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Animation Studios in Illinois

Animation Studios in Illinois


Illinois, known for its bustling cultural and artistic scene, is home to a thriving animation industry. From traditional 2D animations to cutting-edge CGI, Illinois-based studios have been at the forefront of creating compelling visual stories. This article delves into some of the key animation studios in Illinois, highlighting their contributions, styles, and notable works.

The Rise of Animation in Illinois

Illinois, particularly Chicago, has seen a significant rise in the number of animation studios over the past few decades. This growth is attributed to the state’s rich cultural diversity, strong educational institutions, and a supportive arts community. The presence of institutions like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago has played a pivotal role in nurturing talent, providing a steady stream of skilled animators and artists.

Leading Animation Studios

1. Calabash Animation

Overview: Founded in 1985, Calabash Animation has established itself as one of the premier animation studios in Illinois. The studio specializes in both traditional and computer animation, with a focus on commercial work.

Notable Works: Calabash is renowned for its work on commercials for major brands like Lucky Charms, Trix, and Nesquik. Their distinctive style blends classic animation techniques with modern technology, resulting in vibrant and memorable advertisements.

Impact: Calabash Animation has won numerous awards, including several CLIO Awards, recognizing their excellence in advertising and animation.

2. LooseKeys

Overview: LooseKeys is a animation studios in Illinois and video production studio known for its innovative and engaging content. The studio was founded by Brad Chmielewski and Keith Hitchcock, and it focuses on creating explainer videos, animated commercials, and promotional content.

Notable Works: LooseKeys has produced animations for clients such as Google, Groupon, and AT&T. Their style is characterized by clean, minimalist designs that effectively communicate complex ideas in a simple and visually appealing manner.

Impact: The studio’s ability to distill intricate concepts into engaging animations has made them a preferred choice for tech companies and startups looking to explain their products and services.

3. Daily Planet Productions

Overview: Established in 1978, Daily Planet Productions is one of the oldest and most respected animation studios in Illinois. The studio offers a wide range of services, including 2D and 3D animation, visual effects, and live-action production.

Notable Works: Daily Planet Productions has worked on projects for major clients like McDonald’s, General Motors, and the Chicago Bulls. Their versatility and expertise in both animation and live-action production have set them apart in the industry.

Impact: The studio’s longevity and consistent quality have earned them a reputation as a reliable and innovative partner for both commercial and entertainment projects.

4. HouseSpecial

Overview: Though not originally from Illinois, HouseSpecial expanded its presence to Chicago to tap into the vibrant local talent pool. The studio is known for its unique blend of stop-motion and computer-generated animation.

Notable Works: HouseSpecial’s notable projects include commercials for iconic brands like M&M’s, Planters, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Their work is characterized by a whimsical and detailed style that captivates audiences of all ages.

Impact: By combining traditional stop-motion techniques with modern CGI, HouseSpecial has pushed the boundaries of what is possible in commercial animation, earning accolades and a loyal client base.

Emerging Studios

1. Studio Mechanica

Overview: Studio Mechanica is a relatively new player in the Illinois animation scene, but it has quickly made a name for itself with its high-quality productions and innovative approach.

Notable Works: The studio has worked on a variety of projects, from independent short films to corporate videos. Their ability to adapt to different styles and techniques has made them a versatile and sought-after studio.

Impact: Studio Mechanica’s fresh perspective and commitment to quality have positioned them as a rising star in the Illinois animation industry.

2. Lunar North

Overview: Lunar North is a creative studio based in Chicago, specializing in motion design, animation, and visual effects. Founded by a group of passionate artists, the studio focuses on storytelling and visual aesthetics.

Notable Works: Lunar North has produced content for clients such as Nike, Samsung, and the Chicago Cubs. Their work is characterized by a dynamic and polished style that combines traditional animation with modern digital techniques.

Impact: The studio’s emphasis on storytelling and visual excellence has garnered them a reputation for creating compelling and visually stunning animations.

The Role of Education and Community

Illinois’ animation industry benefits greatly from the state’s strong educational infrastructure. Institutions like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Columbia College Chicago offer robust programs in animation and visual effects, producing a steady stream of talented graduates who often stay in the state to work in local studios.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

SAIC offers a comprehensive animation program that covers various aspects of the field, from traditional 2D animation to 3D modeling and digital effects. The school’s emphasis on creativity and experimentation has produced some of the industry’s leading animators and artists.

Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College’s animation program is known for its hands-on approach, providing students with practical experience and exposure to industry-standard tools and techniques. The program’s strong connections with local studios offer students valuable internship and job opportunities, further strengthening the industry in Illinois.

Community and Collaboration

The animation community in Illinois is tight-knit and collaborative, with numerous events, festivals, and organizations dedicated to fostering creativity and professional growth. The Chicago International Film Festival and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, for instance, showcase animated works from around the world, providing a platform for local animators to share their work and gain inspiration.

Chicago International Film Festival

The festival’s animation category features a diverse range of works, from experimental shorts to feature-length films, highlighting the innovative spirit of the animation community in Illinois. It provides an opportunity for local animators to showcase their talents alongside international peers.

Chicago International Children’s Film Festival

This festival is particularly important for nurturing young talent and introducing children to the art of animation. It features workshops, screenings, and Q&A sessions with animators, offering a comprehensive educational experience for aspiring young artists.


Illinois’ animation studios are a testament to the state’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. From established powerhouses like Calabash Animation and Daily Planet Productions to emerging innovators like Studio Mechanica and Lunar North, the animation industry in Illinois is diverse, dynamic, and constantly evolving. The strong educational infrastructure and supportive community further bolster this vibrant sector, ensuring that Illinois will continue to be a hub for animation excellence for years to come.