Monday 3 January 2011

The Ones That Got Away

Over the years, the big animation companies in the business have had story staff, animator and director losses left, right and centre, some of them more devastating than others. Here is a breakdown of some of the big losses, for the big companies:

The Big Blue Losses
Perhaps no company has suffered bigger losses than Blue Sky Studios, it recently lost a large amount of important staff members:
  • Chris Meledandri, perhaps the biggest hit to Blue Sky Studios, one of their former big players decided to take a page out of Jeffrey Katzenberg's book and set up shop for himself, with the help of Universal Studios Meledandri went on to form Illumination Entertainment. The company behind Despicable Me really made a mark for themselves on the box office and audiences alike, Illumination Entertainment and Chris Meledandri could really make BSS pay and knock them off their 3rd place spot and close on Pixar and DreamWorks.
  • Chris Renaud, another big loss, the acclaimed director of short film No Time For Nuts and a story artist on Robots, Ice Age 3 and Horton Hears a Who, Renaud went on to direct Illumination Entertainment's debut film, Despicable Me, another shot to BSS.
  • Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi, formerly a colour key artist and animator at Blue Sky, Dice moved to Pixar in 2007 and made a big impact as the art director on Toy Story 3, helping to infuse a lot of the film's heart, warmth and charm.
The Cheese That Evaded the Mouse
Disney, perhaps the best known animation company of all time, has not been without losses, one of these some of the most devastating we've ever seen for a company:
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, the big one, a former Disney head honcho, left Disney on quite bad terms and decided to try his own hand at running an animation company, out of that desire DreamWorks Animation was born. Katzenberg deserves a lot of credit for creating an animation company out of nothing, that has been huge competition for Disney and Pixar for the last 15 years. Whilst I don't always agree with Katzenberg and his insistence on innuendo, pop culture jokes and sequel after sequel, DreamWorks has made some amazing animated films - Shrek, Shrek 2, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon - and that's a big feat. However, he's also created a lot of poor filler (*ahem* Bee Movie *ahem* Shrek the Third), regardless DreamWorks great commercial success shows that Disney's letting go of JK may have been a crucial loss.
  • Chris Sanders, another big loss, the co-writer and co-director of Disney's Lilo & Stitch also left the Mouse House on bad terms after being relieved of his position on Bolt (then American Dog) by the Lasseter Disney regime due to an alleged inability to listen to the Pixar Brain Trust. However, Sanders went on to DreamWorks and made a huge splash co-directing the fantastic How to Train Your Dragon, stiff competition for Toy Story 3.
The Bulbs that Broke the Lamp's Shine
Arguably the biggest animation company in the game today is Pixar, the studio that delivers hit after hit has suffered very few setbacks over the years, however there are two staff losses that really stand out:
  • Doug Sweetland, a massive player at Pixar over the years, an animator on every Pixar film up until Cars, he then directed the fantastic Presto short film (my second favourite Pixar short), however he decided he wanted to be a bigger player. As such, Sweetland left Pixar and went off to Sony Pictures Animation - the studio behind the great Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - to direct his own feature film, the Familiars, based on the book series by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson. Not a devastating loss, but a pretty big one all the same.
  • Rodrigo Blaas, a former Pixar animator who up and left the Toy Story studio to move to DreamWorks Animation and direct his own film. Blaas is to direct Alma, a film based on his independently created and eerie short film, whilst this doesn't sound too bad, factor in that movie legend Guillermo Del Toro is set to produce, and you have a potential pay-day for DreamWorks and stiff competition for Disney and Pixar
Only Once in a Full Moon
Over the years, DreamWorks haven't had that many losses in terms of staff, however they have had one big loss in terms of creativity:
  • Aardman Animations, the company collaborated with DreamWorks on many films over the years, Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit and Flushed Away, all great films, however they didn't make quite as much money at the Box Office as DreamWorks would've hoped, that and Aardman weren't happy with the credit DreamWorks took for their films. However Aardman have gone on to other partners, Sony Pictures Animation to be precise, and Arthur Christmas (their first collaborative film) looks great, so DreamWorks may rue the day they let Aardman slip away.
I've no doubt that there will be lots of losses on every front to come, however only time will tell what repercussions will come as a result of this.

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