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After Disney-Fox Deal, Will Blue Sky Studios And Fox Animation Continue To Exist?

Today was supposed to have been a celebratory day at Blue Sky Studios, the Greenwich, Connecticut-based animation studio that is releasing its twelfth feature, Ferdinand.

Instead, the enthusiasm for their latest film has been tempered by uncertainty and apprehension about the future of the studio, following the Walt Disney Company’s monster $52 billion acquisition of Blue Sky’s parent, 21st Century Fox.

Blue Sky is now set to become part of the Disney empire. But many are wondering whether Disney will want to keep the studio. Considering that Disney already owns two of the most successful studios in the United States – Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation studios – it may not make much sense strategically to operate a third studio.

Disney may also be hesitant to start administering a third studio considering that its own two studios have an uncertain direction after Disney and Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter entered into a forced ‘sabbatical’ amid a cloud of sexual harassment allegations.

A major part of the unease right now is that no one knows exactly how Disney might deal with Blue Sky, not even the crew at Blue Sky. After yesterday’s news, Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ice Age: Collision Course director Michael Thurmeier reflected on the uncertain mood at Blue Sky with this tweet:

The silver lining is that it’s hard to see how Blue Sky, a well established and relatively successful operation with a desirable production pipeline, could shut down overnight. Even if Disney chooses not to hold onto the studio, the company would be an attractive option for other companies to buy. Prime candidates include Sony, Warner Bros., and Paramount, all of whom could benefit from another creative pipeline for animated features. Or perhaps Blue Sky becomes a major studio’s service shop, in the vein of Sony’s Imageworks, and produces animation for a variety of clients. The latter would play up the studio’s strengths, which have historically been on the technical and craft sides.

While Disney decides what to do, Blue Sky is already well into production on its next film, Spies in Disguise, scheduled for release in January 2019. That film is currently set to be followed by Nimona in 2020.

Another question that looms is what will happen to Fox’s other feature animation initiatives. It’s important to remember here that Blue Sky Studios is just one part of Fox Animation, and the company had an ambitious slate of projects in development.

Fox Animation had recently signed a deal with Locksmith Animation to create a new cg feature every 12-18 months. Locksmith’s first project,  Ron’s Gone Wrong, which is set to be animated at Double Negative, is slated for release on November 6, 2020.

And just last week, Fox signed a two-year first-look deal with Stoopid Buddy Stoodies, in which the Burbank, California-maker of Robot Chicken would develop animated and hybrid family film projects. Their first project in development through the deal is called “Untitled Sword Project.” The future of that deal is now up in the air.

And not to be forgotten, there’s also the art-house division Fox Searchlight, and though it rarely produces animation, that specialty label has one of the most hotly-anticipated animated features of 2018: Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.

About the only thing that’s clear right now is that Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios will not continue to operate as usual – or at all – when Disney takes over 21st Century Fox. Beyond that, what may happen is anyone’s guess.

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