Fox Animation Heads Pledge "Business as Usual" Amid Disney, Comcast Bids

Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird - Split - Getty - H 2017
Courtesy of subject (Miloro); Getty Images (Baird)

Studio chiefs Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird also discussed their committment to diversity during their Annecy keynote talk.

Fox Animation co-president Andrea Miloro on Wednesday said at a panel at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival that "it's business as usual" at the studio despite the competing bids for assets of 21st Century Fox by Disney and Comcast. 

Added co-president Robert Baird: "We are aware of all of this happening and it’s impossible to predict, and so we are not spending a lot of time trying to predict what might happen."

21st Century Fox has set a stockholder meeting for July 10 to vote on a proposed sale of its studio and cable network assets to Disney. There is now also a competing bid from Comcast.

Miloro and Baird took over as co-presidents in October, overseeing Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios. Fox also has a co-production deal with the U.K.-based Locksmith Animation to augment Blue Sky's slate with one film every 18 months.

"We are so busy building and expanding that we are having way too much fun doing that, and so we just move forward," said Miloro.

To that end, the studio is planning its first musical, Foster, under the Blue Sky banner set for 2021. The musical will be co-directed by The Peanuts Movie helmer Steve Martino and Ferdinand storyboard artist Karen Disher. La La Land producer Mark Platt, and Oscar-winning songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are also on board.

Miloro and Baird said the studio is intensely committed to diversity, and held up Foster as an example. In its 18-year history, Blue Sky had never had a film directed by a woman, and Foster is the first step to remedy that pattern, they said.

"We have a level of diversity at the studio and you feel it in the films of Blue Sky, they connect with people around the world because of the diverse voices at the studio — but still, that was not good enough," said Baird. "We can do better."

The company brought in Glenn Singleton of Courageous Conversations to hold workshops at the studio, which led to script changes on Foster.

"It changed on a fundamental level the development of our musical, because we had a lead who was a minority but we were perpetuating some stereotypes with our storytelling. We realized that and we changed the makeup of some of the main characters," said Baird. "It was profound. So we are committed and we will keep our eye on the ball, because it’s not just the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do because it makes our movies better."

Miloro added that the company aims for 50-50 in gender representation by 2020, joking that their leadership was already 50-50 by 2017. "But that’s just us, and it’s our jobs to keep it going," she said. The company will take a new perspective on how it hires and trains recruits. The exec also added that 34 hires started this week as part of the studio’s expansion.

The studio also has a virtual reality initiative in the works and will be focusing heavily on bringing those projects into its pipeline. "We are determined to crack that code of how you tell a great story in that immersive, surrounding area where you don’t feel like you are standing on the outside watching a story happen," said Baird. "You don’t want the technology to be the star, you want the story to be the star. It still always comes back to story."