Blue Sky Studios

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Blue Sky Studios, Inc.
Industry Computer animation
Motion pictures
Founded February 1987; 31 years ago (1987-02)
Founders Chris Wedge
Carl Ludwig
Eugene Troubetzkoy
Alison Brown
David Brown
Michael Ferraro
Headquarters Greenwich, Connecticut, United States
Key people
Carlos Saldanha
Chris Wedge
Brian Keane (COO)[1]
Steve Martino
Products Animated films
Owner 21st Century Fox
(pending acquisition by The Walt Disney Company)
Number of employees
500[2] (2017)
Parent 20th Century Fox

Blue Sky Studios is an American computer animation film studio based in Greenwich, Connecticut that has been owned by 20th Century Fox since 1997. The studio was founded in 1987 by Chris Wedge, Michael Ferraro, Carl Ludwig, Alison Brown, David Brown, and Eugene Troubetzkoy after the company they worked in, MAGI, one of the visual effects studios behind Tron (1982), shut down. Using its in-house rendering software, the studio had worked on visual effects for commercials and films before completely dedicating itself to animated film production in 2002 starting with the release of Ice Age.

Ice Age and Rio are the studio's most successful franchises, while The Peanuts Movie is its most critically acclaimed film. As of 2013, Scrat, a character from the Ice Age films, is the studio's mascot.


1980–89: Formation and early computer animation

In the late 1970s, Chris Wedge, then an undergraduate at Purchase College studying film, was employed by Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. (MAGI). MAGI was an early computer technology company which produced SynthaVision, a software application that could replicate the laws of physics to measure nuclear radiation rays for U.S. government contracts.[3]:12–13 At MAGI, Wedge met Eugene Troubetzkoy, who held a Ph.D in theoretical physics and was one of the first computer animators. Using his background in character animation, Wedge helped MAGI produce animation for television commercials, which eventually led to an offer from Walt Disney Productions to produce animation for the film Tron (1982). After Tron, MAGI hired Carl Ludwig, an electrical engineer,[3]:13 and Mike Ferraro transferred to the film division from the Cad Cam division of MAGI. As MAGI's success began to decline, the company employed David Brown from CBS/Fox Video to be a marketing executive and Alison Brown to be a managing producer.[3]:12–13 After MAGI was sold to Vidmax (Canada), the six individuals—Wedge, Troubetzkoy, Ferraro, Ludwig, David Brown, and Alison Brown—founded Blue Sky Studios in February 1987 to continue the software design and produce computer animation.[3]:13[4]

Ferraro and Ludwig expanded the programming language for Blue Sky Studios' animation software, CGI Studio.[3]:12–13 At the time, scanline renderers were prevalent in the computer graphics industry, and they required computer animators and digital artists to add lighting effects in manually;[3]:13 Troubetzkoy and Ludwig adapted MAGI's ray tracing,[5] algorithms which simulate the physical properties of light in order to produce lighting effects automatically.[3]:13–14 To accomplish this, Ludwig examined how light passes through water, ice, and crystal, and programmed those properties into the software.[3]:13 Following the stock market crash of 1987, Blue Sky Studios did not find their first client until about two years later: a company "that wanted their logo animated so it would be seen flying over the ocean in front of a sunset."[3]:13–14 In order to receive the commission, Blue Sky spent two days rendering a single frame and submitted it to the prospective client. However, once the client accepted their offer, Blue Sky found that they could not produce the entire animation in time without help from a local graphics studio, which provided them with extra computer processors.[3]:14

1989–2002: Television commercials, visual effects, and Bunny

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, Blue Sky Studios concentrated on the production of television commercials and visual effects for film. The studio began by animating commercials that depicted the mechanisms of time-release capsules for pharmaceutical corporations. The studio also produced a Chock Full O' Nuts commercial with a talking coffee bean and developed the first computer-animated M&M's.[3]:14 Using CGI Studio, the studio produced over 200 other commercials for clients such as Chrysler, General Foods, Texaco, and the United States Marines.[6] Blue Sky Studios also produced the computer animation for the "Mathman" video game segments of PBS's Square One Television.[3]:14

