Animation Companies in Chicago

Chicago, known for its deep-dish pizza, vibrant music scene, and architectural marvels, is also home to a thriving animation industry. The Windy City has cultivated a dynamic environment where creativity and technology converge, fostering the growth of numerous animation studios. These companies cater to various sectors, from advertising and entertainment to education and corporate communications, making Chicago a significant hub for animation.

The Animation Landscape in Chicago

Chicago’s animation scene is characterized by its diversity and innovation. The city’s strategic location in the Midwest provides access to a broad talent pool, including graduates from renowned institutions like the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. These schools offer robust animation programs that feed into the local industry, ensuring a steady stream of skilled animators.

The animation companies Chicago range from small boutique studios to large, well-established firms. This variety allows for a wide array of services and specialties, including 2D and 3D animation, motion graphics, visual effects, and interactive media.

Prominent Animation Companies in Chicago

1. Calabash Animation

Calabash Animation is one of Chicago’s most renowned animation studios. Established in 1985, the company has built a reputation for producing high-quality, award-winning animated content. Calabash specializes in character animation, creating engaging and memorable characters for commercials, television, and digital platforms. Their work includes notable campaigns for clients like Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs, showcasing their ability to bring beloved characters to life with humor and personality.

2. Daily Planet Productions

Daily Planet Productions is a full-service production company that offers animation, live-action, and post-production services. Founded in 1985, the studio has evolved to become a significant player in Chicago’s animation industry. They specialize in creating visually stunning animations for a wide range of clients, including Fortune 500 companies, advertising agencies, and educational institutions. Daily Planet Productions is known for its innovative approach and ability to handle complex projects, from concept to completion.

3. LooseKeys

LooseKeys is a creative studio that excels in producing explainer videos, promotional content, and educational animations. Founded by Brad Chmielewski, LooseKeys focuses on delivering clear and compelling messages through engaging animations. Their work spans various industries, including technology, healthcare, and finance. The studio’s ability to simplify complex ideas and make them accessible to a broad audience has earned them a loyal client base and numerous accolades.

4. Sarofsky

Sarofsky is a high-end design and animation studio that has made a significant impact in the world of motion graphics. Known for their work on major television series like “Community” and “Shameless,” Sarofsky’s team combines artistic vision with technical expertise to create visually striking animations. The studio’s portfolio also includes work for major brands and blockbuster films, demonstrating their versatility and ability to deliver top-tier content across various media.

5. Digital Kitchen

Digital Kitchen is a creative content and experience company with a strong presence in Chicago. With a focus on storytelling, Digital Kitchen creates immersive animations that captivate audiences. Their work includes advertising campaigns, title sequences, and experiential marketing projects. The studio’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of animation and design has earned them numerous awards and recognition in the industry.

Emerging Trends in Chicago’s Animation Industry

The animation industry in Chicago, like elsewhere, is constantly evolving. Several key trends are shaping the future of animation in the city:

Increased Use of 3D Animation and Visual Effects

With advancements in technology, 3D animation and visual effects (VFX) have become more accessible and are increasingly being utilized in various projects. Chicago’s animation studios are leveraging these tools to create more realistic and immersive experiences. This trend is particularly evident in advertising and entertainment, where the demand for high-quality, visually stunning content is ever-growing.

Growth of Interactive and VR/AR Content

Interactive media, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) are transforming the way audiences engage with content. Chicago’s animation companies are at the forefront of this movement, developing innovative VR and AR experiences for clients. These technologies offer new avenues for storytelling and audience interaction, making them a valuable asset for brands and creators looking to stand out in a crowded market.

Emphasis on Storytelling and Character Development

While technology plays a crucial role in animation, storytelling and character development remain at the heart of the craft. Chicago’s studios continue to prioritize creating compelling narratives and memorable characters that resonate with audiences. This focus on storytelling ensures that the animated content produced in the city is not only visually appealing but also emotionally engaging.

Collaboration and Networking

Chicago’s animation industry benefits from a strong sense of community and collaboration. Studios often work together on projects, share resources, and participate in industry events and festivals. This collaborative spirit fosters innovation and helps the local industry thrive. Networking opportunities, such as the Chicago International Film Festival and the Midwest Independent Film Festival, provide platforms for animators to showcase their work and connect with potential clients and collaborators.

The Future of Animation in Chicago

The future of animation in Chicago looks promising, with continued growth and innovation on the horizon. The city’s animation companies are well-positioned to adapt to emerging trends and technologies, ensuring that they remain competitive in the global market.

As the demand for high-quality animated content continues to rise, Chicago’s animation studios will likely see increased opportunities across various sectors. Education, healthcare, and corporate training are just a few areas where animation is becoming an essential tool for communication and engagement.

Furthermore, the ongoing development of VR and AR technologies will open up new possibilities for animators in Chicago. These immersive experiences have the potential to revolutionize industries such as gaming, real estate, and tourism, providing fresh opportunities for creative expression and commercial success.


Chicago’s animation industry is a vibrant and dynamic sector that continues to grow and evolve. With a rich history of creativity and innovation, the city’s animation companies are well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future. From established studios like Calabash Animation and Sarofsky to emerging players like LooseKeys, Chicago’s animators are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, creating content that captivates and inspires audiences around the world.

As technology advances and new trends emerge, Chicago’s animation industry will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of the field, contributing to the city’s reputation as a hub for creativity and innovation. Whether you’re an aspiring animator, a business looking for top-notch animated content, or simply a fan of the medium, Chicago offers a wealth of talent and expertise that is sure to impress.