Skydance Media, the film financing/production company started by David Ellison, son of billionaire Larry Ellison and brother of Annapurna Pictures’ Megan Ellison, is in a Dreamworks mood. Not only has the company hired two veteran Dreamworks directors to helm its first couple of films, but it announced this week that it has enlisted former Dreamworks exec Bill Damaschke as its new president of animation and family entertainment.

Bill Damaschke.
Bill Damaschke.

In his new role, Damaschke will work with David Ellison and Skydance chief creative officer Dana Goldberg to set the overall creative direction and strategy for Skydance’s new animation and family film divisions. He will oversee a slate of projects which are both fully animated and hybrid live-action/cg. Damaschke will report to Ellison.

Animation production of Skydance’s projects will be handled by Madrid, Spain-based Ilion Animation Studios (Planet 51, Paramount’s upcoming Amusement Park). The first film that will come out of this partnership is Alessandro Carloni’s Luck, set for March 19, 2021, followed by Vicky Jenson’s Split, at a later date.

“Bill is a well-loved creative executive whose oversight of the DreamWorks Animation feature slate resulted in such global successes as Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon,” said Skydance ceo David Ellison in a statement. “Bill will now serve as the key architect of our family entertainment business and I look forward to working alongside him to extend our vision for world-building into animation and beyond.”

Added Damaschke: “In a very short time, Skydance has made a real commitment to the animation business by bringing best-in-class creative leadership teams into its first two fantastic feature projects. I am inspired by David [Ellison] and Dana [Goldberg]’s deep dedication to filmmakers, artists, and compelling stories and I’m eager to work with them and the teams both in the U.S. and at Ilion to establish Skydance as a place where the best family content creators on the planet can call home.”

Damaschke started his animation career as a production assistant on the Disney feature Pocahontas, followed by a 20-year career at Dreamworks where he became a key figure at the studio. Former Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg offered praise for Damaschke, saying once in an interview, “Bill is the student who has become better than the teacher. Today he is much more the creative driver here, and more often than not, I find myself wanting to hear his notes, his critique, before my own.” Damaschke stepped down from his role as Dreamworks’ chief creative officer in late-2014, at a time when Dreamworks was struggling with its creative output.

Damaschke also oversaw all of Dreamworks’ live theatrical productions including Shrek the Musical. He will continue to produce theater projects through his own production company, Storykey Entertainment, and he will also serve as an executive producer on the upcoming stage adaptation of Moulin Rouge.

Damaschke is also the owner of an iconic mid-century modernist home, John Lautner’s Garcia House, that he restored with his partner. A mini-doc about the home can be seen below:

Jenson, who is documenting on social media the production of her film Split, made her enthusiasm known for Skydance’s most recent hire, posting on her Instagram that Damaschke is her “favorite producer.”

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