10 Largest Animation Studios In The World

By Kristin Kizer - May. 17, 2021

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According to the Academy Awards, the next best animated movie will likely come from one of these creative geniuses. There are a handful of animation studios across the globe that have earned Oscar nominations. In fact, every company on this list has earned at least two of them, but not all of them have won the coveted statuette.

  1. Pixar. Emeryville, California USA

    Nominated for 15 Academy Awards: Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside Out, Coco, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4, Onward, Soul

    Won 10: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside Out, Coco, Toy Story 4

    Pixar is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Studios which, of course, is owned by The Walt Disney Company. The company began in 1979 as the computer division of Lucasfilm and became its own entity with the help of Steve Jobs, the major shareholder.

    Known for its amazing technology, Pixar is not only the leader in nominations and wins for Best Animated Movie, but Pixar also boasts a handsome list of nominations and wins in many different categories across many awards. They are by far the biggest in the industry and a leader that all others look to.

    When you think of Pixar, perhaps you think of the big ones like Toy Story and Brave. But remember, this all started with two animated lamps and the short film Luxo Jr. That is why the lamp is a mascot of the studios and can be seen in some of their films, or at least in the opening and closing credits.

  2. Walt Disney Animation Studios. Burbank, California USA

    Nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Bolt, The Princess and the Frog, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, Ralph Breaks the Internet

    Won 3: Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia

    While Pixar is the biggest winner and known worldwide, it’s probably Walt Disney Animation Studios who are better known. And that has more to do with the company’s history and affiliation than anything else. But keep in mind, the same parent currently owns both companies.

    Way back in 1923, this animation studio was founded as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. It’s gone through several name changes, but the Disney name always remained, based on the brothers who began the company, Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney.

    Their first cartoon with sound was Steamboat Willie. They set the standard and created many of the techniques used today, almost 100 years later, for animation.

    Their catalog of animated films is incredible and truly a remarkable accomplishment. It would be hard to find a person who has not seen or heard of any Disney film – they are a true icon in the industry.

  3. DreamWorks Animation. Glendale, California, USA

    Nominated for 12 Academy Awards: Shrek, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Shrek 2, Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Boss Baby, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

    Won 1: Shrek

    DreamWorks is owned by Universal Pictures, which NBCUniversal owns. This company is not only known for its feature films and shorts, but they also do a lot of online virtual gaming. DreamWorks got its start in 1994 as some of the staff from Amblin Entertainment spun off to create an animation studio.

    And when we say some of the staff, we mean big players like Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen were the founders of this company. Again, it’s not just the number of best picture awards that this company has earned. They’ve been nominated and won many other awards as well.

    They are truly a big player in this industry. Since their start, they’ve diversified, and they’ve gone worldwide with studios in other countries. You can even take a DreamWorks cruise or stay in a DreamWorks hotel.

  4. Studio Ghibli. Koganei, Tokyo, Japan

    Nominated for 6 Academy Awards: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Wind Rises, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, When Marnie Was There, The Red Turtle

    Won 1: Spirited Away

    While we’re talking about winners when it comes to the American Academy Awards, it’s no surprise that a Japanese company is getting top honors for their animation. This country is known for its amazing animated films and video games, and Ghibli is a leader in that realm.

    Ghibli lays claim to five of the top 10 highest-grossing anime films made in the entire country of Japan. The studio was founded in 1986 by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki. Even with the company’s success, when Miyazaki retired in 2014, the company halted production.

    Luckily for the world, Miyazaki came out of retirement in 2017 to direct a new feature film. Since Ghibli is a Japanese company that does business worldwide, they have many different partnerships, and it probably won’t surprise you to know that they joined teams with Buena Vista International in the United States to expand their reach.

    Perhaps Buena Vista International isn’t a name you know, but their parent company, Disney, sure is.

  5. Aardman. Bristol, England

    Nominated for 4 Academy Awards: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Shaun the Sheep Movie, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Won 1: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

    A British animation studio, Aardman was initially a leader in stop-motion clay animation techniques. Their Wallace & Gromit characters are legendary, and their stop-motion films have consistently been high earners for the studio. Top earners included Flushed Away and Chicken Run.

    Aardman was founded in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who had dreamed of producing animated motion pictures. Their first production aired on the BBC series Vision On and featured a superhero character called Aardman.

    Aardman, the studio not the character, has a long history of working with other production companies and even animation studios to co-produce and create their feature films. They’ve certainly grown from the low-budget dream project that they started as a global leader in animation and an incredibly well-respected player in the industry.

  6. Nickelodeon. Los Angeles, California USA

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Rango

    Won 1: Rango

    The Nickelodeon TV channel first burst onto the scene in 1995 as a place dedicated to children’s programming with a smart and savvy approach. The movie division has been around a bit longer as it had a contract in 1993 with 20th Century Fox to make feature films, but nothing came of it.