In the mid-1990s, MTV hired Blue Sky Studios to animate their network IDs, which led to additional collaboration between the two companies on the film Joe's Apartment (1996), for which Blue Sky animated the insect characters. Other clients included Bell Atlantic, Rayovac, Gillette and Braun.[3]:14 The Braun commercial was awarded a CLIO Award for Advertising.[3]:14 Recalling the award, Carl Ludwig stated that the judges had initially mistaken the commercial as a live action submission as a result of the photorealism of the computer-animated razor.[5][7] In August 1997, 20th Century Fox's Los Angeles-based visual effects company, VIFX, acquired majority interest in Blue Sky Studios to form a new visual effects and animation company, temporarily renamed "Blue Sky/VIFX".[8] Following the studio's expansion, Blue Sky produced character animation for the films Alien Resurrection (1997), A Simple Wish (1997), Mousehunt (1997), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Fight Club (1999).[3]:15

Meanwhile, starting in 1990, Chris Wedge had been working on a short film named Bunny, intended to demonstrate CGI Studio. The film revolves around a rabbit widow who is irritated by a moth. The moth subsequently leads the rabbit into "a heavenly glow, reuniting her with her husband."[3]:15 At the time, Wedge had been the thesis advisor for Carlos Saldanha while Saldanha was a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts; Wedge shared storyboard panels for Bunny with Saldanha during this time. After Saldanha's graduation, Blue Sky Studios hired him as an animator, and he later directed a few commercials. It was not until 1996 when Nina Rappaport, a producer at Blue Sky Studios, assigned Wedge to complete the Bunny project, which required CGI Studio to render fur, glass, and metal from multiple light sources, such as a swinging light bulb and an "ethereal cloudscape". In the initial stages of the Bunny project, Carl Ludwig modified CGI Studio to simulate radiosity, which tracks light rays as they reflect off of multiple surfaces. Blue Sky Studios released Bunny in 1998, and it received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Bunny's success gave Blue Sky Studios the opportunity to produce feature-length films.[3]:15

2002–present: Feature films

Blue Sky Studio's logo prior to 2013

Due to the F/X market crash, Fox decided to leave the visual effects business. In March 1999, they sold VIFX to another visual effects house, Rhythm & Hues Studios,[9] and considered selling Blue Sky next. Studio management pressured staff to sell their remaining shares and options to Fox on the promise of continued employment on feature length films. The studio moved to White Plains NY and started production on Ice Age, an animated comedy. As the film wrapped, Fox feared that it might bomb at the box office. They terminated half of the production staff and tried unsuccessfully to find a buyer for the film and the studio. Instead Ice Age was released to great critical and commercial success. The film got a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and established Blue Sky as the third studio, after Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, to launch a successful CGI franchise.[10]

In January 2009, the studio moved from White Plains, New York to Greenwich, Connecticut, taking advantage of the state's 30 percent tax credit and having more space to grow.[11][2] The studio stated in April 2017 that it intends to stay in Connecticut until 2025.[12]

In 2013, Chris Wedge took a leave of absence to direct Paramount Animation's live-action/computer-animated film Monster Trucks.[13] He has since returned to Blue Sky Studios and is working on multiple projects for the company.[14]

On November 16, 2017, it is reported that NBCUniversal's owner Comcast approached 21st Century Fox to buy out their key assets following the news 10 days earlier that The Walt Disney Company negotiated with Fox to acquire the same assets. Like Disney, the deal would have included 20th Century Fox, and cable entertainment and broadcast satellite networks including FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, and Fox International Channels. It would not include the broadcast Fox network and Fox Television Stations, Fox Sports, and Fox News Channel units, due to anti-trust issues, as Comcast owns NBC and its affiliated news and sports networks.[15] The deal would also have made Blue Sky Studios a sister studio to Illumination Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation, feature animation divisions of NBCUniversal's Universal Pictures.

