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Former Dreamworks Animation Co-President Mireille Soria To Head Paramount Animation

Paramount Pictures has hired Mireille Soria to be president of its stalled animation division.

Mireille Soria.
Mireille Soria.

Soria joins Paramount from Dreamworks, where she was the co-president of Dreamworks Feature Animation for almost two years, before stepping down last December.

At Paramount Animation, she will oversee the company’s existing slate of upcoming films, including Sherlock Gnomes and Amusement Park, but also work to build up the output of the unit, which has stumbled since its founding and has released only a couple projects to date.

Following the critically acclaimed Rango in 2011, Paramount launched its in-house animation division, a move that was perhaps intended to act as something of a buffer should the studio lose its deal to distribute Dreamworks’ animated features, which is exactly what ended up happening in 2012.

Since then, the studio has stumbled through executives, creative talent, and projects. The two films it has released in its half-dozen years of operation are The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Monster Trucks. The former had a strong creative team in place thanks to its history as Nickelodeon’s most successful animated series (Paramount and Nick are both owned by Viacom), while the latter – a bizarre live-action/cg hybrid conceived in part by the four-year-old son of a no-longer-employed Paramount boss – bombed earlier this year and resulted in a $115 million writedown for the studio.

Paramount Animation's "Monster Trucks" is one of two films the division has released.
Paramount Animation’s “Monster Trucks” is one of two films the division has released.

Soria’s task will be to produce more family hits like Spongebob, and that could mean closer integration between her Paramount unit and the Viacom team that oversees Nickelodeon.

She arrives at Paramount with 30+ years of experience, including more than half of that time at Dreamworks. At Dreamworks, she was the lead producer of the Madagascar franchise, and produced other films including Home, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and most recently, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. As co-president, she oversaw recent productions like Trolls and The Boss Baby. She was formerly the vice president of production at Disney, where she managed the development and production of The Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, and the 1994 live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book.

She will report to Marc Evans, president of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group. “Mireille is a seasoned producer and filmmaker and has been a driving force in the animation industry, ushering many features to the big screen,” Evans said. “We welcome her expertise, invaluable insight, and overall adoration for the animation space. We look forward to her adept leadership at Paramount Pictures.”

Added Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos: “I’ve known and have worked with Mireille for many years and know that with her running our animation group, Paramount continues to build a great team for the future. With her creative instinct and talents, Mireille will help us grow the studio and develop a strong slate strategy in animation.” (Gianopulos worked with Soria when he was the head of Fox, and where Soria produced the Drew Barrymore film Ever After: A Cinderella Story.)

  • Troy

    Serious opinion: Paramount had an Animation division?

  • Metlow Rovenstein

    I feel like there should be a studio that specializes in or at least occasionally does action animated films. I feel this is a niche Paramount Animation can fill, provided they have execs that will leave the creatives alone, of course.

    • I have to disagree respectively – an animated action driven studio would be great to have, and it doesn’t have to be very mature, it can reach younger audiences as well.

      Where I disagree with is Paramount taking on the challenge. I don’t see them fulfilling that role, where it could compete against other animated features and live action films. They did do Rango, but it wasn’t a fully animated action thriller (it did have some action, and it was entertaining). Hopefully that studio (whomever it is) will rise to the challenge in the next few years…but I really doubt that it would be Paramount.

      • Jordann William Edwards

        It clearly has to be a newcomer studio. None of the existing ones would rise up, because they’re playing it safe.

        I’m starting my own studio, and making it artist-driven, but it will have an emphasis on action. One project I’m producing is a dark cyberpunk story in space.

        • Agreed that an upcoming studio would be more likely to do so, they would be willing to take on all the risks.

          With that said, that is awesome to hear of your journey to make this happen. Much luck and success on the road ahead Jordann. #LeaveItAllOnTheFloor

    • Jordann William Edwards

      Yeah, and it’s been a dream of mine to have mature storytelling, with an emphasis on action.

      I see all the other mainstream studios and I feel that they’re playing it safe. If my studio gets off the ground, I’ll allow everyone to take risks.

  • Luke

    Question: Given Viacom’s brand silos strategy, why isn’t VIA shutting down Paramount Animation and just running features out of Nick Animation?

  • RCooke

    Paramount Animation—doesn’t do it again. Rango, while it got decent press, was not a good movie, and more importantly (to stockholders), did not turn a profit for Paramount. The want to create their own animation division to control costs.

    They’ve continually hired talent, and then let them go. The goon running the place, Adam Goodman, was a loud, indecisive non-creative who basically frightened talent away.

    Then they hired an animator as a creative director–someone with little to no management or storytelling experience. He was [thankfully] gone within a few months. The films there currently in production are a mess.

    And now, they hire yet another non-creative executive to run the place. At least she has some experience working with animation. I wish her the best.

    I want to cheer them on–but after so many boneheaded decisions, it’s hard to trust the situation.

    • Metlow Rovenstein

      Well, I liked it. But it didn’t seem to earn any money (at least when it initially released), you’re right on that, and that’s what’s most important for a studio.

  • WK.

    I want to be optimistic, but I’m not liking the looks of this. Their taking a producer from a dicey, hyper-active studio whose recent work has been filled with gems among stones, (How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda VS. Home & Trolls) and placing her in a struggling, malnourished studio whose track record is literally 50/50 so far.

    Hey, I will stay supportive. Many studios have endured and churned out masterpieces under similar tight/tighter conditions. I will be looking forward to what she can accomplish.

  • Doesn’t really matter.

    When will studios realize that you need to focus on more on story, and creative content, instead of “what producer is running this, and what have they worked on before?” Hiring Mirelle isn’t going to make one bit of difference.