Here is a list of the world’s top 11 animators of all time. Their achievements, experiences and leadership qualities in their field of work and other spheres of life have put them on this list.
Walter Elias “Walt” Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966) was an American business magnate, animator, film producer, director, screenwriter, and actor. A major figure within the American animation industry and throughout the world, he is regarded as an international icon, and philanthropist, well known for his influence and contributions to the field of entertainment during the 20th century. As a Hollywood business mogul, he, along with his brother Roy O. Disney, co-founded the Walt Disney Productions, which later became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation is now known as The Walt Disney Company and had an annual revenue of approximately US$36 billion in the 2010 financial year.
As an animator and entrepreneur, Disney was particularly noted as a film producer and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. He and his staff created some of the world’s most well-known fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, for whom Disney himself provided the original voice. During his lifetime he received four honorary Academy Awards and won 22 Academy Awards from a total of 59 nominations, including a record four in one year, giving him more awards and nominations than any other individual in history. Disney also won seven Emmy Awards and gave his name to the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in the U.S., as well as the international resorts like Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
He died on December 15, 1966 from lung cancer in Burbank, California. A year later, construction of the Walt Disney World Resort began in Florida. His brother Roy Disney inaugurated the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971.
Fred Quimby was born in Minneapolis, and started his career as a journalist. In 1907, he managed a film theater in Missoula, Montana. Later, he worked at Pathé, rising to become a member of the board of directors before leaving in 1921 to become an independent producer. He was hired by 20th Century Fox in 1924, and then MGM in 1927 to head its short features department. In 1937, he was assigned to put together its animation department.
In 1939, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera presented him with their project for a series of cartoons featuring a cat and a mouse. Quimby approved, and the result was Puss Gets the Boot, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Initially he refused to pursue more Cat and Mouse cartoons after Puss Gets the Boot but success and money earnings that were for the cartoon he agreed to make Tom and Jerry an official cartoon for the MGM cartoon studio. As producer, Quimby became a repeated recipient of the Academy Award for Animated Short Film for the Tom and Jerry films without inviting Hanna and Barbera onstage and his name became well known due to its prominence in the cartoon credits. Even though Quimby had taken sole credit for approving and producing The Tom and Jerry series, he never actually worked on it. Besides, Quimby had a difficult relationship with animators, even with Hanna and Barbera who believed that Quimby was not fit for a real animation leader;
“ …unfortunately for a cartoon producer, [he had] no sense of humor to call upon… He knew nothing of animation and cartoons were a strange thing to him. Cast in the role of high school principal opposite the animators’ boyish enthusiasms, he acted as liaisons between them and the front office, usually it seemed, turning down requests for bigger budgets, raises and special dispensations of funds.”
Quimby retired from MGM in 1955, with Hanna and Barbera assuming his role as co-heads of the studio and taking over the production title for the Tom and Jerry shorts. Despite the success with Hanna and Barbera MGM assumed that bringing in old cartoons got more money and the MGM’s cartoon division did not last long after; it was closed in 1957 but MGM still loved the Tom and Jerry shorts and saved the contracts for producing the shows even later allowing legendary animator Chuck Jones to make a new series of Tom and Jerry, despite that Jones never worked for MGM. Fred Quimby died in Santa Monica, California in 1965 and was buried in Glendale.
Hayao Miyazaki (born January 5, 1941) is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist, producer, and screenwriter. Through a career that has spanned over fifty years, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park and American director Robert Zemeckis.
Born in Bunkyō, Tokyo, Miyazaki began his animation career in 1961, when he joined Toei Animation. From there, Miyazaki worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon where he pitched his own ideas that eventually became the movie’s ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry over the decade until he was able to direct his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro which was released in 1979. After the success of his next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he co-founded Studio Ghibli where he continued to produce many feature films until his temporary retirement in 1997 following Princess Mononoke.
While Miyazaki’s films have long enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West until Miramax Films released Princess Mononoke. Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan—until it was eclipsed by another 1997 film, Titanic—and the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki returned to animation with Spirited Away. The film topped Titanic’s sales at the Japanese box office, also won Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award.
