Over the years a handful of animation studios have come to dominate the cinematic scene, but as animated films have become more and more common popular studios made a habit of including some of their most iconic characters in their own logos. Others have taken a more unique approach with equally iconic figures that have never been seen in a big screen film before. Regardless, many of these mascots have become iconic representations of some of the top names in animation and today I’m counting down ten of the best.
For this list I looked at animated studios that have released theatrical animated films, either in the Untied States or abroad, and have a mascot incorporated into their logo. This mascot can be part of the larger company brand, but as long as it was included in the logo for the animation studio it was fair game for this list. I ranked these mascots based on their iconic status, memorability, and cultural relevance among other factors. The studio’s do NOT have to still be in existence so any defunct studio was also fair game as were studios owned by other companies or studios that qualified for this list.
If you didn’t see an animated studio mascot on this list that you thought deserved recognition let me know in the comments below. If you’re looking for a taste of animated fun for this weekend you can check out Illumination’s “Despicable Me 3” in theaters now.
Let’s get to it!
10. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, Big Idea Entertainment
Formerly known as GRAFx studio, Big Idea Entertainment is an American Christian-themed animation studio whose primary property is the “Veggie Tales” franchise, a young children’s show that teaches the morals and life lessons of the Christian faith. So far the studio has helped bring about two theatrical films, both based on the “Veggie Tales” show, and, appropriately enough, have become a recognized brand by incorporating two of the show’s stars into their logo. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber are the best known characters from the franchise and while this studio may be rather one dimensional, its single popular property has made it a powerhouse in its own right. A subsidiary of DreamWorks, Big Idea Entertainment has shown signs of wanting to branch out from their most popular property and if they choose to pursue new ideas parents and children alike will know that the studio behind one of the most popular children’s education programs of the time had a part in what they are about to view.
9. Pero, Toei Animation
The Japanese animation studio Toei may not be a household name in America, but it has been releasing theatrical films across the ocean since the 1950s with a focus on the unknown and the mystical in many of their projects. The franchise many know this studio for is the massively popular “Dragon Ball” property which has spawned many theatrical films in Japan, which in the U.S. usually become television films although several have made it to the big screen in more recent years. The studio’s mascot is Pero, their version of Puss in Boots, which made its debut in 1969 in a franchise-launching movie and has sense become an iconic Japanese figurehead. What makes Pero such a proper mascot is that he is a cross-culture figure, one that those of almost any decent can understand and appreciate, which makes him memorable beyond the studio’s core Japanese audience. From a marketing standpoint, this allowed alternate viewers to better connect with what they were viewing on screen and while Toei may not be the most well known for casual film or television viewers, when fans of animé or Japanese animation see this logo they know what they’re in for and those who may not even realize that they are watching a Japanese property are more likely to be open to what they are about to view as Pero makes the company’s logo more ambiguous and multi-market friendly.
8. Fievel Mousekewitz, Amblimation
You may not remember Amblimation, but if you grew up in the 90s the original animation studio of Steven Spielberg provided a trio of films that defined your childhood. Amblimation produced exactly three movies, all significant theatrical or cult classic hits including “We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story” and “Balto”. But its first film was “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West”, the sequel to the massively popular “An American Tail” which starred the young titular mouse as his family moved to America from Russia. “An American Tail” was produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and it wasn’t long before the success of non-Disney animated films in the 80s inspired the famed director to form his own animation studio, Amblimation. What better mascot for the studio than the one who helped kickstart the idea? While Amblimation didn’t last long, the inclusion of Fievel in the logo was a clear sign to viewers that the adventure they were about to see was in some way creatively connected to the highest grossing non-Disney animated film of the time. Who wouldn’t want to see a movie as good or as memorable and charming as “An American Tail”? The studio closed its doors in 1997, but created the baseline for what would become DreamWorks Animation and to this day projects like “Balto” and “We’re Back!” are still connected by this familiar adorable mouse who was among the most beloved of children in the 80s and 90s and beyond.
7. Scrat, Blue Sky Studios
In 2002 a little film called “Ice Age” stormed onto the scene, introducing the world to a ragtag cast of prehistoric characters that included the rodent Scrat. This was the dawn of Blue Sky Studios and the start of a massive franchise of films in the “Ice Age” series. When the film came out many actually weren’t sure what to make of this new studio. Those who ignored the credits and understood its unique style compared to Disney films believed it might have even been a DreamWorks movie. Since 2002 five “Ice Age” films have been tallied and the studio has spawned numerous other hits like “Robots”, “Epic” and the “Rio” films. They have also utilized popular properties like Dr. Suess stories and The Peanuts to success. One things has tied them all together though and that is Scrat who has even been featured in shorts before many of the non-“Ice Age” films. As the studio has grown Scrat has become a more prominent figure, officially becoming the mascot in 2013 representing Blue Sky Studios by reminding everyone it was this studio that brought the popular franchise to life. In its quest to find its own identity, Blue Sky hit the nail on the head by taking their most well known character and putting him right up front and as their film count rises the studio continues to draw new eyes and fans as a generation of moviegoers have grown up appreciating the original film that made Blue Sky a success in the first place.
6. The Minions, Illumination Entertainment
A subsidiary of Universal Studios, Illumination has become a powerhouse in its short life with hit after hit since 2010. It was in that first year that the studio released its most beloved franchise film, “Despicable Me”, which spawned the love-them-or-hate-them phenomenon, the minions. The show-stealing yellow goofballs became the face of Illumination, leading to two sequels for the franchise and countless merchandise and spin-off properties, not to mention memes, which keep the characters well in the spotlight. The minions even got their own movie, a billion dollar grossing film in fact. Does it shock anyone that they are the studio’s mascot? It’s a trend for any studio to use one of their familiar characters, but seldom is it as truly effective as this choice as Illumination has found gold with their annoying little critters. No matter who you are, young or old, when you see Illumination is involved and see that minion in their logo you don’t even need to see the trailer, you’re already convinced! The studio that brought the minions HAS to be dishing out quality right? At least that’s what you hope. Like any good studio, Illumination understood what it had with the minions and now they are taking full advantage of their likeness to draw audiences in one film at a time.
5. Bugs Bunny, Warner Brothers Animation
Few characters are as iconic as Bugs Bunny and Warner Brothers knows it. No shock at all they decided to use the long-eared carrot chewing troublemaker as their mascot in the 80s and 90s, especially when it came to their animated films. While today the studio has taken a different direction, with numerous other modern properties at hand, Bugs’ popularity was still at a massive high even into the 2000s as the main competitor to Disney’s Mickey Mouse. Why not put Bugs on the logo as well to remind everyone that the studio bringing you this animated feature film is the same studio behind the popular rascally rabbit? Bugs Bunny is not just a symbol for iconic animated joy however. The retro feel of Bugs was enough to charm both adults and children into seeing Warner Brothers animated features and was even used for some animated films targeting an older demographic to success. It’s too bad the studio decided to go with a more modern look some time ago. Many miss seeing Bugs leaning against the logo as a reminder of the good old days of simple animated fun.
4. Luxo, Jr., Pixar
If this list was a list of the best animated studios of all time, Pixar may be higher than this even as its mascot sits at number four. However Luxo, Jr. is iconic in his own right as he was the first character Pixar presented to the world, a young lamp bouncing around a ball that he eventually squishes in the same way that he squishes the “I” in the company logo before every soon-to-be classic Pixar rolls out. One of the few characters to be inducted into the Library of Congress for its cultural relevance and iconic nature, Luxo, Jr. is the face of Pixar harkening back to the studio’s origins. Simple, funny, and adorable, Luxo, Jr.’s name may not be known worldwide, but any animated movie fan knows the bouncing lamp even if not by a label. You know when you see that lamp hop onto the screen magic is going to happen and while Pixar has settled into its place in Hollywood over the past few years, you still can’t help but smile and know there’s promise in what’s about to play on the big screen when the mascot makes his grand entrance. What makes Luxo, Jr. so special is he’s just charming. Few fans really knew about Luxo, Jr. before “Toy Story” became a sensation and still the magic and charm of the lamp had a profound effect on viewers, leaving an impression that to this day is partially responsible for Pixar being THE name many go to in animation outside of Disney’s own animated studio. Oh yeah, by the way, Disney owns Pixar so there’s that.
