The Top 10 Most Influential Living People in Animation

From time to time, you see lists for the most influential people in animation. However, a lot if not all of them include those of us that have departed this world for the next and in any case, Walt Disney is always on top. So today, I present to you the top 10 most influential living people in animation (in not particular order).

Bill Plympton

Being hip before it was cool, Bill has been an independent since before I was born! To be an independent animator is to be one hard working fellow. Continuously putting out witty and serious works, Bill is an inspiration not only for his films, but also for his master classes, festival and society appearances and the blog he co-writes with Pat Smith. All in all, Bill shall continue to be an influence on animators for a long time to come.

Ed Catmull

Let’s cut to the chase; CGI animation likely wouldn’t be around in the form it is today if it weren’t for Ed Catmull. A lot of people will give John Lasseter the credit, but it was Ed who saw the potential for computer animation long before anyone else. Today, Pixar sets the bar in terms of animation quality against which all others are measured. If that isn’t influence, I don’t know what is.

Matt Groening

Do you like primetime animation? Good, because while Groening might not be entirely responsible for the idea, he is certainly a large part of the execution. His success with The Simpsons has spawned King of the Hill, Futurama, Family Guy and just about every other attempt at televised mainstream animation that you can think of.That’s not small feat.

Gene Deitch

Just celebrating a birthday last week (as I write this), Deitch has worked on Tom & Jerry as well as Terrytoons although perhaps most notable (and the reason he’s here) is his work for UPA which continues to influence animation to this very day.

Glen Keane

After the 9 Old Men came Glen Keane, who is very much integral to the Disney look over the last 20 years or so. His art has helped shape many a young animator’s portfolios and he has been an essential link between the old Disney and the new. Although he has departed the Mouse House, it’s safe to say that Keane’s influence will continue to be felt around Burbank for decades to come.

Fred Seibert

Although Nicktoons kicked it all off, creator-driven TV shows didn’t get into full swing until Fred helped launch the Cartoon Cartoon series on Cartoon Network while head of Hanna-Barbera. Smash hits like Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and the Powerpuff Girls are still viewed with awe. After those hits, Fred has continued to crank them out through the What A Cartoon and Random! Cartoons which launched even more hits for Nickelodeon (including my personal favourite). Moreso than that, Fred has been an innovator, moving into the online world with the prototypical series The Meth Minute 39.

Hayao Miyazaki

This one kinda goes without saying doesn’t it.

Bruce Timm

Think of a modern superhero cartoon. I bet you thought of one that Bruce Timm has his hand in didn’t you? If not, you can be sure that his influence exists somewhere down the line. Ever since Batman: The Animated Series hit the TV screens, it has been night on impossible to escape the look of Timm’s DC animated universe (DCAU). He’s still going strong so anticipate his influence to continue.

Tomm Moore

A young man in relative terms but The Secret of Kells went above and beyond what everyone expected and introduced a whole generation of people to Moore’s lush visual 2-D style. Although it isn’t seen very much yet, expect to see a lot of Moore’s influence in the years to come.

Ray Harryhausen

Still kicking around and remaining a considerable influence on special FX and stop-motion animation even in the face of blue-screens and CGI. Ray Harryhausen’s long career establishes his place on the list simply by being so long! In addition he worked on pioneering films such as Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad; films that continue to be studied today.

5 thoughts on “The Top 10 Most Influential Living People in Animation”

  1. I would have to put John Kricfalusi on the list, and possibly loose Tom Moore, I might swap Ralph Bakshi for Bill Plympton. Thanks for including Harryhausen.

    1. Your welcome Jonathon, but c’mon, how could I not include him? 🙂

      I did consider including Bakshi but although his works are seminal, Bill Plympton is THE model for an independent animator. My gut was to go with the guy with the more general influence and Bill certainly fills that role with his consistent output and master classes.

      I see where you’re coming from with Tomm, yeah John K. is absolutely unique and his influence is everywhere, but again, I just couldn’t justify him as worthy of inclusion. I mean, I also thought about Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with Seth McFarlane, but in the grand scheme of things, what they’ve done is pretty unique and thus far imitated but rarely used as influence. As far as John K. is concerned, as great as he is and as much influence as he’s had over the years, he remains a bit of divisive figure in animation so he got bumped.

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