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Skydance Animation, Brad Bird, Rich Moore and The Lasseter Problem

It's not every day a new Hollywood studio shows up on the animation scene. Skydance is a relative newcomer in Tinseltown, founded just 11 years ago- no time at all compared to some of the majors that have been around for the best part of a century. In the past couple of years, it has also decided to position itself alongside Disney, DreamWorks Animation et al through its feature animation arm, Skydance Animation. Why, you may ask have we waited until now to mention it? Let's just say that the studio's early days have not exactly endeared themselves to much of the animation world. Due to their decision to hire one John Lassater.

It didn't start that way. Skydance announced their move into animation in 2017 with the announcement of its first two animated features, Luck and Spellbound.  Vicky Jensen signed on to direct Spellbound. Kung Fu Panda 3's Alessandro Carloni was originally hired to direct Luck, but left due to 'creative differences', to be replaced by Peggy Holmes. Unusually, this mean that they had two films in development in parallel by woman directors. Consider the fact that Turning Red is only Pixar's second film with a female director, a full decade after Brave, the first. And in the case of Brave, the original director Brenda Chapman left the project midway due to those pesky creative differences.

It all makes the decision to hire Lasseter as head of animation even more baffling. The move was understandably met with resistance within Skydance's ranks. The company held a 'town hall' to hear employees' concerns and Dame Emma Thompson left her voice role on Luck in protest.

Considering the nature of the allegations* against him it's mystifying how he has landed on his feet so quickly, essentially doing the job he was doing before. And Skydance has faced no major negative consequences for its decision. They subsequently signed an overall deal with Apple TV to distribute their films and TV series, and have acquired the Spanish animation studio Ilion Animation Studios and renamed it Skydance Animation Madrid.

Recently news broke that Brad Bird would make his dream project Ray Gunn at Skydance, and that Zootopia's Rich Moore had signed an overall deal with the studio. These are very much projects that sound like we'd like to see them. But it's hard to get over the fact that they are opting to side with an abuser.

Our small act of protest has been to not give them any publicity. But is that the right thing to do, or is it better to call them out? It could be tougher to do once the films are actually released. What if one of these films becomes included in a 'best of the year' conversation. Should we just continue to ignore it?

There's no easy answer, but we would be interested in hearing what you think, dear readers. You can vote in the poll below, or if you have more thoughts let us know on our usual social media channels.

* for legal reasons we have to call them that, but for the record, we believe them to be true.