Meet the President of Fox Animation Studios

Since 2007, Vanessa Morrison has been President of Fox Animation Studios. Morrison started as an intern at 20th Century Fox fifteen years ago and climbed the ranks, eventually overseeing the live action Fat Albert and Garfield movies and the live-action-computer animated hybrid Alvin and the Chipmunks. Today she works with Blue Sky Studios and filmmakers like Wes Anderson to bring their animated features to the screen.

Each week, the L.A. Times profiles a different Southern California executive in their Weekend Business section. Yesterday, the Sunday Times ran this piece about who she is.


  • Erin Siegel

    The face of evil looks so friendly. I feel bad about bashing her, but she’s claiming responsibility for those god-awful films so…

  • Ridgecity

    hey, at least she knows how to licensee classic characters, right?

  • Karl Hungus

    This is what happens at these giant studios. They are so huge and ineffective in formulating any kind of vision, that they promote from within based on one standard: how long have you been with the company. And now, like Time Warner and Viacom, the decision makers at Fox are those who have merely been there the longest… usually started at the company as interns(Cartoon Network has tons of these dunces making decisions).

    Its about the most wrongheaded way of building a company that there is, but these huge conglomerates are a giant pyramid hierarchy and that is the only measure of an employee that isn’t lost in the year in year out hustle.

    Look: by ANY career counselors point of view, in todays business landscape, staying at one company for fifteen years is about the dumbest move you can make. One would assure themselves that they never adapted to a new environment or new ways of thinking – and yet, thats the stunted brain that gets promoted at today’s huge corporations. This goes against everything that the rest of the nation learns in the business world – that the more companies you work at, the more valuable a commodity you are.

    Fox has effectively promoted a person that couldn’t ever compete in the job market with other people her age who had sought out new challenges in their career. Anyone who remains in their safe environment for FIFTEEN years at one from their start as an intern until they are 40 is sheltered, weak, and deficient. This is someone who has never taken a risk, never placed themselves in a difficult working scenario, never had to prove themselves beyond being loyal.

    How sad that this is their executive overseeing creative endeavors. Being creative is about taking risks and this woman has never taken any risks. Look at her resume.

  • james

    In hollywood, you fail up.

  • Phil

    Is this…
    The face of evil?

  • http://toiletpuck.blogspot.com/ Zee

    Karl Hungus, I could not have said it any better myself. You are 100 percent correct.

  • Marc Baker

    Well, that was certainly a teachable moment. Reminds me of an interview that Jerry had on a podcast where he explains how Friz Freleing’s secretary climbed up the corporate ladder to become head of Warner Bros. Animation (would this lade happen to be Jean Maccurdy by any chance?) I’ve always thought that these big studios should institute a special class for these executive types about not only the history of animation, but how taking risks can make you more valuable in the corporate world.

  • http://asteriskpix.blogspot.com Richard O’Connor

    Teaming up with Blue Sky was great for that studio as well as Fox.

    How can anyone claim that Wes Anderson directing a high profile stop motion film is not risk taking?

  • http://lovehatecartoons.blogspot.com Ted

    “This goes against everything that the rest of the nation learns in the business world – that the more companies you work at, the more valuable a commodity you are.”

    Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job…

  • greg

    Lesson for animators: Be nice to your interns and production assistants. In fifteen years, you’ll still be animating (if your job hasn’t been outsourced) and your intern will be running the company.

  • http://Mrfunsblog Floyd Norman

    Not being a cartoonist is the surest way of heading up a cartoon studio.

  • http://jodimationindustries.blogspot.com Jodie Hudson

    Why is everybody so pissed at her. So she stayed at a company for 15 years. It’s not like she stayed as an intern. Does not rising from intern to president of Fox animation include a lot of new experiences? It says one line that unlike most executives, she stayed at one company, so some how that makes her inferior to the “rest of the executives” who are real risk takers. Yet, without missing a beat, tommorrow, we’ll be talking about how the “rest of the executives” never take risk and are responsible for all the terrible movies that come out. The main reason most people don’t stay with a company that long, is because it is really hard to be that valuable to a company that long for a variety of reasons out of your control. And if she oversaw movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks and Garfield and she has to take 100% blame for that(which of course, isn’t fair), then by that logic, it should be mentioned that she also oversaw Ice Age 3 and Horton hears a Who. I’m not saying she’s the greatest person in the world, it’s hard to make a judgement like that based off of one article, but just reading that article, can we really reach the conclusion that she is the devil?

