Top 10 American Television Animation Studios of All-Time

In researching cartoons for my role as co-host on ToonCast as well as in watching shows while adding content to our site here I was noticing that certain companies just seemed to be more prominent than others and showed up everywhere. One thing led to another and I found myself delving through numerous books and websites trying to decide which companies were the best of all-time. Many, many hours later I came up with what I thought was a pretty good Top-Ten list. Now that being said I do want to throw a few qualifications out there. The animation studio had to be located in North America and the focus of this list was on Television series production. Many of the original animation studios that produced the theatrical shorts that laid the groundwork for everything that would come later have thus been left off of this list. After much time I had narrowed my list down to twenty and would like to take a moment to mention a few that didn't quite make it to the Top-Ten.

Honorable Mentions:

4Kids Entertainment
: Although mostly providing Dub work for Anime series, 4Kids has lent its name to many popular properties including, Bratz, Chaotic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Sonic X and Winx Clubs just to name a few

: One of the original Animation Studios referenced above that gave us such memorable hits as Lariat Sam, Deputy Dawg, Astronut, Dinky Duck, Farmer Al Falfa, Mighty Mouse, Hashimoto, and Heckle & Jeckle.

: In the same vein as TerryToons with such classics as Popeye, Betty Boop and Superman.

: Was ousted due to the mere fact that almost all of its productions were co-productions with Marvel Productions.

Rankin Bass
: The classic 80s Studio that gave us Thundercats and Silverhawks among others Allright let's move onto the

Top 10 American Television Animation Studios of All-Time
By optimussolo on Mon May 31 2010, 11 Comments, Add Comment


Film Roman

Origins: The Film Roman animation studio was born in 1984 as a result of a conflict of interest at Bill Melendez Productions. Melendez, which is known for being the power behind the Peanuts franchise at the time was trying to produce both the specials as well as some Garfield projects. Charles Schulz expressed his concern over time and money spent on the Garfield specials which spurred the director Phil Roman to go off on his own and create Film Roman Production.

Series Produced:
The first series produced by Film Roman was, Garfield and Friends. The success of Garfield and Friends helped solidify the studio and lead to many future projects. These shows include but are not limited to: Bobby's World, The Critic, The first two seasons of Family Guy, King of the Hill, Mask the animated Series, Mighty Max, The Simpsons, Richie Rich, The Super Hero Squad Show, Tripping the Rift, & X-men Evolution. In all the studio has produced approximately 27 televsion series at the time of this posting.

Film Roman has been unique in its ability to produce hit shows to both children and adult audiences. Its properties have earned it 20 Emmy Awards and it is responisble for producing the longest running U.S. animated series of all-time, The Simpsons.

Current State:
Film Roman is still in existence and producing television series.


Origins: Joe Ruby and Ken Spears achieved a great deal of success working for another production company named Hanna-Barbera. There they inked their name as writers of hit shows like Scooby Doo Where are You, Jabberjaw and Captian Caveman. Later they would branch out on their own and create Ruby-Spears Enterprises in 1977.

Series Produced:
In 1978, Ruby-Spears first series, Fangface hit the air. Forty-two television series would follow that show including the likes of: Plasticman, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Puppy's New/Further Adventures, Saturday Supercade, Tubro Teen, Dink the Little Dinosaur, C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa, Centurions, Police Academy, Sectaurs, Skysurfer Strikeforce, Rambo, and Mega Man. Their most succesful shows were undoubtedly, The 1988 version of Superman and Alvin & The Chipmunks.

Ruby-Spears was the first animation company to obtain a network commitment for a special and a series before they ever even opened their doors. The production team won one Emmy Award and had five other projects nominated. They also have been awarded two Humanitas Prizes.

Current State:
Unfortunately, Ruby-Spears is no longer in the television animation business. The studio shut-down shortly after 1996 selling its library, with a few exceptions to Turner Broadcasting/Time Warner. Ruby-Spears currently are delving into the world of Internet animation and entertainment.

Marvel Productions

Origins: Marvel Productions actually began back in 1963 under the name of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. The name was changed to Marvel Productions when DFE was sold to Marvel Comics Group in 1981. At that time Friz Freleng left the company and returned to Warner Brothers but his partner David H. DePatie stayed on board with Marvel until his retirement.

Series Produced:
Marvel Productions first series under the DFE name was The Super Six and its first series under the Marvel banner was 1981's Spider-man. Other notable series produced by the company included: The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, 1994's Spider Man the Animated Series. It also was the production company behind Jim Henson's Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock. Other shows they helped produce were, Dungeons & Dragons, Defenders of the Earth, Dino Riders, RoboCop, Biker Mice for Mars & Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. However, most of its success came from its partnership with Hasbro in the production of, Inhumanoids, JEM, Robotix, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, & Transformers.

