Blue Sky Studios
|Founded||February 22, 1987|
Number of employees
|Parent||20th Century Animation|
(Walt Disney Studios)
The studio was founded in 1987 by Chris Wedge, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Alison Brown, David Brown, and Eugene Troubetzkoy after their employer MAGI, one of the visual effects studios behind Tron, shut down. Using its in-house rendering software, the studio had worked on visual effects for commercials and films before completely dedicating itself to animated film production. The studio's first feature, Ice Age, was released on March 15, 2002 by 20th Century Fox. In March 2019, the studio was acquired by Disney, upon their acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets.
Blue Sky has produced 13 feature films, with its latest release being Spies in Disguise on December 25, 2019, and their next release being Nimona on January 14, 2022. Ice Age and Rio are the studio's most successful franchises, while Horton Hears a Who! and The Peanuts Movie are its most critically praised films. As of 2013, Scrat, a character from the Ice Age films, serves as the studio's mascot.
1980–1989: Formation and early computer animationEdit
In the late 1970s, Chris Wedge, then an undergraduate at Purchase College studying film, was employed by Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. (MAGI). MAGI was an early computer technology company which produced SynthaVision, a software application that could replicate the laws of physics to measure nuclear radiation rays for U.S. government contracts.:12–13 At MAGI, Wedge met Eugene Troubetzkoy, who held a Ph.D in theoretical physics and was one of the first computer animators. Using his background in character animation, Wedge helped MAGI produce animation for television commercials, which eventually led to an offer from Walt Disney Productions to produce animation for the film Tron (1982). After Tron, MAGI hired Carl Ludwig, an electrical engineer,:13 and Mike Ferraro transferred to the film division from the Cad Cam division of MAGI. As MAGI's success began to decline, the company employed David Brown from CBS/Fox Video to be a marketing executive and Alison Brown to be a managing producer.:12–13 After MAGI was sold to Vidmax (Canada), the six individuals—Wedge, Troubetzkoy, Ferraro, Ludwig, David Brown, and Alison Brown—founded Blue Sky Studios in February 1987 to continue the software design and produce computer animation.:13
At Blue Sky, Ferraro and Ludwig expanded on CGI Studio, the studio programming language they started at MAGI and began using it for animation production.:12–13 At the time, scanline renderers were prevalent in the computer graphics industry, and they required computer animators and digital artists to add lighting effects in manually;:13 Troubetzkoy and Ludwig adapted MAGI's ray tracing, algorithms which simulate the physical properties of light in order to produce lighting effects automatically.:13–14 To accomplish this, Ludwig examined how light passes through water, ice, and crystal, and programmed those properties into the software.:13 Following the stock market crash of 1987, Blue Sky Studios did not find their first client until about two years later: a company "that wanted their logo animated so it would be seen flying over the ocean in front of a sunset.":13–14 In order to receive the commission, Blue Sky spent two days rendering a single frame and submitted it to the prospective client. However, once the client accepted their offer, Blue Sky found that they could not produce the entire animation in time without help from a local graphics studio, which provided them with extra computer processors.:14
1989–2002: Television commercials and visual effectsEdit
Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, Blue Sky Studios concentrated on the production of television commercials and visual effects for film. The studio began by animating commercials that depicted the mechanisms of time-release capsules for pharmaceutical corporations. The studio also produced a Chock Full O' Nuts commercial with a talking coffee bean and developed the first computer-animated M&M's.:14 Using CGI Studio, the studio produced over 200 other commercials for clients such as Chrysler, General Foods, Texaco, and the United States Marines. They made a cartoon bumper for Nicktoons that features an orange blob making a dolphin, a dinosaur, and a walking person.