  • Gabe

    Had she worked at several different companies she may not have been perceived by Tom Rothman as a loyal employee not likely to flee at the first opportunity. Of course had Rothman not been at Fox all those years as her enabler, Vanessa Morrison would not today be president of Fox Animation Studios.

  • http://hellohue.blogspot.com Hellohue

    Floyd Norman, I can’t agree with you more. Reminds me of when John Lasseter took the Disney executives to lunch and said ‘If you don’t draw you don’t belong here.’ Makes sense to me.

    I’m not going to jump to conclusions, but it’s very likely that Vanessa Morisson doesn’t make many creative decisions, but makes decisions for creative people. We all know it’s wrong, and it happens everywhere, but the fact that she’s so proud of it is what makes my stomach drop.

  • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ mick

    ‘Morrison oversees development, production and marketing of family-friendly movies’

    what the hell is ‘family friendly’… the lowest common denominator? least likely to offend anyone by not really saying anything. So what if they have a new head of mediocrity? It’s a shite state of affairs and no amount of waffle here will make any difference.

    Do it yourself, make your own stuff. Bollocks to hollywood

  • Ice Aged

    Mr. Karl, what can one say that you did not nail down already…
    During my brief stay @ Blue Sky I have bumped into loads of
    such people at all levels of such piramid. Really frightning experience. I simply could not belive my eyes and ears most of the time. Its like science-fiction or some kind of strange nightmare that
    a person of such poor qualifications heads up such an important role.

    Than again looking at BSky’s output, everything falls into place.
    Please keep in mind that she is not the force behind Mr. Fox. Dont
    fool yourself. If it was not for W. A. vision we would still be in dark
    ages with animation from the FOX corp.

  • Hello, my name is Mike

    Thats like certain art director in Greenwich whos been at the company for 10 years already. Most better qualified people have left to pursue new adventures and risky objectives yet he’s still there walking around from pointless meeting to meeting. He too had a windowless office once.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    To be fair to Vanessa Morrison, Fox Animation and Blue Sky had issues long before she was in her current position. That being said, she is two years on in her current position. The latest announcement of a Spore feature film was laughable. What is the film going to be about? Two hours of someone trying to make a penis creature? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqcAwWMBiIA Yes, this is the most common use of the game.

    Blue Sky Studios does have a lot of great, talented artists, and many more have passed through its doors. It is a shame that they are forced to work on sequel after sequel or on optioned properties. If they would just look to within for great film ideas, and not let people who don’t know what they are talking about get in the way, you would see some great work coming from the east coast. It doesn’t look like there is any chance of that happening though.

  • Bob

    “I had an office in what used to be a vault — it was windowless and freezing. I was thrilled!”

    Her positive attitude and hard work eventually won the attention of Tom Rothman…
    ————————————-
    Yeah I think that says it all. Great positive attitude. BTW she’s being ironic. Claudia Eller read between the lines- you’re a writer. Actually I don’t blame her, the writer didn’t have much to work with so she had to make up reasons why Vanessa Morrison would be President of Fox Animation Studios. Oh and her husband is at HBO. wtf?

    People respect power not talent. Sigh.

  • Mesterius

    “[Animation] was a natural outgrowth of what I had been doing in live-action,” she said. “It was an exciting new challenge and I felt that storytelling-wise and technically, I was prepared for it.”

    Well, if the Garfield movies were any indication, I’d say that Mrs. Morrison was definitely not ready. Thanks for overseeing those two terrible CG/live-action hybrids instead of the 2D cartoon feature that should have been made, Vanessa!

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    If not her, who?

    Who would the other candidates, with the necessary organizational/business skills, have been?

  • Senor Money

    As the kiddies would say, ya’ll are chuggin’ the HATERADE! What’s wrong with working your way up with the same company? Just because artists have to move around after each gig, there’s no need to bash someone you don’t even know (one article doesn’t count) who’s in a position of power.

    Let it go people. Bitterness kills the (creative) soul. But I’m sure ya’ll already knew that.