The impact of the shows produced by this company has never been more evident than today. With the likes of Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, G.I. Joe, and Transformers raking in billions of box-office dollars one could say that it was Marvel Productions who laid the groundwork for the success we are seeing today.

Current State:
From 1986 to 1997 ownership of Marvel Productions changed hands on numerous occasions with its library eventually ending up with Saban Entertainment. Saban has since been bought out by the Disney Company who now holds rights to most of these shows with some noteable exceptions being the Hasbro properties who have reverted back to Hasbro. Currently Marvel contracts out most of its projects to third parties.


Origins: First of all, I realize that Nelvana is a Canadian studio but for the geography nuts out there America can be used to refer to all of North America, so don't give us grief here! Nelvana began in 1971 when two York grads, Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, partnered with a British animator-designer Clive A. Smith in Toronto. According to Hirsh, "Clive is an animator, and Patrick and I became interested in animation when we were in university together. At the time, there was no production industry per se in Canada, either in animation or in television production. There were stations making local shows, but you didn’t have people making programs for sale around the world. So, blissfully unaware of all it would involve, we decided to start a company in Toronto."

Series Produced:
Nelvana is responsible for more than 110 television series. Most notable amongst them are: Babar, The Backyardigans, Bakugan, Beetlejuice, Berenstain Bears, Beyblade, Cardcaptor Sakura, Care Bears, Corduroy, Donkey Kong Country, Edison Twins, Eek! The Cat, Elliot Moose, Fievel's American Tails, Franklin, Gargoyles: Goliath Chronicles, George Shrinks, The Get Along Gang, Inspector Gadget, Little Bear, Magic School Bus, Marvin the Tap-Dancing Horse, Max and Ruby, Medabots, My Pet Monster, Redwall, Rescue Heroes, Rolie Polie Olie, Rupert, Sam & Max, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, and both the Star Wars Droids & Ewok cartoons. Its library comprises more than 1,650 cumulative half-hours of original programming.

Over the course of the companies lifetime it has had the pleasure to be involved in some important occurrences. It is responsible for the first appearance ever of Boba Fett from the Star Wars mythology. It also was responsible for creating the first Saturday morning cartoon lineup for PBS. Nelvana was also one of the driving forces behind the QUBO venture. The number of awards that have been won by the company is simply too numerous to list individually.

Current State:
Although the Corus Entertainment group is in charge of operations now for Nelvana for all intents and purposes Nelvana is still in operation. Its last project was 2008's Bakugan Battle Brawlers.


Origins: Nickelodeon, formely known as Pinwheel in 1977 has been around officially since 1979. However, it wasn't until the success of live shows like, You Can't Do That On Television, Mr. Wizard's World, Hey Dude, Double Dare and the programming block known as Nick at Night that Nickelodeon decided to venture into its own animated series. It made the foray into animation in 1991. Nickelodeon has been owned by MTV properties since its inception.

Series Produced:
The first three series Nick produced in 1991 all turned out to be smash hits. They included Doug, Rugrats, and the Ren & Stimpy Show. Future hits show brought to us from Nick have included, but are not limited to, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, CatDog, World of David the Gnome, Bob The Builder, Dora the Explorer, Little Bill, Angry Beavers, Avatar the Last Airbender, Danny Phantom, Fairly Oddparents, Invader Zim, Spongebob Squarepants, and Wolverine & The X-Men.

From 1994 to 2009 Nickelodeon has finished in first place among all basic cable networks in total day among total viewers (ages 2+) and all kid demos, according to Nielsen Media Research. The fourth quarter of 2009 marked Nickelodeon's 59th consecutive quarter at #1, averaging 2.2 million total viewers.

Current State:
As we should all be aware of, Nickelodeon is still going strong today.


Origins: Founded in 1963, Filmation was the brain child of Lou Scheimer, Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott. For the first few years the studio produced commercials and odds and ends projects until in 1966 it began producing a series of DC Comic property shows. The studio took off in the 70s and 80s and were one of the largegst players in American Animation.

Series Produced:
The first major series for Filmation was 1966's, Superman. The library that was built after that has become one of the largest and most impressive in animation history. That library includes: Superman, Aquaman, The Archie Show, Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids, Star Trek The Animated Series, My Favorite Martians, Tarzan and the Super Seven, Space Sentinels, Jason of Star Command, New Adventures of Flash Gordon, The Tom & Jerry Comedy Show, Blackstar, He-Man, She-Ra, and Bravestarr just to name a few.

