Nike chief taps son to oversee Laika studio

Travis Knight is CEO of 'Coraline's' animation company

Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight said Thursday that his son Travis has been named CEO of Laika, the privately held animation studio that hatched "Coraline."

Travis Knight replaces Dale Wahl, a longtime Nike exec who joined the studio after Phil Knight purchased struggling Vinton Studios in 2003 and renamed it Laika.

Travis Knight joined Vinton as a stop-motion animator in 1998, working on "The PJs" with Eddie Murphy Prods. and Imagine Entertainment and the UPN series "Gary & Mike."

Laika also said Wednesday it has named Claire Jennings president of entertainment. Jennings is a producer whose credits include "Coraline" as well as "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" for Aardman Animations and DreamWorks Animation.

"Coraline" is Laika's first full-length movie, and it's considered the first major stop-motion animated feature film to be shot in 3-D.

Focus Features distributed "Coraline," and at $61 million domestically, it's that company's second-biggest success after "Brokeback Mountain."

"Coraline" was made for $60 million. The film is beginning its international rollout now, and a DVD from Universal is expected in the summer.

Laika is developing nine more film projects, including "Here Be Monsters," "The Wall and the Wing" and "Paranorman," the latter based on an original idea from Chris Butler, who was head of storyboards on "Coraline."

It was expected that Travis Knight would eventually assume the top spot at Laika. On Thursday, Phil Knight said the timing was Wahl's idea.

Wahl will help with the transition through October, and he'll stay on as CFO until the company finds a candidate to fill that role.

Based in Portland, Ore., Laika has 298 permanent employees.

"Laika is an audacious, scrappy and inventive community of filmmakers driven by our love of animation," Travis Knight said.
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