Skydance Media, the studio founded by David Ellison in 2010, has just acquired the animation business of Madrid-based Ilion Studios. The new business will be named Skydance Animation Madrid, bringing more than 500 employees in Spain and the US together under the John Lasseter-led Skydance Animation roof.
Skydance Animation had entered into a multi-year production deal with Ilion back in 2017. Since then, Skydance Animation has continued to expand, though not without controversy; the studio’s hiring of former Pixar and Disney animation chief John Lasseter back in January 2019 caused considerable outrage in the animation industry, prompting Women in Animation president Marge Dean to note she was “shocked and distressed” by the hire. The week following Lasseter’s hire, Holly Edwards was promoted to president, replacing animation veteran Bill Damaschke, former DreamWorks Animation CCO, brought on by Ellison in to run Skydance’s animation efforts in 2017. Several days later, two-time Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson exited the studio’s feature, Luck, because of concerns about working with Lasseter. This past January, Peggy Holmes replaced Alessandro Carloni as director on the film.
Currently, Skydance Animation’s roster includes Vicky Jenson, director of the first Oscar-winning Shrek; Nathan Greno; Kiel Murray; Lauren Hynek; Elizabeth Martin and Tony Award-nominee and Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus lifetime achievement honoree Linda Woolverton. Ilion was the production studio behind Paramont Animation’s Wonder Park.
“The world is going through an unprecedented and uncertain time,” Skydance CEO David Ellison said. “Today’s acquisition marks the culmination of many months of work to build one studio across two continents, with the goal of creating the highest-quality animation, led by best-in-class talent from around the world. The addition of Skydance Animation Madrid to our portfolio of businesses underlines my passion and commitment to bringing iconic animated stories and characters to life from some of the most talented artists and voices in the industry.”
According to Ilion president and CCO, Ignacio Pérez, “We are excited to expand our partnership with Skydance Animation and to further collaborate with Skydance founder David Ellison and elite talent like John Lasseter and Holly Edwards. This is a phenomenal growth opportunity for our team in Spain and we’re proud to be an integral part of Skydance’s exciting future.”
Skydance Animation’s upcoming feature slate includes:
- Luck, directed by Peggy Holmes (The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning) and written by Kiel Murray (Cars, Cars 3) and Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (the Kung Fu Panda series). The story is about the unluckiest girl alive, who stumbles upon the never-before-seen world of good and bad luck; she must join together with magical creatures to uncover a force more powerful than even luck itself.
- Spellbound (working title), directed by Jenson (Shrek, Shark Tale) and written by Lauren Hynek & Elizabeth Martin (Mulan ) and Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King). The film is a musical fantasy set in a world of magic where a young girl sets out to break the spell that has split her kingdom in two.
- Pookoo (working title/currently in development), written and directed by Nathan Greno (Tangled) and produced by Jennifer Magee-Cook (The Princess and the Frog).
The studio is also working on a slate of soon-to-be-announced TV series in various stages of development.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.