However, on December 11, Comcast officially dropped the bid, saying that "We never got the level of engagement needed to make a definitive offer.”[16] On December 14, Disney officially confirmed its acquisition of 21st Century Fox's key assets, which is still awaiting approval from the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division.[17] This would also make Blue Sky a sister studio to Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.[18]


Feature films

Released films

# Title Release date Budget Gross RT MC
1 Ice Age March 15, 2002 $59 million $383 million 77% 60
2 Robots March 11, 2005 $75 million $260 million 64% 64
3 Ice Age: The Meltdown March 31, 2006 $80 million $660 million 57% 58
4 Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! March 14, 2008 $85 million $297 million 79% 71
5 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs July 1, 2009 $90 million $886 million 46% 50
6 Rio April 15, 2011 $90 million $484 million 72% 63
7 Ice Age: Continental Drift July 13, 2012 $95 million $877 million 38% 49
8 Epic May 24, 2013 $93 million $268 million 64% 52
9 Rio 2 April 11, 2014 $103 million $500 million 46% 49
10 The Peanuts Movie November 6, 2015 $99 million $246 million 87% 67
11 Ice Age: Collision Course July 22, 2016 $105 million $408 million 16% 34
12 Ferdinand December 15, 2017 $111 million $294 million 71% 58

Upcoming films

# Title Release date Ref(s)
13 Spies in Disguise April 19, 2019 [19][20][21][22]
14 Nimona February 14, 2020 [23][24][25]
15 Foster March 5, 2021 [26][27]

Films in development

Title Ref(s)
Anubis [28][29][30][2][25]
Mutts [31][32][33][34]
Frogkisser! [35][36]
Escape from Hat [37]

Television specials

# Title Release date
1 Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas November 24, 2011
2 Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade March 20, 2016

Short films

# Title Release date
1 Bunny 1998
2 Gone Nutty November 26, 2002
3 Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty September 27, 2005
4 No Time for Nuts November 21, 2006
5 Surviving Sid December 9, 2008
6 Umbrellacorn[38][39] July 26, 2013
7 Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe[40] November 6, 2015
8 Scrat: Spaced Out[41][42] October 11, 2016



Academy Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1998 Bunny Best Animated Short Film Chris Wedge Won
2002 Ice Age Best Animated Feature Nominated
2003 Gone Nutty Best Animated Short Film Carlos Saldanha
2006 No Time for Nuts Chris Renaud and Mike Thurmeier
2011 Rio Best Original Song "Real in Rio"
2017 Ferdinand Best Animated Feature Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte

Golden Globe Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2015 The Peanuts Movie Best Animated Feature Film Steve Martino Nominated
2017 Ferdinand Carlos Saldana
Best Original Song (Home) Nick Jonas, Justin Tranter, and Nick Monson

Annie Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2002 Ice Age Best Animated Feature Lori Forte Nominated
Best Character Animation Mike Thurmeier
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Peter DeSève
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production David Newman
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Brian McEntee
Best Writing in an Animated Feature Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson and Peter Ackerman
2005 Robots Best Character Design in an Animated Feature William Joyce
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature William Joyce and Steve Martino
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown Best Animated Effects Alen Lai
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Peter DeSève
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production Carlos Saldanha
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell
Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature William H. Frake III
2008 Horton Hears a Who! Best Animated Effects Alen Lai
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Sang Jun Lee
Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature Jeff Gabor
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell
Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio
2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Best Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell
Best Voice Acting in a Feature Production John Leguizamo
2012 Rio Best Animated Feature Bruce Anderson and John C. Donkin
Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature Jeff Gabor Won
Patrik Puhala Nominated
Best Character Design in a Animated Feature Sergios Pablos
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Carlos Saldanha
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production Mikael Mutti, Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Sérgio Mendes and John Powell
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Thomas Cardone, Kyle MacNaughton and Peter Chan
Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Jemaine Clement
2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift Best Animated Effects Andrew Schneider
Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell, Adam Schlesinger and Ester Dean
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Nash Dunnigan, Arden Chan, Jon Townley and Kyle Macnaughton
2013 Epic Animated Effects in an Animated Production Alen Lai, David Quirus, Diego Garzon Sanchez, and Ilan Gabai
Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production Thom Roberts
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Chris Wedge
Best Music in an Animated Feature Danny Elfman
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Michael Knapp, Greg Couch, and William Joyce
2014 Rio 2 Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Sang Jun Lee, Jason Sadler, and José Manuel Fernández Oli
Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature John Hurst
Rodrigo Perez-Castro
Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Andy García
2015 The Peanuts Movie Best Animated Feature Craig Schulz, Bryan Schulz, Cornelius Uliano, Paul Feig and Michael J. Travers
Outstanding Achievement in Character Animation in a Feature Production BJ Crawford
Outstanding Achievement in Directing in an Animated Feature Production Steve Martino
Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Alex Garfin
Hadley Belle Miller
2017 Ferdinand Best Design in an Animated Feature Production Thomas Cardone, Arden Chan, Andrew Hickson, Mike Lee and Jason Sadler
Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Harry Hitner and Tim Nordquist

