Skydance Launches Animation Division, Two Movies in the Works

Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who wrote 'Kung Fu Panda,' will pen one of the films.
Jonathan Aibel (left) and Glenn Berger   |   Getty Images
Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who wrote 'Kung Fu Panda,' will pen one of the films.

Skydance, the company behind the upcoming Ryan Reynolds-Jake Gyllenhaal sci-fi thriller Life, is getting into the animation business.

The company is launching an animation division and has formed a multiyear partnership with Ilion Animation Studios, a studio based in Madrid, with the aim of producing both CG-animated feature films and television series.

The news comes just days after Alcon announced plans for its first animated project, the adaptation of kids book series Darkmouth. Animation is one of the genres that consistently does solid business at the box office (and beyond), with last year’s robust revenue in the multi-billions for animated features. Two films cracked the $1 billion mark, while four of the top 10 highest-grossing movies were animated.

Skydance is already well on its way to developing a slate and has two projects in the works.

The first, an untitled project, is being penned by Linda Woolverton, the writer behind many a Disney hit, including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Maleficent.

Plot details are vague, but it is known to center on a teenager who comes of age using her magical powers to defend her family when the opposing forces of light and darkness threaten to divide her kingdom. Skydance is hoping for a 2019 release. Woolverton will serve as a producer on the film alongside Skydance’s David Ellison and Dana Goldberg and Ilion’s Ignacio Pérez Dolset and Jose F San Román.

The second project, with a working title of Luck, is described as a comedy that “pulls back the curtain on the millennia-old battle between the organizations of good luck and bad luck that secretly affects our daily lives,” according to Skydance.

Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, widely respected animation scribes for their work on the Kung Fu Panda trilogy and the recent hit Trolls, are penning the script. They also will serve as producers with Ellison, Goldberg, Dolset and Roman.

“It is incredibly gratifying to see one of my deepest passions come to life as we enter the animation business with Ilion,” Skydance CEO David Ellison said Thursday in a statement. “Together we aim to bring together the most creative visionaries, the best-in-class production skills and the highest degree of technological innovation in the service of great stories.”

Skydance’s Goldberg will oversee the slate.

The animation division is the latest step for the company as it seeks to evolve into a full-fledged, and more active, content producer and not just a financier, with movies such as Life, which will close out SXSW on Saturday, and Geostorm, its delayed environmental disaster movie. It raised $700 million in new financing last year so it could grow, with one result being the acquisition of game developer The Workshop and launching Skydance Interactive.