‘Scrat Tales’ Team Reminisces About Blue Sky’s Swan Song
Paste Magazine has published a detailed oral history of Ice Age: Scrat Tales, the final production completed at the now-closed Blue Sky Studios.
On April 10, 2021, The Walt Disney Company closed Blue Sky forever, citing financial strain caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Disney had acquired the company two years earlier as part of its purchase of 21st Century Fox.
Ice Age: Scrat Tales is a poetic and bittersweet end to the Blue Sky story. Its protagonist Scrat was the first character on screen in Ice Age, the studio’s first feature film, released in 2002.
In the Paste story, members of the creative team behind Ice Age: Scrat Tales — including Chris Wedge, Anthony Nisi, and Michael Knapp – tell their version of the chaotic events which impacted production and eventually led to Disney shuttering Blue Sky.
In the conversation, Wedge shares his practical take on the financial circumstances which led to Blue Sky being shut down, hypothesizing a tremendous oversight on Disney’s part:
The truth of the matter is suddenly COVID hit and Disney realized—and I assume that they hadn’t thought of this—the only way they make money is when large groups of people gather in one place. Suddenly, they were hemorrhaging money.
Knapp recalls the the state of uncertainty which loomed over everyone at the studio when Disney announced it would be closing Blue Sky:
We were very close to the end when the announcement was made. We took a beat. I think it was a solid week where they said, “Everybody step away, and talk to your families and do whatever you need to do.” It was pretty shortly thereafter that we were like, “Do we still want to do this?”
For Nissi, the answer was clear:
[F]or me, it was never a doubt. It’s because of that Blue Sky spirit. Everyone I went to, I didn’t have to convince anyone or twist their arm. Most people were of the mind, “Of course we’re going to finish it and we’re going to knock it out of the park.” The motivation was stronger in a sense.
Wedge, Knapp, and Nissi’s conversation – which can be read HERE – covers the entire timeline of the new series, from Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, pre- and post-production, the COVID-19 lockdown, Disney’s announcement that Blue Sky would be shuttering, and the months of uncertainty as to whether Disney would ever release the finished series – it took more than a year. They were all also given an opportunity to muse on what they believe will be Blue Sky’s legacy.
As a fitting coda to the end of Blue Sky, a group of artists at the studio made an unofficial Scrat animation in which the squirrel finally achieved his goal. The now-viral piece of animation, which made its way around the internet this week, was first shown at the studio during an internal screening of Scrat Tales. Blue Sky director and animator Mike Thurmeier reflected online today about the first time he watched Scrat’s goodbye:
A small team of artists surprised the studio after our final screening of SCRAT TALES with this scene. Not gonna lie, I shed some big tears afterwards. Getting to play around with this character has been the absolute BEST. Long live BLUE SKY! https://t.co/5uo9YyouBR
— Michael Thurmeier (@mthurmeier) April 14, 2022