Blue Sky Studios
|Predecessor||Fox Animation Studios|
|Founded||February 22, 1987|
|Defunct||April 7, 2021|
|Fate||Shut down due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on The Walt Disney Company|
|Successor||20th Century Animation|
Greenwich American Center,
Number of employees
|Parent||20th Century Animation|
(Walt Disney Studios)
|Website||blueskystudios.com at the Wayback Machine (archived June 9, 2021) (now redirects to disney|
Blue Sky Studios, Inc. was an American computer animation film studio based in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was founded in 1987 by Chris Wedge, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Alison Brown, David Brown, and Eugene Troubetzkoy after their employer, MAGI, one of the visual effects studios behind Tron, shut down. Using its in-house rendering software, the studio created visual effects for commercials and films before dedicating itself to animated film production. Its first feature, Ice Age, was released in 2002 by 20th Century Fox. It produced 13 feature films, the final one being Spies in Disguise, released on December 25, 2019.
Blue Sky Studios was a subsidiary of 20th Century Animation until its acquisition by Disney, as part of their acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets in 2019. In February 2021, Disney announced that Blue Sky would be shut down in April 2021 citing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business operations. The studio was shut down on April 7, 2021.
Ice Age and Rio were the studio's most commercially successful franchises, while Horton Hears a Who! and The Peanuts Movie were its most critically praised films. Scrat, a character from Ice Age, was the studio's mascot.
1980–1989: Formation and early computer animation
In the late 1970s, Chris Wedge, then an undergraduate at Purchase College studying film, was employed by Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. (MAGI). MAGI was an early computer technology company which produced SynthaVision, a software application that could replicate the laws of physics to measure nuclear radiation rays for U.S. government contracts.:12–13 At MAGI, Wedge met Eugene Troubetzkoy, who held a Ph.D in theoretical physics and was one of the first computer animators. Using his background in character animation, Wedge helped MAGI produce animation for television commercials, which eventually led to an offer from Walt Disney Productions to produce animation for the film Tron (1982). After Tron, MAGI hired Carl Ludwig, an electrical engineer,:13 and Mike Ferraro transferred to the film division from the Cad Cam division of MAGI. As MAGI's success began to decline, the company employed David Brown from CBS/Fox Video to be a marketing executive and Alison Brown to be a managing producer.:12–13 After MAGI was sold to Vidmax (Canada), the six individuals—Wedge, Troubetzkoy, Ferraro, Ludwig, David Brown, and Alison Brown—founded Blue Sky Studios in February 1987 to continue the software design and produce computer animation.:13
At Blue Sky, Ferraro and Ludwig expanded on CGI Studio, the studio programming language they started at MAGI and began using it for animation production.:12–13 At the time, scanline renderers were prevalent in the computer graphics industry, and they required computer animators and digital artists to add lighting effects in manually;:13 Troubetzkoy and Ludwig adapted MAGI's ray tracing, algorithms which simulate the physical properties of light in order to produce lighting effects automatically.:13–14 To accomplish this, Ludwig examined how light passes through water, ice, and crystal, and programmed those properties into the software.:13 Following the stock market crash of 1987, Blue Sky Studios did not find their first client until about two years later: a company "that wanted their logo animated so it would be seen flying over the ocean in front of a sunset.":13–14 In order to receive the commission, Blue Sky spent two days rendering a single frame and submitted it to the prospective client. However, once the client accepted their offer, Blue Sky found that they could not produce the entire animation in time without help from a local graphics studio, which provided them with extra computer processors.:14
1989–2002: Television commercials, visual effects and Bunny
Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, Blue Sky Studios concentrated on the production of television commercials and visual effects for film. The studio began by animating commercials that depicted the mechanisms of time-release capsules for pharmaceutical corporations. The studio also produced a Chock Full O' Nuts commercial with a talking coffee bean and developed the first computer-animated M&M's.:14 Using CGI Studio, the studio produced over 200 other commercials for clients such as Chrysler, General Foods, Texaco, and the United States Marines. They made a cartoon bumper for Nicktoons that features an orange blob making a dolphin, a dinosaur, and a walking person.
In 1996, MTV collaborated with Blue Sky Studios on the film Joe's Apartment, for which Blue Sky animated the insect characters. Other clients included Bell Atlantic, Rayovac, Gillette and Braun.:14 The Braun commercial was awarded a CLIO Award for Advertising.:14 Recalling the award, Carl Ludwig stated that the judges had initially mistaken the commercial as a live action submission as a result of the photorealism of the computer-animated razor. In August 1997, 20th Century Fox's Los Angeles-based visual effects company, VIFX, acquired majority interest in Blue Sky Studios to form a new visual effects and animation company, temporarily renamed "Blue Sky/VIFX". Following the studio's expansion, Blue Sky produced character animation for the films Alien Resurrection (1997), A Simple Wish (1997), Mouse Hunt (1997), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Fight Club (1999).:15
Meanwhile, starting in 1990, Chris Wedge had been working on a short film named Bunny, intended to demonstrate CGI Studio. The film revolves around a rabbit widow who is irritated by a moth. The moth subsequently leads the rabbit into "a heavenly glow, reuniting her with her husband.":15 At the time, Wedge had been the thesis advisor for Carlos Saldanha while Saldanha was a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts; Wedge shared storyboard panels for Bunny with Saldanha during this time. After Saldanha's graduation, Blue Sky Studios hired him as an animator, and he later directed a few commercials. It was not until 1996 when Nina Rappaport, a producer at Blue Sky Studios, assigned Wedge to complete the Bunny project, which required CGI Studio to render fur, glass, and metal from multiple light sources, such as a swinging light bulb and an "ethereal cloudscape". In the initial stages of the Bunny project, Carl Ludwig modified CGI Studio to simulate radiosity, which tracks light rays as they reflect off of multiple surfaces. Blue Sky Studios released Bunny in 1998, and it received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Bunny's success gave Blue Sky Studios the opportunity to produce feature-length films.:15
2002–2018: Feature films under 20th Century Fox
In March 1999, Fox decided to sell VIFX to another visual effects house, Rhythm & Hues Studios, while Blue Sky Studios would remain under Fox. According to Chris Wedge, Fox considered selling Blue Sky as well by 2000 due to financial difficulties in the visual effects industry in general. Instead, Wedge, film producer Lori Forte, and animation executive Chris Meledandri presented Fox with a script for a comedy feature film titled Ice Age. Studio management pressured staff to sell their remaining shares and options to Fox on the promise of continued employment on feature-length films. The studio moved to White Plains NY and started production on Ice Age. As the film wrapped, Fox feared that it might bomb at the box office. They terminated half of the production staff and tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer for the film and the studio. Instead, Ice Age was released by 20th Century Fox on March 15, 2002, and was a critical and commercial success, receiving a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003. The film established Blue Sky as the third studio, after Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, to launch a successful CGI franchise.
