Blue Sky Studios, the former Fox animation division that created the Ice Age franchise as well as Robots, The Peanuts Movie, and the recent Spies in Disguise, is no more. Now that Disney owns Fox, and by extension Blue Sky, the House of Mouse has decided to shutter the animation studio this April. Disney cites “current economic realities” behind the decision. As a result, the upcoming Blue Sky animated film Nimona has been canceled.
Deadline has the scoop on Blue Sky Studios shutting down. They report that due to COVID-19, the “past year has been challenging for Disney on many fronts, of course due to the pandemic, not just on the studio side but with theme park closures and cruise line dockings as well,” and that operating a “third feature animation studio was no longer viable for Disney given the current economic realities caused by COVID.” Disney currently operates both Disney Animation Studios and Pixar. They also own Lucasfilm Animation, but that studio hasn’t produced any feature films since 2015.
A Disney spokesperson adds: “Given the current economic realities, after much consideration and evaluation, we have made the difficult decision to close filmmaking operations at Blue Sky Studios.” Blue Sky was currently in production on the animated feature Nimona, which told the story of a “young shape-shifter who teams up with a mad scientist named Lord Ballister Blackheart to expose the ruler of the kingdom.” Nimona, which was being directed by Patrick Osborne, was slated to open on January 14, 2022, but the film is now dead and won’t be released. There were about 10 months of production left on the film. This decision makes 2019’s Spies in Disguise the final Blue Sky film.
Blue Sky Studios was founded in 1987 by Chris Wedge, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Alison Brown, David Brown, and Eugene Troubetzkoy after their employer MAGI, one of the visual effects studios behind Disney’s Tron, shut down. When they struck out on their own, Blue Sky initially worked on visual effects for commercials and film before deciding to devote themselves to animated features. Their first feature was 2002’s Ice Age, distributed by Fox.
Ice Age spawned an entire franchise for Blue Sky and Fox, and the studio also produced animated titles like Robots, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, Rio and Rio 2, Epic, The Peanuts Movie, and Ferdinand.
The shutdown will affect 450 employees, and Disney is reportedly “working with the employees at the Greenwich, CT based animation house to explore open positions at the other internal studios.”
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