Daily Debate: Which Animation Studio is the Most Underappreciated and Why?

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Yes, we all know the big powerhouse studios like Disney and Pixar with their millions of fanboys and fangirls, but today there are dozens of big-name animation studios, many of which are greatly underappreciated.

Some would argue that some of these lesser appreciated studios put out work that is better than some of the more popular ones, yet for some reason, they just haven’t been able to garner a passionate audience or deliver adequate results at the box office.

Let’s great ready to discuss this in today’s Daily Debate:

What animation studio today is the most underappreciated and why?

Let us know in the comments below or head on over to our Facebook page to join the discussion there!

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About Morgan Stradling

Morgan is a native of Arizona and is a desert rat who loves the heat--she doesn’t even turn on the AC in her car in the middle of the summer! She loves big eyeliner, Survivor, Lady Gaga, and, of course, animated films. She has her MBA in Marketing from ASU and now works as a Product Manager for a tech company. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
  • Manuel Orozco

    I’ll have to pick Illumination Entertainment. I’ve seen almost all of their movies except Hop! And like Pixar they’ve yet to make one bad tasting feature. Illumination can create some of the wackiest situations and characters without losing their wholesome appeal. My favorites of their movies so far are Despicable Me 2 and Sing!

  • Fadi Antwan

    I would say Laika. They work very hard producing unique and high-quality films that barely break even at the Box Office and are almost completely ignored by mainstream audiences. Just watch some of their production videos to see how much love they pour into the films they make.

    • JamScoBal

      I know! Kubo and the Two Strings was the best stop motion film of all time and yet it was the lowest in box office revenue. Why? It makes no sense!

    • Marielle

      I wonder why Laika movies don’t connect with a larger audience. At first I thought it was because they made scary movies, sort of horror for kids, which is kind of a niche. But Kubo was an adventure, it looked and felt as good as CGI, and it kept the creepy stuff to normal levels, yet it was their lowest box-office.

      • Fadi Antwan

        Either Laika doesn’t market them well enough or general audiences just find their designs “weird” and can’t get into them. People usually go for conventional stuff unfortunately.

        • Jerrico

          I think I cried a little when I heard that Kubo didn’t even pay the bills while Minions made a billion dollars in profit alone.

          Though I despise them, Movieguide does bring up the point that “scary” animated movies never do well at the box office and that’s what Laika…. likes.


          The School of Movies Podcast suggested it was the idea of a sword in an animated movie that freaked parents out. But rockets launcher are fine apparently. Probably because kids can’t buy a rocket launcher, but they can buy swords.

          Part of me wishes Laika would do something Disney generic to earn some cash just so they’ll survive, while the other part screams at the first part. However, a third part would be interested to see something more “mature” and serious from Laika since the “kid” movies aren’t working in any case.

          • Fadi Antwan

            Very good point. It seems that Laika films are in this awkward spot (that is, for general audiences, not for us animation fans) where they’re neither juvenile/cutesy/safe nor fully adult in nature à la Sausage Party, which really limits their audience to a relatively small demographic. Add to this the fact that in the U.S., usually the only successful adult animated properties are comedies.

    • COMPLETELY 1000% AGREE!! They are just constantly amazing!! I just wish one day they get discovered as highly as Disney/Dreamworks!! :3333

  • Lee DeWald

    I’m going to say Imagi Animation Studios. Let me guess; you’ve never heard of them? Well, that’s for good reason; the studio went bankrupt in 2010.

    They made, in my opinion, the best Ninja Turtles movie to date, “TMNT,” in 2007. Unfortunately, it was the ONLY good movie the studio made, as every other film flopped in one way or another. Crying shame, really; we’ll never get a sequel to that film.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I loved Astro Boy

  • Alex Beezley

    I will go with Blue Sky Studios. They have a bad reputation for churning out Ice Age sequel after Ice Age sequel, but their original films range from decent to good. I especially enjoy Horton Hears a Who!, Rio, and The Peanuts Movie. In addition, I love the short film Bunny. In spite of the fact that their original films are usually enjoyable, I feel that this is their finest work and very deserving of an Academy Award.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I’ve only seen the first two Ice Age movies liked them but stopped watching from there. Also seen Robots Epic and Peanuts Movie. Cannot wait for Ferdinand

    • Sebastian

      I really liked the first Rio and enjoyed Horton & Epic

    • Angelo Thomas

      I’m not a fan of many of their movies, but I did really like Epic and Horton Hears a Who.

    • Firecat

      That’s what I’m saying!

  • Yellow

    For me, it’s definitely Laika. It’s appreciated by animation fans, but not so much by general moviegoers, as the box office shows.

