CBA is one of the few Black-founded animation studios in Hollywood
Cleveland-born animator Chaz Bottoms didn’t think he was going to make the cut for Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2023.
“I nominated myself in the summer and then I didn’t hear anything. I remember the day before the full list came out, I was thinking, ‘I must not have gotten in,’ because they would have contacted me beforehand.
“But the next morning I woke up to so many congrats messages. It was a cool way to find out. It felt surreal.”
Bottoms, 27, was honored for founding L.A.-based boutique animation company CBA Studios.
”As one of the few Black-founded animation studios in the world, CBA works with diverse artists connected by the love of Black culture. Built as a completely virtual studio, he’s directed and produced projects for Disney, John Legend, Steve Harvey, Lil Nas X, Lebron James, Hulu, Adult Swim and Sesame Street,” states the Forbes website in the “Hollywood & Entertainment” category.
Bottoms will be in Cleveland for the Forbes Under 30 Summit in October. But he’s certain to visit The Land before that. His hometown has played an important role in his creative development. And, he’s got a lot of family here, including his father, Chris Howse, President and CEO of Howse Solutions and member of GCP’s Board of Directors, who was an inspiration and tireless supporter.
Growing up in Cleveland Heights, Bottoms began drawing at 18 months.
“I knew I wanted to work in animation from the moment I found out that it was a career,” he says from his home in Glendale, California. “I wanted to make cartoons for a living. I grew up watching a ton of cartoons, TV, movies … I just have a love of stories in general.”
While a student at Benedictine High School — where he was deemed “Mr. Benedictine” in 2013 — Bottoms took the next steps in his dream career.
“They had a really great art program, they even had an animation class.
“In the summers, I participated in Art Works and did theater. That really helped get me out of my shell and into learning other creative disciplines. Acting helped inform my animation process because animation is a combination of different disciplines: acting and drawing and storytelling.”
Bottoms attend DePaul University in Chicago, where he majored in animation and minored in film. Not one to sit still, he began attending as many film festivals as he could, networking and finding inspiration.
Connections made at DePaul led him to Hollywood after graduation.
“It was a bit scary at first,” he admits. “You see hundreds of people who do what you do, it was eye opening. But then it was more like, all right, you know, if you want to move here and you want to work in this industry, you have to be able to hang with the people who you like as artists, you have to look at them as your peers. I was able to turn that into motivation.”
He began making a name for himself, working for studios including Netflix and Hulu. But his vision was bigger. He wanted to start his own company.
“Growing up with my father, as long as I can remember, he’s had his own business. I picked up on that as something that is feasible. You can have your own animation studio and make it work.”
In 2019, Bottoms founded Chaz Bottoms Animation — CBA. His decision was driven by the realization that Black animators were underrepresented in Hollywood.
“I wasn’t getting equal job offers to work at the big studios, and neither were a lot of my Black friends. It started as a way for all of us to work on projects together. And then it evolved from there.”
Today, Bottoms is doing his part to encourage representation behind and on the screen. And, he’s part of a growing movement.
“The entertainment industry is changing. I think that there’s more out there, more Black representation. Definitely on screen. And behind as well … there has been a greater push for authenticity, genuine perspective and feedback. … You also have these newer industries and content creation such as Tik Tok that are opening doors.”
Bottoms is not only the creative mind behind CBA, which he staffs with a roster of freelance artists. He’s also the business leader.
“Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of great mentors to help with that,” he says.
Business was booming, almost from the start. CBA has filled an industry void.
“I think people who grow up like myself, they see Disney, Nickelodeon, maybe three, four or five major studios. But when you start digging in, you see all these independent studios that actually work with big studios on their projects.”
One of those upcoming projects is animation for a Disney Channel show called “Saturday,” about a group of young girls who love to roller skate. CBA is also working on a hip-hop musical set in Chicago, called “Battu.”
Bottoms calls it “a love letter to the city and to creative kids in general.” It should be complete later in 2023, and CBA is looking for distribution.
He hasn’t forgotten about his hometown, however.
“That’s the next project after, after that. My love letter to Cleveland.”
Greater Cleveland Partnership’s All In vision for a Great Region on a Great Lake has five key priorities: Dynamic Business, Abundant Talent, Inclusive Opportunity, Appealing Community and Business Confidence. All of our work ties back to these values. This story relates to Inclusive Opportunity.Facebook