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With the completion of the sale of Technicolor Post to Streamland Media earlier this month, Technicolor has stepped away from its legacy business in color and is proceeding with its next chapter — an intention to make visual effects and animation a central part of its business, including an aggressive plan to potentially double the size of its feature animation offerings during the next year and later expand beyond service provider into content producer.
As part of this initiative, on Wednesday it is launching Technicolor Creative Studios, the moniker that will be used as the umbrella for its global family of VFX and animation studios, with an aim to better take advantage of its collective creative and technical expertise. Under this banner, each studio will retain its brand and market, including leading feature VFX brand MPC Film, whose work in recent years included VFX Oscar winners 1917 and Blade Runner 2049, as well as nominees The Lion King and The One and Only Ivan.
The Technicolor brands also include MPC Episodic (series work), MPC Advertising (commercials), The Mill (advertising), MR. X (feature and episodic VFX), Technicolor Games and Mikros Animation. Combined, they encompass bases in Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Mumbai, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Shanghai, Bangalore and Adelaide.
MPC vet Christian Roberton has been named president of Technicolor Creative Studios, reporting to Technicolor CEO Richard Moat. “The brands are essential for us; they are so familiar,” Roberton says, adding, “the idea behind Technicolor Creative Studios is collaboration and allowing those different brands to share technology, talent and workflow.” He reports that in all, Technicolor’s VFX and animation business is approaching 8,000 employees and could reach 11,000-12,000 in the next year.
Robertson’s senior management team includes; Philip Greenlow, global managing director of MPC Film; Tom Williams, global managing director of MPC Episodic (primarily for European production); Mark Benson, CEO of MPC Advertising; Laura Fitzpatrick, global managing director, Mr. X; Josh Mandel, CEO of The Mill; David Patton, president of customer experience and advertising; and former Fox Animation co-president Andrea Miloro (whose responsibilities at Fox also encompassed Blue Sky Studios), who earlier this year was named president of Mikros Animation.
Disney closed the previously Fox-owned Blue Sky — perhaps best known for the Ice Age franchise — earlier this year, leaving a void in feature animation on the eastern part of North America. Meanwhile, Technicolor’s “ambition is firmly set” in that area, as Mikros Animation could see some rapid growth. “We’re potentially looking to double the size our feature animation business,” Roberton says of Mikros, which is based in Montreal and Paris with present work including Spin Master’s PAW Patrol: The Movie and Paramount’s The Tiger’s Apprentice.
“Currently we aim to do as many as three features at any given time. We’d like to get to six, and that’s based on the demand. We are seeing streaming platforms looking at creating a lot of animated content,” Roberton says. “Andrea comes with a wealth of knowledge and some great connections to talent that were at Blue Sky. She’s coming in to help us with that growth.” He adds that this might include 700 to 800 new animation hires over the next year.
“We want to focus on service work, but of course there are often conversations about developing our own material and bringing directors in-house,” Roberton continues. “So not now, but that definitely doesn’t rule it out in the future because if we are going to attract the talent that we want to attract, it’s inevitable that we are going to start to have ideas around projects that we can develop as well.”
Looking at Technicolor’s established VFX business, current and recent VFX work includes Cruella, The Little Mermaid and the Lion King prequel for Disney, Mortal Kombat for Warner Brothers, and Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley for Searchlight Pictures, as well as episodic and streaming projects such as The Nevers for HBO and The Wheel of Time for Amazon. “Live-action production is ramping up, and more than 90 percent of our 2021 visual effects and animation pipeline is already secured,” reports CEO Moat.
As to the ways in which animation and VFX is being created, Roberton believes “we are coming up to an inflection point within our industry, where real-time virtual production coupled with what we see as a huge demand for more and more content is beginning to converge.” He adds that real-time virtual production is something the company expects to offer across features, episodic, advertising, games and animation production.
“I think visual effects is on a massive growth trajectory. If you look at the streaming content and the quality of productions on the streaming platform and the demand — people are consuming more content than ever before,” he concludes. “I have not seen an outlook as strong [as it is now] in my 20 years in visual effects.”
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