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Disney Closing Blue Sky Studios, Nixing Nimona

 


Bad news folks. Disney has announced that it will be shutting the Connecticut-based Blue Sky Studios this April. The corporation has blamed the current economic situation caused by the ongoing pandemic, but it could be suggested that this was likely inevitable anyway. They inherited the studio when they acquired 20th Century Fox, and considering that they already have two studios producing animated features, Blue Sky sadly might begin to look surplus to requirements. The closure will result in 450 employees losing their jobs. They are apparently not being absorbed elsewhere in the company.

Blue Sky was founded back in 1987 by former employees of MAGI, the company responsible for the effects in the original Tron. Originally specialising in VFX, they were acquired by Fox in 1997 and produced effects for movies including Alien Resurrection, Fight Club and Mouse Hunt. After bagging an Oscar for Best Animated Short for co-founder Chris Wedge's 1998 Bunny, the studio moved into producing animated features.

Starting with 2002's original Ice Age, the studio produced 13 feature films. The Ice Age series alone went on to span five features (plus several shorts and specials) and grossed $3.2 billion at the box office internationally. Outside that franchise, Blue Sky also released the two Rio movies, The Peanuts Movie, Ferdinand, Epic, Robots and most recently Spies In Disguise.

Arguably, Blue Sky was something of a victim of its own early success. The Ice Age films, with their oh-so-2002 character designs and limited by their setting, did not show off the full extent of the pedigree Blue Sky's talented artists. Outside the franchise, the studio was more experimental and creative. Check out the unique art style of the Peanuts movie, bringing a 2D look to a CG film years before Into The Spiderverse. Or the miniature Lord Of The Rings feel of Epic. Or the incredible Sterling versus Ninjas action set-piece at the start of Spies In Disguise.

That's one of the reasons we and many others have been eagerly anticipating Nimona, Patrick Osborne's adaptation of Noelle Stevenson's acclaimed fantasy graphic novel. Despite the fact the film was due to be released in January of 2020 and had only 10 months left of production, Disney are shelving the film entirely and it will now not be completed. What a terrible waste of hundreds of people's hard work. Aside from the job losses, this is probably the most upsetting part of the closure.

This won't stop Disney milking the Ice Age franchise, and a spin-off was recently announced for Disney Plus.

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected, and we hope you are able to get back on your feet as soon as you can. Some small comfort might be found that due to the current streaming boom, and the streaming companies' major investment in animation, there are probably more firms out there looking for talented animation artists than any other time in recent memory. 

Bye-bye, Blue Sky. The animation world won't be the same without you.

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