Disney to cease Blue Sky Studios’ operation

Disney has announced that it will be closing Blue Sky Studios, former 20th Century Fox’s $5.9 billion global-grossing animation division that churned out 13 feature films including the Ice Age franchise.

Reports suggest that the word has been doing the rounds for Blue Sky, especially after Disney took over 20th Century Studios and its assets in March 2019. However, owing to the pandemic, the past year has been challenging for Disney on many fronts, so sustaining a third feature animation studio was naturally no longer viable for Disney given its current economic constraints.

Blue Sky Studios will discontinue after April and 450 employees are being impacted. Disney will be working with the employees at the Greenwich, CT-based studio to explore open positions at the other internal studios. As a studio spokesperson told Deadline, “Given the current economic realities, after much consideration and evaluation, we have made the difficult decision to close filmmaking operations at Blue Sky Studios.”

The Blue Sky’s library and IP will remain part of Disney, and industry sources say that there are no plans for another major studio to absorb Blue Sky’s employees and operations. A series based on Blue Sky’s Ice Age characters is already in the works for Disney+; through five movies, the Ice Age series grossed $3.2 billion at the global box office.

In Production Patrick Osborne-directed Nimona, which was slated for January 2022 release, has now been shelved. Nimona, which still had 10 months of production left, followed a young shape-shifter who teams with a mad scientist named Lord Ballister Blackheart to expose the ruler of the kingdom.

Following Disney’s acquisition of Fox, Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein was named co-president of Blue Sky Studios in August 2019, serving alongside co-president Rob Baird. Both Millstein and Baird are expected to step down with Blue Sky closing its doors.

The last Blue Sky release, Spies in Disguise, was distributed by Disney in December 2019 and wasn’t successful as expected (starring Will Smith and Tom Holland), grossing $66M at the domestic box office and $171M worldwide.

Blue Sky’s top-grossing animation features at the worldwide box office were Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (’09, $886M), Ice Age: Continental Drift (’12, $877M), Ice Age: Meltdown (’06, $660M), Rio 2 (’14, $500M), Rio (’11, $484M), Ice Age: Collision Course (’16, $408M),  Ice Age (’02, $383M), Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (’08, $297M), Ferdinand (’17, $296M), Epic (’13, $268M), Robots (’05, $260M), The Peanuts Movie (’15, $246M) and Spies in Disguise (’19, $171M).

PIXOMONDO Studio head Bryan Godwin took to LinkedIn to mourn the closing. He wrote: “Very sad to hear of the closing of Blue Sky Studios today. My time at Blue Sky was pivotal in my career and a real foundation of my success in this industry. My heart goes out to all of the amazing artists, technicians, producers, writers and trailblazers that made BSS what it was. So many amazing advancements in our technology were born there. Best of luck to all of you on your next venture.”