See also


  1. ^ "Vanessa Morrison Re-Ups With Fox, Brian Keane With Blue Sky After 'Ice Age 4′". Deadline. July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Kevin (May 27, 2017). "Blue Sky Studios at 30: Moving beyond 'Ice Age'". Westfair Online. Retrieved May 30, 2017. ...will be released on Dec. 15, followed by “Pigeon Impossible,” scheduled for Jan. 18, 2019. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Friedman, Jake S. (2014). The Art of Blue Sky Studios. San Rafael, California: Insight Editions. ISBN 9781608873173. 
  4. ^ Dumas, Timothy (October 2010). "Animation Domination". Greenwich Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Our Story: Blue Sky Studios". Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky Studios. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Ohmer, Susan (May 1, 1997). "Ray Tracers: Blue Sky Studios". Animation World Network. Retrieved September 29, 2006. 
  7. ^ Mellor, Louisa (14 July 2016). "The 'Ice Age' franchise never would've happened without this movie". Business Insider. Business Insider. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Imaginative Pix takes interest in Blue Sky". Variety. August 27, 1997. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  9. ^ Graser, Marc (March 3, 1999). "Fox to sell visual F/X division to R&H". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ Fritz, Ben (May 2, 2008). "Fox animation soars under Blue Sky". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  11. ^ Strike, Joe (January 28, 2009). "Checking Out Blue Sky's New Connecticut Studio". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (7 April 2017). "Fox's Blue Sky Studios Staying in Connecticut Through 2025". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  13. ^ Finke, Nikki (July 31, 2013). "Paramount Animation Plans 'Monster Trucks' Live Action-Toon Franchise: In Final Talks With Blue Sky's Chris Wedge To Direct". Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
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  15. ^ C. Chmielewski, Dawn; Hayes, Dade (2017-11-16). "Comcast-Fox Deal Talks Latest Entry Into Media Merger Mania". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-11-28. 
  16. ^ Reuter Staff, Reuter Staff (2017-12-11). "Comcast drops bid for Fox assets, leaving Disney in pole position". Reuters. Retrieved 2017-12-11. 
  17. ^ Riley, Hadas Gold and Charles. "Disney is buying most of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-12-14. 
  18. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (14 December 2017). "Disney Deal Could Redraw Fox's Animation Business". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 December 2017. 
  19. ^ Fox Consumer Products (August 23, 2016). "TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX CONSUMER PRODUCTS - BLE 2016 PREVIEW STATEMENT" (Press release). Virtual Press Office. Retrieved September 22, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Pigeon Impossible". Box Office Mojo (2019). Retrieved September 22, 2016. 
  21. ^ McNary, Dave (March 14, 2017). "Animated Movie 'Darkmouth' Finds Directors in David Pimentel, Douglas Sweetland". Variety. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  22. ^ "Spies in Disguise to be Voiced by Will Smith and Tom Holland". 9 October 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  23. ^ Kit, Borys (June 11, 2015). "Fox Animation Nabs 'Nimona' Adaptation With 'Feast' Director (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  24. ^ Riley, Jennel (February 9, 2017). "Oscar Winner Patrick Osborne Returns With First-Ever VR Nominee 'Pearl'". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2017. I’m working with Blue Sky Animation and Fox on “Nimona,... 
  25. ^ a b Couch, Aaron (June 30, 2017). "Fox Carves Out Dates for 6 Mystery Marvel Movies". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  26. ^ "20th Century Fox Pushes Back Alita and The Predator". 2018-02-13. Retrieved 2018-02-13. 