    • Angelo Thomas

      I have a lot of respect for Laika on a technical level, but I feel like they almost go out of their way to make films that lack mainstream appeal. Coraline remains their best effort in my opinion. I love stop motion animation, so I’d love to see these films succeed, but there’s something about Laika’s style and storytelling that doesn’t quite resonate with people.

  • Firecat

    I’d say Blue Sky Studios. Yes, I know how many people say that it’s bad, but that’s merely a bad rap due to its notoriously milked Ice Age franchise. A lot of its other movies, on the other hand, are good(Ice Age 1, Rio 1, Robots) some are decent(Epic, Rio 2) and a handful of amazing ones(Horton Hears a Who, The Peanuts Movie). While it’s true that BSS in general is…I dunno, mediocre?…when it comes to the overall effort level put into making films, it’s not truly bad despite the Ice Age corruption. Not like Sony(especially The Emojis Movie) or Vanguard Animation.

  • I would have to go with Blue Sky Studios. It is because if you ignore all the Ice Age
    squeals, then you would notice that they put out solid (although not great) animated
    films. From fun films like Rio and Robots to charming ones like The Peanuts Movie.

  • Angelo Thomas

    I’m gonna go with Disneytoon, even though its output has changed quite a bit over the years. I know the direct-to-video sequels they made generally aren’t too great, but I think they’re underappreciated in the sense that some people (more so the general public than true animation fans) completely dismiss them as nothing more than cheap, soulless cash grabs. I really like some of those films, and I know that a lot of talent and hard work went into making them, so I wish people would soften up a bit and take them for what they are. It’s sort of a similar situation to some Star Wars fans unabashedly hating the prequels.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I’m not a big fan of their direct to video sequels. But I love the Tinker Bell and Planes movies even if I’m way over the demographic line.

  • Cartoon Saloon! Although they don’t have many movies out yet, I hope they can get more popular as the years go. Can’t wait for Wolfwalkers.

    • Rachel Wagner

      I love them!! Good answer

  • Chelsea Warner

    I think Blu Sky is underrated. I think people think less of them because they kept on making an endless stream of Ice Age sequels. So far none of their original movies made want to gouge my eyes out.

  • Dave 52

    For me, It’s Warner Animation Group. I know that they just got started but they show a lot of potential. Their style is very similar to how Warner Brothers was in their early years of animation with Looney Tunes and later years with Animaniacs. Very silly and irreverent but also clever and smart. They are throwing thousands of gags at you per minute whether it be physical, verbal, and visual that you don’t have enough time to laugh at the next one because you are laughing at the previous one. Their movies know how to be modern but not modern in the way to where they are pandering. The studio’s overall style is very reminiscent of the Termite Terrance in the sense that the studio let’s the writers and directors do what they want and give them a lot of creative freedom. Like how it was back then, the writers and directors get to make the movie that they want to make and that they would see in theaters. Like WB cartoons, their animated movies embrace the wackiness and sense of anarchy that a lot of other studios would turn their noses at and I love them for that. I mean transforming wolves and Kaiju felines? What’s not to love?

    • Manuel Orozco

      I didn’t see Storks but I liked both Lego movies equally and plan to see the new one

  • Rachel Wagner

    I’d say Blue Sky. I don’t think they’ve made a bad movie outside of the Ice Age sequels and Rio 2. Rest I like to love. Robots is particularly underrated

  • Hands down Cartoon Saloon!!!!

    The thing about CS that separates them from your everyday ‘Disney’ type studio is that they’re extremely passionate about telling very unique and original stories that can appeal more so to the adults than children and each one them holds a very special human connection that anyone can relate to. And that right there also breaks the cliche Disney formula of ‘following your dreams’ or ‘being yourself’. Plus, they don’t feel so predictable like your average Disney/Pixar movie to where you know what’s going to happen in each scene. Of course, how can anyone forget about the animation, character designs and music!? It’s all beautifully gorgeous!!

    The only thing that really pisses me off so much is that they have yet to win a Academy Award for ‘Best Animated Feature’ or for anything else such as ‘Best Original Soundtrack’. And every time I think about the 2015 Academy Awards, I can’t help but to feel very upset that a very lazy and downright predictable movie like Big Hero 6 stole it from Song of the Sea which had much more heart and substance in it’s story. As for the next award ceremony, I’m really hoping for either The Breadwinner or any other indie animated movie to win it but we all know that Coco is going to be the one that will claim victory to it because as we all know, it’s freaking Disney.

    To end it on a high note, let me go ahead and say this; I really think that Cartoon Saloon is hands down the best animation studio in the industry! They’re better than Disney. They’re better than Pixar. Heck, they’re way better than the whole animation industry here in the U.S. They know how to take risks and the payoffs are always very rewarding.


    • Rachel Wagner

      I’m so excited for The Breadwinner. Song of the Sea is one of my favorite animated films