    In 1995, Nickelodeon Movies was founded, and the movies started rolling out, the first of which was Harriet the Spy. Interestingly, Nickelodeon is known for doing both live-action and animation and isn’t as segregated and specialized as other film companies.

    While they have their separate divisions of work, they all fall under the same umbrella. The popularity of this channel with children and their characters with runaway fame ensures that we’ll be seeing more of them in the future and probably more Oscar nods as well.

  7. Sony. Culver City, California USA

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Surf’s Up, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Won 1: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Sony Pictures Animation Incorporated is a subsidiary of a long line of Sony-owned corporations. Their first film was Open Season, and it was released in 2006. Sony’s animation studios started as a visual effects division called Sony Pictures Imageworks.

    They were thinking about selling off the division in 2001, but after seeing the success that other leaders in animation were beginning to achieve, they decided to hold onto the division. They already had been in business and had a few well-loved characters, so they kept going.

    The release of Open Season was huge for the company and became Sony’s second highest-grossing film in 2007 and prompted three direct-to-video sequels. Interestingly, most of the work is outsourced to other companies, but Sony Pictures Imageworks is still a large producer of Sony’s animation.

  8. Laika. Hillsboro, Oregon USA

    Nominated for 5 Academy Awards: Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, Missing Link

    Won : 0

    Laika specializes in stop-motion animation and features two divisions: feature films and commercial work. The company began as Will Vinton Studios and was producing stop-motion films and commercials. They wanted to do more films but needed investors, which brought Phil Knight into the picture.

    Phil Knight was Nike, Inc., and his son, Travis, an animator at the studio. Eventually, Knight acquired the studio and changed the name to Laika in 2005, which officially established the company as a force to be reckoned with.

    While the company has notably had troubles and gone through a couple of massive layoffs, the quality of their productions cannot be stressed enough. All five of their first five feature films have received Academy Awards nominations. That’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

  9. Cartoon Saloon. Kilkenny, Ireland

    Nominated for 4 Academy Awards: The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, Wolfwalkers

    Won : 0

    Cartoon Saloon was founded in Ireland in 1999 by Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey, and Paul Young. The group all went to the same college for animation and began working on their first feature film the same year they created it.

    It took a while for them to get their feet on the ground, and their movie, The Secret of Kells, did not officially begin full production until 2005. The work paid off, as it was nominated for an Academy Award, which put this small production studio on the map professionally.

    What’s probably most notable about Cartoon Saloon, aside from their quality and interesting animation technique, is that although they’ve received multiple offers from bigger companies, they’ve remained independent and do not fall under the umbrella of giants like Disney.

In tenth place, several studios have all been nominated for two Academy Awards, yet none of them have taken home a win.

  1. Les Armateurs. Paris, France

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: The Triplets of Belleville, Ernest & Celestine

    Won : 0

    A French film production company, Les Armateurs, was founded in 1994 by Didier Brunner. It produces feature and short films as well as television series.

  1. (tie) Blue Sky. Greenwich, Connecticut USA

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Ice Age, Ferdinand

    Won : 0

    Founded in 1987, Blue Sky achieved great success with their films Ice Age and Ferdinand. They produced 13 feature films and became a subsidiary of 20th Century Animation and later Disney. Unfortunately, this animation studio has become a victim of COVID-19 and was shut down in April of 2021.

  1. (tie) Netflix. Los Angeles, California USA

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Klaus, Over the Moon

    Won : 0

    Best known for their subscription service, Netflix also owns Netflix Animation and began producing their original animated content in 2013. At that time, their animation was done by DreamWorks, but by 2018 Netflix announced that they would begin doing original animated shows in-house.

  1. (tie) Tim Burton. Burbank, California USA

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie

    Won : 0

    Known for his dark look at the world, Tim Burton created Tim Burton Productions in the late 1980s. The company is not always credited with the films directed and produced by Burton and appears to be just as mysterious as the movies.

  1. (tie) American Empirical Pictures.

    Nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs

    Won : 0

    American Empirical Pictures is also a bit of an enigma as it’s just the brainchild of Wesley Wales Anderson, an American filmmaker.

    Does his company qualify as a top animation studio? Perhaps not in terms of how many people they employ or the amount of money it brings in, but when it comes to earning nominations for Best Animated Film, it certainly does.

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Kristin Kizer

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Kristin Kizer

Kristin Kizer is an award-winning writer, television and documentary producer, and content specialist who has worked on a wide variety of written, broadcast, and electronic publications. A former writer/producer for The Discovery Channel, she is now a freelance writer and delighted to be sharing her talents and time with the wonderful Zippia audience.

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