In 1996, MTV collaborated with Blue Sky Studios on the film Joe's Apartment, for which Blue Sky animated the insect characters. Other clients included Bell Atlantic, Rayovac, Gillette and Braun.:14 The Braun commercial was awarded a CLIO Award for Advertising.:14 Recalling the award, Carl Ludwig stated that the judges had initially mistaken the commercial as a live action submission as a result of the photorealism of the computer-animated razor. In August 1997, 20th Century Fox's Los Angeles-based visual effects company, VIFX, acquired majority interest in Blue Sky Studios to form a new visual effects and animation company, temporarily renamed "Blue Sky/VIFX". Following the studio's expansion, Blue Sky produced character animation for the films Alien Resurrection (1997), A Simple Wish (1997), Mouse Hunt (1997), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Fight Club (1999).:15
Meanwhile, starting in 1990, Chris Wedge had been working on a short film named Bunny, intended to demonstrate CGI Studio. The film revolves around a rabbit widow who is irritated by a moth. The moth subsequently leads the rabbit into "a heavenly glow, reuniting her with her husband.":15 At the time, Wedge had been the thesis advisor for Carlos Saldanha while Saldanha was a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts; Wedge shared storyboard panels for Bunny with Saldanha during this time. After Saldanha's graduation, Blue Sky Studios hired him as an animator, and he later directed a few commercials. It was not until 1996 when Nina Rappaport, a producer at Blue Sky Studios, assigned Wedge to complete the Bunny project, which required CGI Studio to render fur, glass, and metal from multiple light sources, such as a swinging light bulb and an "ethereal cloudscape". In the initial stages of the Bunny project, Carl Ludwig modified CGI Studio to simulate radiosity, which tracks light rays as they reflect off of multiple surfaces. Blue Sky Studios released Bunny in 1998, and it received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Bunny's success gave Blue Sky Studios the opportunity to produce feature-length films.:15
2002–2018: Feature films under 20th Century FoxEdit
In March 1999, Fox decided to sell VIFX to another visual effects house, Rhythm & Hues Studios, while Blue Sky Studios would remain under Fox. According to Chris Wedge, Fox considered selling Blue Sky as well by 2000 due to financial difficulties in the visual effects industry in general. Instead, Wedge, film producer Lori Forte, and animation executive Chris Meledandri presented Fox with a script for a comedy feature film titled Ice Age. Studio management pressured staff to sell their remaining shares and options to Fox on the promise of continued employment on feature-length films. The studio moved to White Plains NY and started production on Ice Age. As the film wrapped, Fox feared that it might bomb at the box office. They terminated half of the production staff and tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer for the film and the studio. Instead, Ice Age was released by 20th Century Fox on March 15, 2002, and was a critical and commercial success, receiving a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003. The film established Blue Sky as the third studio, after Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, to launch a successful CGI franchise.
In January 2009, the studio moved from White Plains, New York to Greenwich, Connecticut, taking advantage of the state's 30 percent tax credit and having more space to grow. The studio stated in April 2017 that it intends to stay in Connecticut until 2025.
In 2013, Chris Wedge took a leave of absence to direct Paramount Animation's live-action/computer-animated film Monster Trucks. He has since returned to Blue Sky Studios and is working on multiple projects for the company, such as serving as an executive producer.
2019–present: Disney acquisitionEdit
Blue Sky Studios was acquired by The Walt Disney Company as part of their 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox, which concluded on March 20, 2019. On March 21, Disney announced that Blue Sky Studios and its parent company 20th Century Fox Animation would be integrated as units within the Walt Disney Studios with co-presidents Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird continuing to lead the studio reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. In July 2019, Miloro announced that she would be stepping down from her role as co-president leaving Baird as sole president.
In August 2019, former Walt Disney Animation Studios head Andrew Millstein was named as co-president of Blue Sky Studios alongside Baird, while Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris would also be taking a supervising role.
|#||Title||Release date||Distributor/Co-production with||Budget||Gross||RT||MT|
|1||Ice Age||March 15, 2002||20th Century Fox Animation||$59 million||$383 million||77%||60|
|2||Robots||March 11, 2005||$75 million||$260 million||64%||64|
|3||Ice Age: The Meltdown||March 31, 2006||$80 million||$660 million||57%||58|
|4||Horton Hears a Who!||March 14, 2008||$85 million||$297 million||79%||71|
|5||Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs||July 1, 2009||$90 million||$886 million||46%||50|
|6||Rio||April 15, 2011||$90 million||$484 million||72%||63|
|7||Ice Age: Continental Drift||July 13, 2012||$95 million||$877 million||38%||49|
|8||Epic||May 24, 2013||$93 million||$268 million||64%||52|
|9||Rio 2||April 11, 2014||$103 million||$500 million||46%||49|
|10||The Peanuts Movie||November 6, 2015||$99 million||$246 million||87%||67|
|11||Ice Age: Collision Course||July 22, 2016||$105 million||$408 million||18%||34|
|12||Ferdinand||December 15, 2017||20th Century Fox Animation
|$111 million||$296 million||72%||58|
|13||Spies in Disguise||December 25, 2019||20th Century Fox Animation
|$100 million||$171 million||75%||54|
|#||Title||Release date||Distributor/Co-production with||Refs|
|14||Nimona||January 14, 2022||20th Century Animation
|1||Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas||November 24, 2011|
|2||Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade||March 20, 2016|
|1||Bunny||November 2, 1998|
