Animation Studios in Chicago: A Creative Hub


Chicago, known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, is also a burgeoning hub for animation. The city’s animation studios are renowned for their creativity, innovation, and technical prowess. From commercial advertising to feature films and educational content, Chicago’s animation industry is diverse and dynamic. This article delves into the key players in the animation scene in Chicago, exploring their contributions, unique styles, and the broader impact they have on the industry.

The Animation Scene in Chicago

Chicago’s animation scene is characterized by a rich tapestry of studios that cater to various needs—from advertising and corporate videos to independent films and digital media. The city’s central location and access to a wealth of artistic talent make it an ideal place for animation studios to thrive.

A Brief History

The roots of animation studios chicago can be traced back to the early 20th century when animation was still in its infancy. Over the decades, the city has evolved into a hotspot for creative professionals, attracting talent from around the world. The establishment of several key studios in the 1990s and 2000s cemented Chicago’s reputation as a formidable player in the animation industry.

Leading Animation Studios in Chicago

Calabash Animation

Calabash Animation, founded in 1985, is one of the most well-known animation studios in Chicago. The studio has made a name for itself through its high-quality commercial animations and character-driven storytelling. Calabash Animation’s portfolio includes work for major brands like McDonald’s, Disney, and Cartoon Network. Their commitment to traditional 2D animation, coupled with innovative digital techniques, sets them apart in the industry.

Studio APA

Studio APA is another prominent name in Chicago’s animation landscape. Known for its cutting-edge motion graphics and visual effects, Studio APA has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Nike, Google, and Coca-Cola. Their ability to blend animation with live-action footage has earned them accolades and a loyal client base. Studio APA’s work is characterized by its sleek, modern aesthetic and attention to detail.

Mode Project

Mode Project, established in 2003, specializes in creating compelling visual stories through animation and motion graphics. Their work spans various industries, including healthcare, education, and corporate communication. Mode Project is renowned for its ability to distill complex ideas into engaging and easily understandable animations. Their clients include the University of Chicago, Kellogg’s, and the Field Museum.

Daily Planet Productions

Daily Planet Productions is a full-service animation and production studio that has been a staple in Chicago’s creative community since 1996. The studio offers a wide range of services, including 2D and 3D animation, visual effects, and video production. Their diverse portfolio includes projects for clients like Microsoft, IBM, and the Chicago Cubs. Daily Planet Productions is known for its versatility and innovative approach to problem-solving through animation.


LooseKeys is a boutique animation studio that specializes in explainer videos and digital content. Founded in 2011, the studio has quickly gained a reputation for its fun, quirky animations that effectively communicate complex concepts. LooseKeys’ work is characterized by its vibrant color palettes, playful character designs, and engaging narratives. Their clients range from startups to established corporations, including Groupon and

The Impact of Animation Studios on Chicago’s Creative Economy

The animation industry in Chicago contributes significantly to the city’s creative economy. These studios not only provide employment to local artists, animators, and technical staff but also attract talent from other parts of the country and the world. The presence of a thriving animation industry enhances Chicago’s reputation as a cultural and creative hub.

Employment and Training

Animation studios in Chicago offer a range of employment opportunities, from animators and storyboard artists to technical directors and producers. They also play a crucial role in training the next generation of animators through internships, workshops, and collaborations with local educational institutions. Schools like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Columbia College Chicago offer specialized programs in animation, often partnering with local studios for hands-on experience.

Innovation and Technology

Chicago’s animation studios are at the forefront of innovation, continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible with animation technology. From pioneering new techniques in 3D animation and virtual reality to developing proprietary software tools, these studios contribute to the advancement of the animation industry as a whole. Their innovative spirit ensures that Chicago remains competitive on the national and international stage.

Cultural Contribution

Beyond their economic impact, animation studios in Chicago contribute to the city’s cultural landscape. Through their work on educational content, public service announcements, and artistic projects, these studios help shape the cultural narrative of the city. Animations created in Chicago are seen by audiences around the world, showcasing the city’s creative talent and unique perspective.

Challenges and Opportunities

While the animation industry in Chicago is thriving, it is not without its challenges. The rapidly changing technology landscape requires constant adaptation and learning. Additionally, competition from animation hubs like Los Angeles and New York can make it difficult for Chicago studios to attract large-scale projects.

Adapting to Technological Changes

The animation industry is highly dependent on technology, which is constantly evolving. Studios must invest in the latest software and hardware to stay competitive. This requires significant financial resources and a commitment to ongoing training and development for staff. However, these challenges also present opportunities for studios to innovate and differentiate themselves in the market.

Competing on a National and International Stage

Chicago’s animation studios face stiff competition from well-established animation centers like Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver. To attract high-profile projects, Chicago studios must leverage their unique strengths, such as their central location, access to diverse talent, and reputation for high-quality work. Building strong relationships with clients and continuously demonstrating their creative and technical capabilities are essential for success.

The Future of Animation in Chicago

The future of animation in Chicago looks promising. With a strong foundation of talented professionals, innovative studios, and supportive educational institutions, the city is well-positioned to continue its growth in the animation industry. As technology advances and the demand for animated content increases, Chicago’s animation studios are poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of the industry.

Embracing New Technologies

As virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other emerging technologies become more prevalent, Chicago’s animation studios have the opportunity to lead in these cutting-edge fields. By embracing these new technologies and integrating them into their workflows, studios can offer innovative solutions to clients and stay ahead of industry trends.

Expanding International Collaborations

With the global nature of the animation industry, there are ample opportunities for Chicago studios to collaborate with international partners. These collaborations can lead to the exchange of ideas, techniques, and talent, further enriching the local animation scene. By participating in international film festivals and industry events, Chicago studios can showcase their work to a broader audience and attract new business opportunities.


Chicago’s animation studios are a testament to the city’s creative spirit and technical expertise. From pioneering traditional 2D animation to pushing the boundaries of digital technology, these studios play a vital role in the global animation industry. As they continue to innovate and adapt to new challenges, Chicago’s animation studios will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone of the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene.