CEO Larry Kasanoff created the Mortal Kombat franchise and produced True Lies. He's also behind many of the world's 3-D theme-park attractions, TV commercials, and special effects produced for studio pictures.
Coming Up: Foodfight!, with the voices of Eva Longoria, Charlie Sheen, and Hilary and Haylie Duff (fall 2006), features an animated grocery-store riot with more than 15,000 characters. Also, the third installment of Mortal Kombat (no release date set) and a new animated television series for MTV Networks/Logo.
$$$$: Kasanoff has never produced an unprofitable film.
Tech: Uses an IBM-powered, Linux-based virtual "e-studio" to network a shifting global animation crew.
"Animation is the only part of film production where quality is going up while costs are going down." —Larry Kasanoff
Founder John Williams produced Shrek and Shrek 2 for DreamWorks.
Coming up: Happily N'Ever After (fall 2006), voiced by Sigourney Weaver, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Freddie Prinze Jr. Also in development: Space Chimps (2007) and Ribbit (2008).
$$$$: Created animated feature Valiant (in theaters now) for less than $35 million.
Tech: By using a crew of 200 from 17 countries, Vanguard cut the typical production schedule for an animated feature in half.
"Animation's intellectual-property rights are the treasure trove." —John Williams
President Janet Healy oversees 600 employees and production facilities on two continents.
Coming up: Yankee Irving (August 2006) was originally directed by Christopher Reeve; Whoopi Goldberg and Rob Reiner provide voice-overs. IDT's first network special, "The Happy Elf" (NBC, December 2), was produced with Harry Connick Jr., and features his music and narration. IDT has also acquired the animation rights for Hellboy (fall 2006).
$$$$: Annual production, development budget close to $100 million
Tech: Just hired Nick Foster, an Academy Award winner who worked on Finding Nemo, as chief technology officer.
"The risk [in animation] is low and the upside is amazing." -Janet Healy
This 30-year-old Portland, Oregon, company created Claymation; recently bought by Nike cofounder Phil Knight.
Coming up: Coraline (2007), based on the award-winning book by Neil Gaiman, features the voice of Dakota Fanning and was directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach), Laika's supervising director.
$$$$: Knight has personally bankrolled two $50 million to $70 million animated features.
Tech: Knight spent millions so Selick, a stop-motion animator, could learn computer-graphic technology.
"They shouldn't call it show business—they should call it 'show gambling.' " —Phil Knight
A version of this article appeared in the December 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.