Disney is closing Blue Sky Studios, the Greenwich, Conn.-based animation house that most famously produced Fox’s five Ice Age movies.
Disney acquired Blue Sky in 2018 as part of its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. There had been uncertainty about Blue Sky’s longterm fate since the deal, given that Disney already owns Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, two of the biggest brands in the feature animation business.
But Disney’s aggressive pandemic-era cost-cutting seems to have sealed the outcome for Blue Sky.
“Given the current economic realities, after much consideration and evaluation, we have made the difficult decision to close filmmaking operations at Blue Sky Studios," Disney said in a statement.
When Disney purchased Fox, Walt Disney Animation Studio president Andrew Millstein joined Blue Sky as co-president, alongside co-president Robert Baird. Both executives will be leaving the company amid cuts that total 450 employees.
Blue Sky Studios was best known for producing the five-film “Ice Age” feature animation franchise, which grossed more than $3.22 billion in global box office revenue alone from 2002 - 2016.
“Ice Age” was a pivotal asset in what was historically one of the motion picture business’ more profitable paradigms—the CGI boom of the aughts, where computer-animated family films with star-studded voice casts earned billions of dollars in a global box office for which their formats traveled particularly well. Revenue was then further accentuated by the DVD boom.
CGI animated family content certainly isn’t going away amid changing viewer consumption habits—the streaming performance of Pixar’s Soul on Disney Plus is testament to that fact. But it seems doubtful, at least through the current lens of this protracted pandemic, that theatrical exhibition will ever again be its nexus.
Blue Sky’s current project, adaptation of the graphic novel Nimona, will cease production. It had been intended for 2022 release. The studio’s most recent release was 2019’s Spies in Disguise, which quietly grossed just over $171.6 million at the global box office.
Blue Sky was founded in 1987 by a group of animators that included Chris Wedge, who won an Oscar for the 1998 animated short Bunny.
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