In January 2009, the studio moved from White Plains, New York to Greenwich, Connecticut, taking advantage of the state's 30 percent tax credit and having more space to grow. The studio stated in April 2017 that it intended to stay in Connecticut until 2025.
In 2013, Chris Wedge took a leave of absence to direct Paramount Animation's live-action/computer-animated film Monster Trucks. He then returned to Blue Sky Studios and worked on multiple projects for the company, such as serving as an executive producer.
2019–2021: Disney acquisition and closure
Ownership of Blue Sky Studios was assumed by The Walt Disney Company as part of their 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which concluded on March 20, 2019. On March 21, Disney announced that Blue Sky Studios and its parent company 20th Century Fox Animation (now 20th Century Animation) would be integrated as units within the Walt Disney Studios with co-presidents Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird continuing to lead the studio, while reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. In July 2019, Miloro announced that she would be stepping down from her role as co-president, thus leaving Baird as sole president.
In August 2019, former Walt Disney Animation Studios head Andrew Millstein was named as co-president of Blue Sky Studios alongside Baird, while Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris would also be taking a supervising role.
On February 9, 2021, Disney announced that it would be closing Blue Sky Studios in April 2021. The company explained that in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic's continued economic impact on all of its businesses, it was no longer sustainable for them to run a third feature animation studio. In addition, production on a film adaptation of the webcomic Nimona, originally scheduled to be released on January 14, 2022, was cancelled as a result of its closure. The studio's film library and intellectual properties are retained by Disney. Although Disney did not give an exact date as to when the studio would be closing down initially, co-founder Chris Wedge officially announced on April 7 that the studio had ceased operations.
|#||Title||Release date||Distributor/Co-production with||Budget||Gross||RT||MC|
|1||Ice Age||March 15, 2002||20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
|$59 million||$383 million||77%||60|
|2||Robots||March 11, 2005||$75 million||$260 million||64%||64|
|3||Ice Age 2: The Meltdown||March 31, 2006||$80 million||$660 million||57%||58|
|4||Horton Hears a Who!||March 14, 2008||$85 million||$297 million||79%||71|
|5||Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs||July 1, 2009||$90 million||$886 million||46%||50|
|6||Rio||April 15, 2011||$90 million||$484 million||72%||63|
|7||Ice Age: Continental Drift||July 13, 2012||$95 million||$877 million||38%||49|
|8||Epic||May 24, 2013||$93 million||$268 million||65%||52|
|9||Rio 2||April 11, 2014||$103 million||$500 million||48%||49|
|10||The Peanuts Movie||November 6, 2015||$99 million||$246 million||87%||67|
|11||Ice Age: Collision Course||July 22, 2016||$105 million||$408 million||18%||34|
|12||Ferdinand||December 15, 2017||20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
|$111 million||$296 million||72%||58|
|13||Spies in Disguise||December 25, 2019||20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
|$100 million||$171 million||76%||54|
|1||Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas||November 24, 2011|
|2||Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade||March 20, 2016|
|1||Bunny||November 2, 1998|
|2||Gone Nutty||November 26, 2002|
|3||Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty||September 27, 2005|
|4||No Time for Nuts||November 21, 2006|
|5||Surviving Sid||December 9, 2008|
|6||Scrat's Continental Crack-Up||December 25, 2010|
|7||Scrat's Continental Crack-Up: Part 2||December 16, 2011|
|8||Umbrellacorn||July 26, 2013|
|9||Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe||November 6, 2015|
|10||Scrat: Spaced Out||October 11, 2016|
- Nickelodeon (1991) – Blob ident
- Joe's Apartment (1996) – dancing and singing cockroaches
- Alien Resurrection (1997) – the aliens
- A Simple Wish (1997) – numerous characters and special effects
- MouseHunt (1997) – several mice and household effects
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) – several alien creatures
- Jesus' Son (1999) – sacred heart, "liquid" glass, and screaming cotton ball effects
- Fight Club (1999) – the "sliding" penguin
- The Sopranos (2000) – the "talking fish" in the episode "Funhouse"
- Titan A.E. (2000) – 3D animation: creation of the new world in the final "Genesis" sequence
- Family Guy (2006) – Scrat's cameo in the episode "Sibling Rivalry"
- 20th Century Animation
- Fox Animation Studios
- Rhythm and Hues Studios
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
- List of 20th Century Studios theatrical animated feature films
- List of Disney theatrical animated feature films
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The move resulted from the losses the media group has posted amid the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
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...will be released on Dec. 15, followed by “Pigeon Impossible,” scheduled for Jan. 18, 2019.
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