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Disney Shutting Blue Sky Studios

Doors will close sometime in April; 450 employees will lose their jobs as the studio behind the hugely successful ‘Ice Age’ franchise falls victim to the pandemic’s continuing economic impact.    

According to Deadline, and confirmed by a Disney spokesperson, Blue Sky Studios, the Connecticut animation house behind the hugely successful Ice Age franchise, acquired by The Walt Disney Company as part of their 2019 deal for 20th Century Studios, has been shut down. 450 studio employees are losing their jobs, though some may find open positions at other Disney studios. The last day of studio operations will be sometime in April. Blue Sky Studios co-presidents Andrew Millstein and Rob Baird, named to the posts in August 2019, are expected to exit with the studio’s closure. 

A Disney spokesperson shared with AWN, “Given the current economic realities, after much consideration and evaluation, we have made the difficult decision to close filmmaking operations at Blue Sky Studios.”

There is no word on whether any other major animation studio will move to acquire or otherwise take on any Blue Sky personnel or productions. Oscar-winning Feast director Patrick Osborne’s feature, Nimona, slated for a January 14, 2022 release, has been shut down with 10 months to go in the production; the film will no longer be released. An adaptation of the Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, creator and showrunner on the just concluded hit Netflix animated series, She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, Nimona follows a young shape-shifter who teams up with a mad scientist in order to reclaim his honor and overthrow a corrupt regime.

The Walt Disney Company has been hit especially hard during the pandemic, from their resorts and cruise businesses, to theatrical release plans across their iconic Star Wars, Marvel and feature animation businesses, to sustaining live-action productions across their film, TV and streaming businesses. Maintaining the ongoing viability of a third animation studio was problematic even before the pandemic; the last Blue Sky animated feature, Spies in Disguise, released in 2019 and starring the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland, fared poorly at the box office, grossing $171 million worldwide on a reported $100 million budget.

Blue Sky’s IP library will remain part of the Disney company; a Disney+ series based on Ice Age characters is already in development.

Blue Sky Studios was founded in February 1987 by Chris Wedge, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Alison Brown, David Brown, and Eugene Troubetzkoy, all employees of the tech company MAGI that went out of business. Wedge won an Oscar for his 1988 animated short, Bunny; the studio went on to produce 13 animated features, including five Ice Age movies, which grossed over $3.2 billion globally, two Rio pics, Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! (2008) as well as The Peanuts Movie (2015).

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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