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