Miyazaki’s films often contain recurrent themes like humanity’s relationship with nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Castle in the Sky, involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities. He recently co-wrote the film The Secret World of Arrietty, which was released in July 2010 in Japan and February 2012 in the United States.
Matthew Abram “Matt” Groening (born February 15, 1954) is an American cartoonist, screenwriter, producer, and author. He is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell (1977–2012) as well as two successful television series, The Simpsons (1989–present) and Futurama (1999–2003, 2008–2013).
Groening made his first professional cartoon sale of Life in Hell to the avant-garde Wet magazine in 1978. At its peak, the cartoon was carried in 250 weekly newspapers. Life in Hell caught the attention of James L. Brooks. In 1985, Brooks contacted Groening with the proposition of working in animation for the Fox variety show The Tracey Ullman Show. Originally, Brooks wanted Groening to adapt his Life in Hell characters for the show. Fearing the loss of ownership rights, Groening decided to create something new and came up with a cartoon family, Matt Groening’s Simpsons family, and named the members after his own parents and sisters — while Bart was an anagram of the word brat. The shorts would be spun off into their own series: The Simpsons, which has since aired 530 episodes. In 1997, Groening and former Simpsons writer David X. Cohen developed Futurama, an animated series about life in the year 3000, which premiered in 1999. After four years on the air, the show was canceled by Fox in 2003, but Comedy Central commissioned 16 new episodes from four direct-to-DVD movies in 2008. Then, in June 2009, Comedy Central ordered 26 new episodes of Futurama, to be aired over two seasons.
Groening has won 12 Primetime Emmy Awards, ten for The Simpsons and two for Futurama as well as a British Comedy Award for “outstanding contribution to comedy” in 2004. In 2002, he won the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for his work on Life in Hell. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 14, 2012.
William Denby “Bill” Hanna (July 14, 1910 – March 22, 2001) was an American animator, director, producer, voice actor, and cartoon artist, whose film and television cartoon characters entertained millions of people for much of the 20th century. When he was a young child, Hanna’s family moved frequently, but they settled in Compton, California, by 1919. There, Hanna became an Eagle Scout. Hanna graduated from Compton High School in 1928. He briefly attended Compton City College but dropped out at the onset of the Great Depression.
After working odd jobs in the first months of the Depression, Hanna joined the Harman and Ising animation studio in 1930. During the 1930s, Hanna steadily gained skill and prominence while working on cartoons such as Captain and the Kids. In 1937, while working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Hanna met Joseph Barbera. The two men began a collaboration that was at first best known for producing Tom and Jerry and live action films. In 1957, they co-founded Hanna-Barbera, which became the most successful television animation studio in the business, producing programs such as The Flintstones, The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, and Yogi Bear. In 1967, Hanna–Barbera was sold to Taft Broadcasting for $12 million, but Hanna and Barbera remained heads of the company until 1991. At that time, the studio was sold to Turner Broadcasting System, which in turn was merged with Time Warner, owners of Hanna’s first employer Warner Bros., in 1996; Hanna and Barbera stayed on as advisors.
Hanna and Barbera won seven Academy Awards and eight Emmy Awards. Their cartoons have become cultural icons, and their cartoon characters have appeared in other media such as films, books, and toys. Hanna–Barbera’s shows had a worldwide audience of over 300 million people in their 1960s heyday, and have been translated into more than 28 languages.
John Alan Lasseter (born January 12, 1957) is an American animator, film director, screenwriter, producer and the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is also currently the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Lasseter’s first job was with The Walt Disney Company, where he became an animator. Fired from Disney for promoting computer animation, he joined Lucasfilm, where he worked on the then ground breaking use of CGI animation. After the Graphics Group of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm was sold to Steve Jobs and became Pixar in 1986, Lasseter oversaw all of Pixar’s films and associated projects as executive producer and he directed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2.
He has won two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film (for Tin Toy), as well as a Special Achievement Award (for Toy Story).
Trey Parker (born Randolph Severn Parker III; October 19, 1969) is an American actor, voice artist, animator, screenwriter, director, producer and musician, best known for being the co-creator of South Park along with his creative partner and best friend Matt Stone, as well as co-writing and co-directing the 2011 multi-Tony Award winning musical The Book of Mormon.
