rotoscoping for films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, American Hustle, Crazy Kind of Love, and Lawless. The studio doubles as a nonprofit digital arts school, and the first class of eight students just graduated in June this year!
99. Bakshi Productions, Inc.
Ralph Bakshi got his start working at Terrytoons doing cel art, and eventually opened his own studio in 1968. What did he decide to do with his brand new studio? He made the first animated film to ever get the X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America: Fritz the Cat. He continued to shape the animation industry with the 1978 animated version of Lord of the Rings, his animated musical American Pop, his post-apocalyptic science fantasy film Wizards, and his collaboration with Frank Frazetta to create Fire and Ice. Many years have passed since his retirement but in February of 2013 he successfully funded a new animation project by raising $174,195 through Kickstarter to work on Last Days of Coney Island! Could this be the start of a new trend on Kickstarter? We’ve seen veteran Disney animators recently follow in his footsteps with Hullabaloo, so it’s exciting to think how many more will be launched in the next year!
98. Digital District
In 2012, they helped the French luxury jewelry company, Cartier, create one of the most epic commercials TV has ever aired: the three minute L'Odyssée de Cartier. Since then, this French VFX studio has worked on several French films such as the 2014 movies La French, Samba, Les Francis, A Toute Epreuve, Le Dernier Diamant, and Le Crocodile Du Botswanga. The French film industry is growing as Netflix and other online portals rise in popularity across the globe, and that means this studio’s reach continues to grow each year as well.
97. Main Road Post
Consider this ranking a contender for the Most Underrated VFX Studio of 2014 Award! This Russian visual effects company is located in Moscow and brings the Russian film industry some of the best VFX scenes they’ve seen in recent years, even including the numerous Hollywood productions they watch each year. Last year they worked on the Russian films Metro and Stalingrad, and this year they wowed audiences with their work in the film Avantyuristy (Adventurers) and the TV series Demons.
A few years after working on big American hits such as X-Men: First Class and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, they’ve mostly stuck to VFX work for French film releases as well as numerous French TV commercials. Last year they also worked on The Smurfs 2.
95. The Third Floor
Whereas most of the studios on this list specialize in post-production glitz and glamour, The Third Floor takes a different approach. There are hundreds of VFX studios in the industry competing with similar advanced rendering skillsets, so this studio instead caters to companies who need help previsualizing their scenes. Gone are the days of hand drawn storyboards for most projects, and studios like this help film crews figure out all the scene challenges before a single frame is ever shot. Once their “previs” work is complete the studios know exactly what their project will look like and can begin filming. Their recent projects include the likes of Gravity, Thor: The Dark World, After Earth, Iron Man 3, and several other big Hollywood hits.
94. TMS Entertainment
This famous Japanese animation studio began way back in 1946 and its extensive work over the decades led to its ranking in the upper third of our Top 100 Most Influential Animation Studios of All Time list a few years ago. What has it been up to lately though? Aside from two additional Lupin the 3rd films, they also worked on Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman, Yowamushi Pedal, The Pilot’s Love Song, Hero Bank, Gugure! Kokkuri-san, and Hi sCoool! SeHa Girl. There were a lot of anime studios I was hoping would make this Top 100 list, but there simply wasn’t enough room for them all. Studios like Manglobe, SynergySP, Satelight, Shaft, Dogakobo, Kinema Citrus, White Fox, Brain’s Base, and the list goes on. Check back next year to see which ones climb their way up the charts!
93. Ufotable, Inc.
This Japanese animation studio was founded in 2000 by former TMS Entertainment staff and they’re starting to break out in the industry! In 2013 and 2014 combined their work can be found in three video games, two animated films, and two TV series for the popular show, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. They’ve already begun working on future projects such as Girls’ Work, Tales of Zestiria, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel, and the upcoming God Eater TV show!
92. Eight VFX
Sure, feature films bring in the jaw dropping sales numbers and can influence society in large and incredible ways, but when you think about it, how often do you spend your time actually watching movies? And how often do you spend time watching TV? Companies like Eight VFX focus heavily on artistic and memorable TV commercials and given how much TV is consumed in America, their influence is felt often. When they’re not busy working on famous Stephen Colbert pistachio commercials, they occasionally even work on films, such as the recent hit, Million Dollar Arm.
M2Film boasts that it is Denmark’s leading provider of commercials and branded content for all platforms, and it has the awards to back it up. Their animations for the takeoff series Lego Legends of Chima have been viewed in 40 different countries in 17 different languages, and that’s not all they do. They’ve also created commercials for the likes of Coca Cola and several overseas companies with their work going viral online on multiple occasions.