When I first started exploring desktop 3-D animation over 10 years ago, there were few solutions that could handle character animation and all of them were ridiculously expensive except for one, called 'Martin Hash's 3-D Animation' at the time. It was almost unbelievably inexpensive, full-featured, and specifically catered to character animation. Over the years, it has changed its name to 'Animation Master' and has added exciting new features and become even more user-friendly but is still the absolute best bang-for-your-buck a character animator could ask for. Animation:Master has been instrumental in taking me from absolute novice to professional, working animator. It is one of the few applications that I can honestly say changed my life.
Firaxis Games, Inc.
(Ed's credits include Sid Meier's Pirates!, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, and BioShock.)