  • Jon

    Oh so SHE’s the one to blame then … glad to finally put a face with a long-standing strain of disappointments and unbelievable film choices.

  • Flyboy

    just to flip it 360 didnt she take a big risk by staying at the same company? I see a lot of people who get nervous that they arent moving up quick enough and jump ship or seek out the quick pay bump where she didnt and was confident she would continue to succeed instead of possibly taking the easy way out by going somewhere else. Thats a risk in itself. If thats the case shouldnt you attack the future directors of Pixar films since they will probably be directed by people who spent their whole time at pixar? The point , plain and simple is that this whole argument of “not taking risks” is silly and grasping at straws

  • mick

    ‘…instead of possibly taking the easy way out by going somewhere else. Thats a risk in itself.’

    Flyboy, I think that ‘taking risks’ refers to the content of the films and not so much her feelings on self preservation, her skill behind the wheel of a car or a blase attitude to flossing. I think you have the wrong end of the stick firmly in your mitten on that count.

    Pixar do take risks and if they are not glaringly obvious to you then I really don’t know what to tell you.

    Just for future reference if you flip something 360 it is facing the same way as it was

  • Flyboy

    you got me on the 360 :)
    And on your logic of ‘taking risks creatively’ I absolutly agree but most of these posts are regarding taking risks as in not staying with the same company the whole time and that was what I was adrssing

  • Adam

    Going from intern to president, even if she’s not a particularly good one, is a remarkable achievement. If only for that, I do admire her.

    If only she knew what made good films. Then I would be able to like her without reservations.

  • Flip the Frog

    Yes, working 15 years at the same company. Sickening.

    Remind me, how long did Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston and the rest of those guys work at Disney. They remained in their safe environment for FIFTY years, from their start as inbetweeners until they were 70. Man, they *really* must have been sheltered, weak, and deficient.

  • Sylvain

    Here’s my random thoughts…

    I was told that after Blue Sky was bought by Fox, they used to be force-fed a complete script and they couldn’t change a line in it, but also that they got a little more respect starting from Ice Age 3, which I think was the best film they ever made. Hopefully it will get better for them now. I don’t want to put words in their mouth but the artists at Blue Sky are incredibly proud of their work, they should have a chance to make their own film.

    All studios have their own kind of problems, All of them. Just ask around ! Speak with someone who worked a few years at one of those “supposedly best places to work”. After a few beer, believe me you’ll get to the bad part. (ask me how I know)

    About taking risks, I’ll sound like a broken record, but Pixar isn’t taking risks with Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and TS reboot with 3D glasses. You can spin all of this any way you like, all studios are doing both “risk taking” and “sure shot” at the same time. Unless, you have either a selective memory or a conflict of interest… or both.

    About her, does anyone knows how responsible she is for the bad films ? I have no idea. Overseeing the production is quite different from “writing a terrible script”. And any supposedly “terrible idea” can become a masterpiece with the right creative team. At the time, Kung Fu Panda was the most terrible “animated film idea” I’ve ever seen, from a studio that was supposedly “terrible”. It turned out quite all right, didn’t it :)

    Blame the whole artists team for the bad creativity, blame the upper management for the excessive meddling causing the directors or screenwriters to quit because they have integrity.

  • http://theadventuresinfirstdays.blogspot.com/ Ira Owens

    Jerry as a former “suit” for Nic and Disney what’s your take on Vanessa success?

    I was an intern once too, but I’m far from being president of anything… YET!

    …i

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    Ira Owens – I’m trying to remain neutral here. But since you ask…

    Ms. Morrison’s “success” is typical in the entertainment industry. She’s a career executive and is no doubt good at what she does. She seems like a genuinely nice person. Greenlighting HORTON HEARS A WHO and ICE AGE 3 were great business decisions.

    But I hope her future creative decisions will be more like FANTASTIC MR. FOX: bold, artistic risks that challenge mainstream ideas of what animated features can be. She has a great opportunity in her hands – it remains to be seen what she makes of it.

  • http://jeffpurcell.blogspot.com Jeff Purcell

    So she’s the boss? Excuse me ma’am are YOU hiring..

    this is my ancestor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Purcell

    i’m unemployed and almost out of cigarettes..

    PS Morrison is a great name for a President..

    love Jeff