Filmations biggest impact probably came in the form of He-Man and the Masters of The Universe. besides the simple fact that it was a mega-hit that has continued to produce material for over two decades He-Man revolutionized the American cartoon scene. He-man was the first major show to air in syndication and it was the first show to break the mold and be allowed to be made even though it was based on a toy-line. He-Man and Filmation really set the stage for a flood of boys' action toons in the 80s. Filmation also was impactful with its trademark PSA styled endings to many of its series.

Current State:
Unfortunately, in 1988 the L'Oréal cosmetics company bought the Filmation Studio and immediately closed its doors and fired all of its employees. As far as the Filmation Library, after being bought by Hallmark Cards and later by Entertainment Rights, it is now held, with some exceptions, by Boomerang Media. Most of its DVD's have been distributed by BCI's Ink and Paint.

Warner Brothers

Origins: Under one name or another Warner Brothers Animation can trace back its roots all the way to 1933 when it was primarily focused on theatrical shorts and the like. However, it was not until 1990 that Warner Brothers decided to delve into the world of Television Animation. Warner Animation President Jean MacCurdy was most prominent in the move.

Series Produced:
The first Warner Brothers television animation project was 1990's Tiny Toon Adventures. The smash hit laid the groundwork for over 40 additional cartoon hits. Some of these hits include: Taz-Mania, Batman The Animated Series, The Plucky Duck Show, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, Freakazoid!, Superman the Animated Series, Histeria!, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project, Justice League, Ozzy & Drix, Duck Dodgers, Teen Titans, Xiaolin Showdown, Krypto the Super Dog, Batman the Brave and the Bold, Baby Looney Tunes, and Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc.

Besides bringing us the best DC based animated shows in history, Warner Brothers really helped define cartoons for a generation in the 90s after cartoons had almost been banished from not only Saturday mornings but from TV entirely it seemed like. TIny Toons and Animaniacs reinvented the cartoon industry and laid the ground work for much of what was to come in the next decade.

Current State:
Although it has majorly downsized since its peak in the 90s, Warner Brothers continues to produce new content. It also has acquired a variety of other studios' libraries and moved into the online community to try to maintain its success in the new age.


Origins: Walt Disney Animation Studios has been around since 1934. However, like everyone know at that time and for decades to come their main focus would be on feature length animated films. It wasn't really until 1954 until the series Disneyland became the companies first regular television series. A series that would be one of the longest running prime-time series of all-time by the way. technically the Walt Disney Television Animation Studio was not formed until 1985 though, for the record.

Series Produced:
The studio's first official venture into television series animation came via two series that premiered on the same day in 1985, The Adventures of the Gummi Bears & The Wuzzles. Thankfully, the Gummi Bears was such a hit that Disney has not stopped producing great content since. Some of the other classic Disney toons include: DuckTales, Winnie the Pooh, Chip & Dales Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Raw Toonage, Bonkers, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Gargoyles, Quack Pack, Timon & Pumba, The Mighty Ducks, Jungle Cubs, 101 Dalmations, Recess, Pepper Ann, Hercules, Mickey Mouse Works, The Weekenders, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, House of Mouse, Fillmore, Kim Possible, Lilo & Stich, and Phineas and Ferb just to mention a few of the more than 45 series that Disney has produced.

Like Warner Brothers, Disney really helped keep cartoons afloat in the 90s. It also has done a fantastic job of bringing our favorite feature length characters to life on a weekly or daily basis. Disney at times has also been a model to follow as far as animation quality.

Current State:
Disney Television is still pumping out new shows as this is being posted and shows no signs of slowing down.


Origins: The American arm of DiC Entertainment was founded in 1982 and was called DiC Enterprises. At that time it was headed by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin and Bruno Bianchi. These three had a tumultous relationship to say the least that resulted in them even considering each other enemies at one point.

Series Produced:
The DiC library seems to be second only to one in sheer volume and includes such hits as: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Captain N, Alf, Teddy Ruxpin, Beverly Hills Teens, C.O.P.S., Captain Planet, Care Bears, Dennis the Menace, Dinosaucers, G.I. Joe, Get Along Gang, Heathcliff, Hello Kitty, Inspector Gadget, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, The Littles, Madeline, M.A.S.K., Mysterious Cities of Gold, Pole Position, Popple, ProStars, Rainbow Brite, Ring Raiders, Sailor Moon, Speed Racer, Strawberry Shortcake, Super Mario World, Legend of Zelda, COWboys of Moo Mesa, Wheres Waldo, and Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego. In total the library consists of over 70 animated series!

