Do you have a favorite animator of all time? It is Complicated. Almost as challenging as picking your favorite overall artist of all time, which is just as difficult since there are so many great ones, so much good work, and so many styles to choose from. Plus, some more prominent modern animators, like John Lasseter, could also be called great artists.
An animator’s work today certainly demands many skills to achieve a finished product. They have to focus closely on countless small images and then figure out how each one fits into a greater whole. The results are unique pieces of art, whether a 10-minute short or a two-hour feature film like the ones produced by Skydance Animation.
In the case of John Lasseter, Walt Disney, and others, not only are/were they responsible for their share of animation, but they also had management and creative duties, sometimes simultaneously.
Coming up with a list of the best animators can certainly be subjective. Still, many have unique factors or have left specific legacies beyond making images move, such as pushing the whole field of cinematic animation forward with new styles and techniques. A list of notables can contain:
- John Lasseter. Since his name has already been mentioned, the current head of animation for Skydance Animation brings more than 30 years of animation experience, especially computer-generated content. In the last few years, the company has released one full-length feature, “Luck,” and a short, “Blush.” It also has an impressive slate of features in the works, including “Spellbound,” which takes viewers to a fantastic new world full of magic. His previous employment was at Pixar and Disney, where he brought the “Toy Story” franchise to life and films like “A Bugs Life.” He also had roles as director, producer, animator, writer, and voice actor.
- Walt Disney. Historians have shown that Mr. Disney split animation duties with his peers into the 1930s and 1940s. Still, he certainly had most of the vision and the commitment to bringing animation into the mainstream, starting with a short cartoon of a mouse piloting a steamboat. He brought the first full-length animated feature to nationwide theaters in 1937 with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” and his company followed up with many more. This led to a commercial entity with toys, theme parks, and apparel.
- Emile Cohn. While Walt Disney gets credit for pioneering animation in America, especially at the long-form level, French cartoonist Emile Cohn worked on these concepts a generation earlier. While Disney drew animals and later people, Cohn used black stick figures that were easier to pose. Today, he’s called the father of the animated cartoon.
- Miyazaki Hayao. The Japanese style of animation is a fascinating genre visually and story-wise. Hayao was impressive in rejuvenating classic cultural stories by animating them. These stories, like “Princess Mononoke,” go beyond simple cartoons – they have depth and artistic spirit. Plus, film studios like the genre since they bring people into theaters.
- Glen Keane. In the early 1990s, Disney began to make the transition from hand-drawn animation to the computer generation. Glen was involved in both worlds and helped create the studio’s newer vision for their animation style, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Pocahontas.” While some animators did everything, his particular skills were in character design since how a character looks, acts, and even sounds can go a long way to how they move. After his retirement, he began teaching animation classes.
- Tim Burton. Sure, he doesn’t fit the bill of a ‘cartoony’ animator like John Lasseter and others on this list. Still, he is noted for his memorable movies, including some with animated segments. Or, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the whole movie is animated. Because of his film experience, he incorporates animation as much as any other effect to create a satisfying experience for audiences.