Parker started his film career in 1989 when he created the film Giant Beavers of Southern Sri Lanka. In 1992 he and Matt Stone made a holiday short titled Jesus vs. Frosty, which was an early forerunner of South Park. His first success came from Cannibal! The Musical. From there he made another short titled Jesus vs. Santa, which led him and college friend Stone to create South Park, which began airing on television in 1997. He has won four Emmy Awards for his role in South Park, winning for both “Outstanding Programming More Than One Hour” and “Outstanding Programming Less Than One Hour”.
Matthew Richard “Matt” Stone (born May 26, 1971) is an American actor, voice artist, animator, screenwriter, director, producer and musician, best known for being the co-creator of South Park along with his creative partner and best friend Trey Parker, as well as co-writing the 2011 multi-Tony Award winning musical The Book of Mormon.
Stone and Parker launched their largely collaborative careers in 1989 when they met at the University of Colorado. In 1992 they made a holiday short titled Jesus vs. Frosty which would eventually become South Park. Their first success came from Alferd Packer: The Musical, subsequently distributed as Cannibal! The Musical. From there he made another short title Jesus vs. Santa, leading him and college friend Parker to create South Park, which has been airing for over fifteen years. He has four Emmy Awards for his role in South Park, winning for both “Outstanding Programming More Than One Hour” and “Outstanding Programming Less Than One Hour”.
Michael Craig “Mike” Judge (born October 17, 1962) is an American animator, director, screenwriter, voice actor, actor, producer, and musician. He is best known as the creator and star of the animated television series Beavis and Butt-head (1993–1997, 2011), King of the Hill (1997–2010), and The Goode Family (2009).
He also wrote, directed and in some instances produced the films Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996), Office Space (1999), Idiocracy (2006) and Extract (2009). Judge is also known for his role as Donnagon Giggles in the Spy Kids movie franchise.
Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones (September 21, 1912 – February 22, 2002) was an animator, cartoon artist, screenwriter, producer, and director of animated films, most memorably of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio. He directed many of the classic short animated cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepé Le Pew, Porky Pig and a slew of other Warner characters. Three of these shorts (Duck Amuck, One Froggy Evening and What’s Opera, Doc?) were later inducted into the National Film Registry. Chief among Jones’ other works was the famous “Hunting Trilogy” of Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! (1951–1953).
After his extraordinary career at Warner Bros. ended in 1962, Jones started Sib Tower 12 Productions and began producing memorable cartoons for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, including a new series of Tom and Jerry shorts and the television adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! He later started his own studio, Chuck Jones Productions, which created several one-shot specials, and periodically worked on Looney Tunes related works.
Film historian Leonard Maltin has praised Jones’ work at Warner Bros., MGM and Chuck Jones Productions. He also noted that the “feud” that there may have been between Jones and colleague Bob Clampett was mainly because they were so different from each other. Chuck Jones’ character styles were more controlled and calmed down, while Bob Clampett’s were crazy, wacky and insane.
Akira Toriyama (born April 5, 1955) is a Japanese manga artist and game artist. He is best known for his manga series Dr. Slump (1980–1984) and Dragon Ball (1984–1995), as well as for being the character designer for the Dragon Quest series of video games. Toriyama is regarded as one of the artists that changed the history of manga, as his works are highly influential and popular, particularly Dragon Ball, which many manga artists cite as a source of inspiration.
He earned the 1981 Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōnen or shōjo manga with Dr. Slump, and it went on to sell over 35 million copies in Japan. It was adapted into a successful anime series, with a second anime created in 1997, 13 years after the manga ended. His next series, Dragon Ball, would become one of the most popular and successful manga in the world. Having sold more than 230 million copies worldwide, it is the second best-selling manga of all time and is considered to be one of the main reasons for the “Golden Age of Jump,” the period between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s when manga circulation was at its highest. Overseas, Dragon Ball’s anime adaptations have been more successful than the manga and are credited with boosting Japanese animation’s popularity in the Western world. In 2006, Japanese fans voted Dragon Ball third on a list of the Top 10 Manga of all time at the Agency for Cultural Affairs’s Japan Media Arts Festival.