What Warner Brothers and Disney did for the 90s, one could say DiC did for the 80s. It was without doubt one of the most prominent studios of the decade and that is saying a lot since the 80s if not the most brilliant decade of cartoons is definitely second only to the 60s.

Current State:
After a bit of a rocky road towards the end of the 80s including broken relationships and near almost going bankrupt, DiC's library was sold to Saban Entertainment which would later be bought out by Disney. However, Andy Heyward would later relaunch DiC Entertainment only to be merged into Cookie Jar Entertainment in 2008. Cookie Jar retains the rights to most of the DiC library currently.


Origins:Hanna-Barbera was originally formed in 1957 by former Metro Goldwyn Mayer animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. They were in partnership with Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems television division, and were known as H–B Enterprises. After MGM shut down its animation studio the company would become knows as Hanna-Barbera Productions.

Series Produced:
The first animated show Hanna-Barbera produced was the Ruff & Reddy Show in 1957 but the first big success came in 1958 with the Huckleberry Hound Show. Later shows would include: Quickdraw McGraw, The Flinstones, Yogi Bear Show, Top Cat, The Jetsons, Johnny Quest, Magilla Gorilla, Hong Kong Phooey, Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, Scooby-Doo, Herculoids, Space Ghost, Josie and the Pussycats, Super Friends, Grape Ape, Tom & Jerry, Jabberjaw, The Smurfs, Shirt Tales, Snorks, Challenge of the GoBots, Pound Puppies, Pirates of Dark Water, Swat Kats, Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, and the Powerpuff Girls.

There is not enough room here to detail the impact Hanna-Barbera has had on the cartoon world. Besides having the first animated show ever to be nominated for an Emmy it created the first channel dedicated entirely to cartoons, the Cartoon Network. Not to mention giving more voice actors their start in the business than any company in animation history. Its library cannot be rivaled by anyone and its number of groundbreaking toons is just as enviable. Hanna-Barbera dominated the cartoon business for three decades beginning in the 1950s and not ending until the 80s when most of the rest of our top-ten list came into prominence.

Current State:
Like so many on our list Hanna-Barbera would eventually be swallowed by the big fish out there and this time it would come in the form of Warner Brothers/Time Warner. Most of the H-B library is also now owned by Time Warner.

So, what do you all think? Where did I get it right and where did I go so awfully wrong? Did I forget a major Animation Studio, or at least your favorite? Can you truly change the self proclaimed, Expert's mind?

This was The, er, I mean My Top Ten...What's yours?

Latest Comments

Add a Comment

Mayl Sakurai
said at 8:37 PM on Mon Jan 7 2013
Where's Ocean Productions in Canada?! They recorded MLP:FiM!
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 8:10 PM on Thu Jan 17 2013
@Mayl Sakurai Sorry not even close to making this list...
said at 7:47 PM on Sun Feb 5 2012
I wanted Fleischer for the win!
Dic? Nevelana? srsly?
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 12:09 PM on Fri Feb 10 2012

Flesicher's library really can't compare in volume to DiC and Nelvana. Seriously!
said at 10:58 PM on Sat Feb 18 2012
@OptimusSolo O.K. lets take this outside!!! (jk, just my opinion. im a big Fleischer fan!)
said at 12:57 PM on Thu Oct 6 2011
 1 Shout Out! [?]
I don't want to imagine life without DiC, Disney, or Warner Bros (My top three) as I grew up watching their cartoons. The other choices made have all been part of my childhood as well.
ite (Guest)
said at 2:56 PM on Sun Feb 6 2011
Great list! Theirs some shows i miss from some categories.
james (Guest)
said at 3:02 PM on Wed Dec 8 2010
I thought Filmation was easily in the top 3.
OptimusSolo (Admin)
said at 2:33 PM on Wed Jul 21 2010
Too bad whoever voted for 'other' didnt leave a comment as to which one they preferred :(
said at 12:07 PM on Tue Jun 1 2010
Yeah. I agree with number 1. I love Hanna Barbara and I always will!
Foxwolf (Admin)
said at 1:06 AM on Tue Jun 1 2010
 1 Shout Out! [?]
what a cool and unique top 10. Nelvana and DIC were the ones I remember most as a kid. Always remembered the polar bear looking up
Which do you think should be in the #1 spot?
Warner Brothers
Marvel Productions
Film Roman
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