Karen Toliver Promoted To Netflix Head Of Animation Film As Melissa Cobb Shifts To Producer Role
Questions swirled yesterday after the shock announcement that Netflix had acquired leading independent animation studio Animal Logic.
We answered as many as we could in our article announcing the acquisition, but an inner-office memo shared anonymously with Cartoon Brew has offered a much clearer picture of the magnitude of the shake-up that is accompanying the purchase.
According to Netflix VP of global film Scott Stuber, following the acquisition the company has decided to make several key changes to its animation leadership team “to simplify the structure and set us up for the next phase of our growth.”
To that end, Karen Toliver, only appointed as VP animation film in February of this year, is taking over as head of animation film and will report directly to Stuber. With Toliver taking over as head of animation film, Melissa Cobb will leave her role as VP animation film and instead stay on at Netflix as a producer.
Cobb, who joined Netflix as head of kids and family in September, 2017, is largely credited as having led the charge in building Netflix’s animation studio from the ground up. Early on, her team was able to attract a bevy of big-name industry talent to the studio with promises of unprecedented creative freedom. But the studio’s recent struggles and high-profile cancellations have been well documented, its original animation titles often outperformed by low-budget acquisitions, and it now looks as though Netflix is planning to move in another direction.
Other executive changes include four-year Netflix Animation vet Gregg Taylor, VP of animation film, similarly shifting to a producer role at the company. Taylor helped build up the studio’s feature animation creative team and oversaw its animated film slate for the past several years, including productions such as the Oscar-nominated Klaus and the streamer’s current most popular film The Sea Beast.
VP of animation production operations Bruce Daitch will leave Netflix as his role has been made redundant. He will, however, stick around for the next few months to help with the transition period.
Traci Balthazor, VP of animation film production, and Mike Karafilis, director of animation series production, will handle production strategy and day-to-day operations for their respective teams, reporting to Amy Reinhard, VP of studio operations.
Series animation at Netflix is not changing, and John Derderian will continue as VP animation series.
The full “Netflix leadership changes” letter can be seen below:
With the recent plans to acquire Animal Logic, we’ve decided to make some changes to the Animation leadership team to simplify the structure and set us up for the next phase of our growth.
I (Scott) [Stuber] am excited to share that Karen Toliver will be taking on the Head of Animation Film role, reporting to me. Our commitment is to build a world-class animation studio and Karen is a strong creative leader, with extensive experience to deliver our ambitious slate of animated films. She is beloved in the animation community and has had an immediate impact in her few short months at Netflix and I look forward to seeing her thrive in this elevated position.
With this change, Melissa Cobb will be transitioning out of her current role as Head of Animation Film and has accepted an offer to stay on with Netflix as a producer. Over four years ago Melissa joined the company to lead our animation team and since then has built the studio from the ground up. She’s attracted top filmmakers and delivered a diverse slate of award-winning animated films. Gregg Taylor (VP Animation Film) will also be transitioning to a producer role. In his over four years at Netflix, Gregg was vital to building our creative team and he helped oversee and shepherd our incredible film slate to date, including, most recently, The Sea Beast. We are excited to have them both continue to be part of the Netflix family as creative producing partners.
On the production side, I (Amy) [Reinhard] have made the difficult decision to eliminate the VP of Production Operations role, meaning we will part ways with Bruce Daitch. Traci Balthazor (VP of Animation Film Production) and Mike Karafilis (Director of Animation Series Production) will own the production strategy and day-to-day operations for their respective business verticals, reporting directly to me. This change will simplify the team structure and help us to be more nimble as we continue to grow. Traci has proven to be an incredible leader and collaborator, quickly adapting to the growing demands of the business scale and scope. With her experience, I am confident she will make a strong partner to Karen leading the animated film team. Bruce has been the glue of Animation production for the past two years, managing the production pipelines, toolsets, and infrastructures while also building two brand new Animation production studios during a pandemic; I’m so grateful for everything he’s done. Bruce will stay on for the next few months to help the teams transition smoothly.
There are no changes to the series team – John Derderian remains as Head of Animation Series and Mike Karafilis as Director of Animation Series Production.
We know that there’s been a lot of changes these past few months but we believe this is an important step to make sure we are setting Netflix Animation up for long-term success. It’s been so incredible to see this organization get built from scratch and now producing some of the most beloved animated films and series – and we’re so excited for what’s to come.
We’ll be announcing this news in the press shortly, so please keep this confidential in the meantime.
Scott Stuber (VP Global Film) and Amy Reinhard (VP Studio Operations)