3. Tortoro, Studio Ghibli
For all the famed mascots in America, one foreign animation studio mascot stand out among many and that is Tortoro. Celebrated by countless fans as one of the top-notch animation studios across the world, Studio Ghibli as been cranking out sleeper hit after sleeper hit, winning Oscars and the hearts of countless fans since the 1980s. At the heart of it all is the studio’s iconic fluffy friend Tortoro from “My Neighbor Tortoro”. Even if you haven’t seen the film you know Tortoro. You’ve see the plushies, the hoodies, the hats, the t-shirts, and other forms of merchandise that have made him a virtual household name and, for many, a symbol of a counterculture of fans who prefer the more artistic style of Japanese animation. To that end Tortoro is more than just a mascot, he is an icon and one that ties almost everyone who enjoys Japanese animation to Studio Ghibli and their growing library of cross-culture classics. As memorable as he is unique, Tortoro earned his place the same way many characters on this list have, through exposure and popularity, but the character has a strange cross-culture charm that has helped make Studio Ghibli an nearly unstoppable force in Japanese animation AND animation in the United States. The allure of this character’s popularity alone makes any Studio Ghibli film a must see as Tortoro speaks to the color, magic, and uniqueness you are sure to find in any of the studio’s upcoming or past classics.
2. Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Possibly the most iconic on this list for sheer popularity, Mickey Mouse is an easy pick for this top ten as the mascot for Disney’s own animated studio. The studio was renamed in 2006 and began incorporating Mickey’s classic look into the presentation reminding everyone of the good old days of the biggest animation studio’s popularity. This character speaks for itself. He is one that defines nostalgia and for many is considered the most iconic animated character ever put to paper. When you see Mickey show up before a film you know you’re watching a project penned and animated by a team with a legacy, a crew of workers who strive for greatness, magic, and fun no matter what the source material or subject matter happens to be. Walt Disney’s famed mouse has earned his place among the greats in any medium and with the storied library of Disney animated features among some of the greatest films ever brought to life it’s only proper that the one who started it all is front-end-center leading the charge in the next addition to the collection. So who could top Mickey you might ask…well for everything Mickey is as an iconic character one mascot shines above every mascot here, combining creativity, symbolism, and memorability to create the perfect mix needed to make a truly iconic character…even without its own film…
1. The Fisherman on the Moon, DreamWorks Animation
Before Amblimation shut down Steven Spielberg became part of the team that would put together one of today’s most powerful animation studios, DreamWorks Animation. Over the years the logo has evolved but one thing remains the same, the Fisherman on the Moon, otherwise called the Boy on the Moon. This logo and mascot combo probably has one of the most amazing back stories of any on this list. The logo was put together after Spielberg said he wanted something that called back to the golden age of Hollywood. He suggested using a man fishing on the moon, incorporating numerous different tropes and styles of classic cinema. Artist Robert Hunt made the call to change it to a boy instead of a man, modeling it after his own son, thus the Fisherman on the Moon was born. One of the few mascots without an actual name, the fisherman boy speaks to the child in us all and over the years clouds and color have come to include more childhood wonder into the logos presentation, shining more light on the boy who is actually occasionally replaced by characters from the film being played, usually if it’s a sequel. Iconic, memorable, and meaningful, this logo grabs the top spot on this list simply because its an expert example of fantastic marketing. DreamWorks didn’t depend on an established character or a figure from a popular film they previously released, they created something new and for all the mascots on this list have to offer this is the only one whose origins are not rooted in a feature film made by the studio in question and yet has found a way to become one of the most celebrated mascots in not just animated film, but all of modern cinema in general.