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Artist RightsStudios

Breaking: Oscar-Winning Studio Moonbot Lays Off Employees After Possible Studio Sale

Moonbot Studios, the Shreveport, Louisiana-based animation studio responsible for the Oscar-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and many other popular pieces of short-form content, started laying off some of its 70 employees last week, according to a report published this afternoon in The Shreveport Times.

The article does not say how many people are being laid off, although it indicates that jobs were eliminated in the animation department, among other parts of the company. The piece speculates that the company has been sold and will relocate to another location. No employees of the company would speak to the paper due to the non-disclosure agreements they signed as a condition of receiving severance packages.

People, however, are speaking to Cartoon Brew. A source tells us that the buyer of the company is Magic Leap, the secretive virtual reality/augmented reality startup located in Dania Beach, Florida that has raised over $1.4 billion in venture capital from investors. The company has not yet released a product nor revealed what it is making. Cartoon Brew has not been able to officially confirm that Magic Leap is the buyer, but our source said:

They’re dissolving the Shreveport studio. Artists are already having to sell their houses and either transition to Florida or move elsewhere for work.

Lending credence to the theory that Magic Leap purchased Moonbot is the Twitter account of Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz, who follows both Moonbot Studios and co-founder Brandon Oldenburg. In a Reddit AMA last year, Oldenburg identified Magic Leap as among the “things that are blowing my mind.”

According to The Shreveport Times, studio co-founder William Joyce retains his ownership stake in the company. The piece did not confirm the situation of the other co-founders, Lampton Enochs and Brandon Oldenburg. The studio has been touted as a success story and held up as an example of how high-quality computer animation can be produced in the United States outside of traditional animation centers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

  • J

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  • Why would you lay off artists when selling/buying a studio? You’d think that you would really wanna keep the artists as they’re a key ingredient in that successful recipe. Relocating also seems potentially detrimental. Rebuilding all of that is going to be tough.

    • Gerry

      I wonder if those laid off are the ones who couldn’t/wouldn’t relocate? Because I had that same question: What exactly are you buying without the employees? Did Moonbot have some proprietary tech that Magic Leap wanted? Other IP maybe?

      In any event, at least on the surface, it looks strange to buy an established, functional studio just to seemingly dismantle it. Who knows?

    • mashed potato

      If Leap bought up the studio and not the staff, my gut instinct says they’re after the development archive, half-explored stuff they can springboard from to turn into content for the augmented reality hardware.

  • Elsi Pote

    This can’t be happening! Now we are more encroached between two corporations peddling toys and pop culture refences left and right.

    However I guess not everything is lost, despite living what the movie idiocracy portrayed 10 years ago.

    Is up to us to educate people and coming generations about the many faces of animation, from Ghibli to Anomalisa, to break all the paradigms around kids and animation, and create a sustainable economy around those who invest their intellects and efforts to create magic.

    My thoughts and prayers to all the folks affected by such terrible news.

  • rheddherring

    Why get so emotional over everything before knowing the facts? There has been a non disclosure agreement on employees with their SEVERANCE package…do we know it’s not a generous severance? Do we know that they were not offered the chance to relocate? There are a lot of questions to answer with facts before jumping to dramatic conclusions. I have a hard time believing that Bill Joyce would screw his artists, that doesn’t seem realistic. There are still a few executives and owners in this industry that are good people that demand good results–just sayin. Giving the layoffs a super generous package if they didn’t want to move to FL sounds a lot more realistic. May or may not be true, but before we start wailing and getting dramatic, wouldn’t it be wise to wait for the FACTS?!? If indeed it is Magic Leap, there could be much larger opportunities–but we don’t know yet.

  • JoeShmo

    Magic Leap is now hiring, go figure.