  27. ^ Amidi, Amid (13 February 2018). "Karen Disher Set To Be First Woman Director At Blue Sky Studios". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  28. ^ Chitwood, Adam (May 16, 2013). "DreamWorks Animation Moves B.O.O. Release Up to June 5, 2015 and TROLLS to November 4, 2016; Fox Dates ANUBIS and FERDINAND". Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Ice Age 5 Set for July 15, 2016, Anubis Moves to 2018". December 20, 2013. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2013. 
  30. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (April 13, 2008). "Fox Animation weaves 'Tapestry'". Variety. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  31. ^ Kit, Borys (July 22, 2011). "'Mutts' Comic Strip Headed to Big Screen From 20th Century Fox (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 23, 2011. 
  32. ^ Millero, Ralph (November 2, 2011). "Ralph Millero's Photos". Facebook. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  33. ^ Cavna, Michael (November 22, 2014). "MUTTS ADO ABOUT 'NOTHING': Patrick McDonnell gives the gift of warmth in wonderful 'Mutts' musical's Kennedy Center world premiere". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 2, 2015. 
  34. ^ Dueben, Alex (December 13, 2016). "For Mutts' Patrick McDonnell, It's Always the Year of Yesh!". CBR. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  35. ^ Ford, Rebecca (September 28, 2016). "Fox Animation, Blue Sky Adapting Princess and the Frog Tale 'Frogkisser!' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 29, 2016. 
  36. ^ Ford, Ashley (April 4, 2017). "'Boss Baby' Screenwriter to Pen Fox's Animated 'Frogkisser!'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 
  37. ^ Patten, Dominic (April 27, 2017). "'Little Prince's Mark Osborne & Scribe Adam Kline Link With Fox Animation For Two New Projects". Deadline. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  38. ^ "Umbrellacorn (2013)". Blue Sky Studios. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Umbrellacorn". Rooftop Films. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  40. ^ Truitt, Brian (November 6, 2015). "Sneak peek: Scrat heads to space for 'Ice Age' short". USA Today. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  41. ^ "Ice Age: Collision Course 4K Blu-ray". August 30, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2016. 
  42. ^ Ice Age Movies (August 30, 2016). "#IceAge #CollisionCourse is coming to Blu-ray & DVD Oct. 11 with all-new heroes, worlds and adventures! Here's your exclusive sneak peek at a Special Feature". Facebook. Retrieved September 7, 2016. 
  43. ^ a b c d SGI (April 4, 2002). "Blue Sky Is Red Hot With Ice Age" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  44. ^ "Blue Sky Studios' fully-CG xenomorph adds new menace to infamous alien". American Cinematographer. The American Society of Cinematographers. November 1997. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  45. ^ Patten, Fred (November 12, 2014). "Book Review: The Art of Blue Sky Studios". Animation World Network. Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  46. ^ Leigh, Danny (August 2000). "Jesus' Son (1999)". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  47. ^ Lambie, Ryan (October 2, 2014). "The Art Of Blue Sky Studios review". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  48. ^ Mink, Eric (April 13, 2000). "The Brains Behind the Talking Fish". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  49. ^ Moltenbrey, Karen (August 2000). "After Earth". Computer Graphics World. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  50. ^ MacFarlane, Seth (2006). Family Guy season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Sibling Rivalry" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  51. ^ Lowe, R. Kinsey (April 3, 2006). "`Ice Age': It came, thawed, conquered". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 

Further reading

  • Friedman, Jake S. (2014). The Art of Blue Sky Studios. San Rafael, California: Insight Editions. ISBN 9781608873173. 

External links

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