|2||Gone Nutty||November 26, 2002|
|3||Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty||September 27, 2005|
|4||No Time for Nuts||November 21, 2006|
|5||Surviving Sid||December 9, 2008|
|6||Scrat's Continental Crack-Up||December 25, 2010|
|7||Scrat's Continental Crack-Up: Part 2||December 16, 2011|
|8||Umbrellacorn||July 26, 2013|
|9||Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe||November 6, 2015|
|10||Scrat: Spaced Out||October 11, 2016|
- Joe's Apartment (1996) – dancing and singing cockroaches
- Alien Resurrection (1997) – the aliens
- A Simple Wish (1997) – numerous characters and special effects
- MouseHunt (1997) – several mice and household effects
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) – several alien creatures
- Jesus' Son (1999) – sacred heart, "liquid" glass, and screaming cotton ball effects
- Fight Club (1999) – the "sliding" penguin
- The Sopranos (2000) – the "talking fish" in the episode "Funhouse"
- Titan A.E. (2000) – 3D animation: creation of the new world in the final "Genesis" sequence
- Family Guy (2006) – Scrat's cameo in the episode "Sibling Rivalry"
- 20th Century Fox/20th Century Studios, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Fox Star Studios, and Fox Searchlight Pictures/Searchlight Pictures (2009–present) – Current logos
|1998||Bunny||Best Animated Short Film||Chris Wedge||Won|
|2002||Ice Age||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|2003||Gone Nutty||Best Animated Short Film||Carlos Saldanha and John C. Donkin|
|2006||No Time for Nuts||Chris Renaud and Mike Thurmeier|
|2011||Rio||Best Original Song||"Real in Rio"|
Sérgio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
|2017||Ferdinand||Best Animated Feature||Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte|
|2002||Ice Age||Best Animated Feature||Lori Forte||Nominated|
|Best Character Animation||Mike Thurmeier|
|Best Character Design in an Animated Feature||Peter DeSève|
|Best Directing in an Animated Feature||Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha|
|Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||David Newman|
|Best Production Design in an Animated Feature||Brian McEntee|
|Best Writing in an Animated Feature||Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson and Peter Ackerman|
|2005||Robots||Best Character Design in an Animated Feature||William Joyce|
|Best Production Design in an Animated Feature||William Joyce and Steve Martino|
|2006||Ice Age: The Meltdown||Best Animated Effects||John David Thornton|
|Best Character Design in an Animated Feature||Peter DeSève|
|Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Carlos Saldanha|
|Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||John Powell|
|Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature||William H. Frake III|
|2008||Horton Hears a Who!||Best Animated Effects||Alen Lai|
|Best Character Design in an Animated Feature||Sang Jun Lee|
|Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature||Jeff Gabor|
|Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||John Powell|
|Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio|
|2009||Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs||Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||John Powell|
|Best Voice Acting in a Feature Production||John Leguizamo|
|2012||Rio||Best Animated Feature||Bruce Anderson and John C. Donkin|
|Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature||Jeff Gabor||Won|
|Best Character Design in an Animated Feature||Sergios Pablos|
|Best Directing in an Animated Feature||Carlos Saldanha|
|Best Music in an Animated Feature Production||Mikael Mutti, Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Sérgio Mendes and John Powell|
|Best Production Design in an Animated Feature||Thomas Cardone, Kyle MacNaughton and Peter Chan|
|Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Jemaine Clement|
|2012||Ice Age: Continental Drift||Best Animated Effects||Andrew Schneider|
|Music in an Animated Feature Production||John Powell, Adam Schlesinger and Ester Dean|
|Best Production Design in an Animated Feature||Nash Dunnigan, Arden Chan, Jon Townley and Kyle Macnaughton|
|2013||Epic||Animated Effects in an Animated Production||Alen Lai, David Quirus, Diego Garzon Sanchez, and Ilan Gabai|
|Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production||Thom Roberts|
|Best Directing in an Animated Feature||Chris Wedge|
|Best Music in an Animated Feature||Danny Elfman|
|Production Design in an Animated Feature Production||Michael Knapp, Greg Couch, and William Joyce|
|2014||Rio 2||Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production||Sang Jun Lee, Jason Sadler, and José Manuel Fernández Oli|
|Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature||John Hurst|
|Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Andy García|
|2015||The Peanuts Movie||Best Animated Feature||Craig Schulz, Bryan Schulz, Cornelius Uliano, Paul Feig and Michael J. Travers|
|Outstanding Achievement in Character Animation in a Feature Production||BJ Crawford|
|Outstanding Achievement in Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Steve Martino|
|Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Alex Garfin|
|Hadley Belle Miller|
|2017||Ferdinand||Best Design in an Animated Feature Production||Thomas Cardone, Arden Chan, Andrew Hickson, Mike Lee and Jason Sadler|
|Editorial in an Animated Feature Production||Harry Hitner and Tim Nordquist|
|2019||Spies in Disguise||Outstanding Achievement for Character Design in an Animated Feature Production||José Manuel Fernández Oli|
|Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production||Mark Ronson and Theodore Shapiro|
Critic's Choice AwardsEdit
|2002||Ice Age||Best Animated Film||Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha||Nominated|
|2015||The Peanuts Movie||Steve Martino|
Golden Globe AwardsEdit
|2015||The Peanuts Movie||Best Animated Feature Film||Steve Martino||Nominated|
|Best Original Song (Home)||Nick Jonas, Justin Tranter, and Nick Monson|
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...will be released on Dec. 15, followed by “Pigeon Impossible,” scheduled for Jan. 18, 2019.
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