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Disney is shuffling animation executives and applying a tighter rein to Fox’s Blue Sky Studios, as the Burbank company continues to process its $71.3 billion acquisition of most of the assets of the former 21st Century Fox.
Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein will join Blue Sky as the Greenwich, Connecticut, animation studio’s co-president alongside current co-president Robert Baird, Disney said Friday. Baird will continue to run the creative side of Blue Sky, reporting to Disney co-chairs Alan Horn and Alan Bergman.
Millstein will oversee the day-to-day operations at Blue Sky, and report to Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris, who is expanding his duties to include a supervisory role at Blue Sky. Millstein steps into the role after former Blue Sky co-president Andrea Miloro left the Fox division last month.
With Millstein moving to Blue Sky, Zootopia producer and creative executive Clark Spencer has been named president, Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bergman and working alongside Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer Jennifer Lee, who continues to report to Horn and Bergman.
Disney’s installation of some of its top animation executives at Blue Sky suggests the company plans to retain the Fox division despite already having a deep roster of talent at its two existing animation studios. Disney’s possible use for Blue Sky, the company behind the Ice Age and Rio franchises, will be to feed content to the company’s streaming service, Disney+, which is set to launch in November.
Blue Sky has hit a rocky patch in recent months. Its 2019 film, the Will Smith-voiced Spies in Disguise, has had its release date pushed twice and seen its budget balloon. The pic is currently scheduled to open Christmas Day, five days after Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The executive moves come after Disney CEO Bob Iger singled out Fox’s film divisions as underperformers on an earnings call Tuesday and said that Horn and Bergman “are now redefining 20th Century Fox’s film strategy for the future, applying the same discipline and standards behind the success of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.”
Under Horn and Bergman, Iger said the Fox divisions are creating a new development slate making movies for theatrical release, Hulu and the upcoming Disney+.
“We are incredibly proud of the strength and depth of leadership in our animation studios, and Andrew, Clark, and Jim are all exemplars of that,” Horn and Bergman said in a statement. “The remarkable success of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios over the past decade is due in large part to the respective leadership of Andrew and Jim and their ability to foster creativity, technology, and culture in equal parts, and we are thrilled that they will be lending their experience to the Blue Sky team along with Robert Baird’s creative guidance. Clark has been an invaluable leader and contributor at Disney Animation, combining exceptional creative and business instincts, and we’re so pleased he will be leading this historic studio in a key role alongside Jennifer Lee.”
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