Animation company makes its way in the universe

Rebel One Studios brings animation to Buffalo


Animation is typically associated with big Hollywood studios, but the art form has grown far beyond film and television. 

Rebel One Studios is reclaiming animation and breaking traditional stereotypes from healthcare to architecture and advertising. 

The five-person animation team is based out of downtown Buffalo and has worked on everything from big-budget commercials to visualizing government projects. Rebel One Studios has produced the marketing animation for StarKist Tuna, Tops Friendly Markets Monopoly, Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards, The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and more. 

Samantha Haney, the owner and creative director, said she never imagined herself as a business owner. 

“It’s really daunting when you’re in college and you’re like ‘All I do is draw. I don’t know anything,’” Haney said. “It’s surprising how much you are capable of when you’re put in the position.”

Haney graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a degree in time-based media. She established a career with various animation companies after interning at UB’s computational research facility. 

She decided to lead her own studio shortly after. 

The company opened its doors in 2015 in Williamsville. The studio relocated to Allentown as business picked up to accommodate the expanding team. The Williamsville native chose to establish a team of handpicked, local animators for her company.

“Everybody that works with me right now lives in Buffalo,” Haney said. “I really like keeping that close-knit group. Moreso for the flow of the team. If you bring in somebody who is working on different hours, say from the west coast, it just doesn’t work well.”

But the company’s Buffalo loyalty doesn’t stop at its staff.

Rebel One Studios has partnered with UB under the Start-Up NY Program. The program provides companies with access to experts and research facilities, while students and faculty have access to direct job opportunities. 

Adrian Levesque, UB’s urban visualization and multimedia specialist, said he appreciates the economic contributions Rebel One provides.

“Buffalo isn’t a hotbed for animation, but there are a lot of talented individuals working here. The Start-Up NY Program helps these small businesses avoid unnecessary costs, and then they contribute to our economy,” Levesque said. “It’s much easier for businesses to grow when they’re able to leverage, say [UB’s] super-computer, compared to paying to facilitate somewhere like Amazon.” 

The studio’s partnership with UB prioritizes community members for employment and internship opportunities.

“[UB] is the first place we’re reaching out to when looking for interns. There’s a lot of promise in our local schools,” Haney said. “I know there’s been an interest in animation and visual effects locally, so we’re definitely trying to bring people in and get them that real-world experience.”

Western New York provides exceptional resources for an up-and-coming animation studio, Haney said. 

“The technology really lends itself to our company. I can point to [UB] especially since I know the guys over at the center for computational research and the super-computing power over there is just amazing,” Haney said. “I’m surprised more people aren’t taking advantage of all the things that we have here.”

The team also contributes to the city’s infrastructure, providing local developers and architects with 3D models. 

“When there are buildings in development downtown, like the Women and Children’s Hospital redevelopment project, we got to be involved with visualizing what that space could look like before it was built,” Haney said. “It’s really cool to be able to see how Buffalo will be changing before it does.”

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at and on Twitter @SamVargasArts.


 Samantha Vargas is an English/ film studies double major with a minor in media study. She spends her free time finding shows around buffalo and hanging out with her cat.