The cost of consolidation: Disney is shutting down Blue Sky Studios, the prolific animation studio that turned out a series of hit animated features for Fox, including the Ice Age franchise, which grossed $3.2 billion globally.
As reported by Deadline, the handwriting had been on the wall for Blue Sky, as Disney consolidated various divisions in light of huge COVID-related losses. The Mouse acquired Blue Sky as part of their 2019 purchase of the former 20th Century Fox.
The last day for Blue Sky will be in April. The number of Blue Sky employees being impacted numbers 450. Disney will be working with the employees at the Greenwich, CT based animation house to explore open positions at the other internal studios.
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.”
Even more painfully, production on Nimona, an animated film based on Noelle Stevenson’s award-winning webcomic/graphic novel, has been shut down. The film, to have been directed by Patrick Osborne, was originally planned for a Jan. 14, 2022 release. Although it had only10 months of work to go, it will no longer be released at all.
This is the second comics-related project to be shut down by Disney; a film based on David Petersen’s Mouse Guard was cancelled soon after the Fox acquisition. Like Nimona, Mouse Guard was already in production.
Aside from the loss of jobs, the end of Blue Sky is also a loss of diversity of all kinds. If you think the difference between a Walt Disney Studios animated film and a Pixar film is big; or feel the difference between an Andrew Stanton and a Pete Doctor movie is huge, it’s still a subtle change here and there, not a whole new style.
Nimona was a story that upended Disney princess tropes and centered a gay romance. It was written by an NB creator and represented highly relevant viewpoints. How much of that would have survived the realities of the big studio animation process we’ll never know…but it’s so sad that we’ll never get the chance to find out.
Disney still owns the Blue Sky properties, and is working on an Ice Age TV show. In Disney fashion, you can bet that no scrap of this IP will be wasted, even as the studio made of real people fades into history.