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The Ultimate Blue Sky Studios Animated Film Guide: 2015-2019

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The Ultimate Blue Sky Studios Animated Film Guide
2002-2009 | 2010-2014 | 2015-2019

Blue Sky Studios was an established low-budget animation studio owned by 20th Century Fox. It had created one highly-successful animation series in Ice Age, but none of their other films had matched that success. The original President of 20th Century Fox Animation, Chris Meledandri, who produced their early films as well as two Oscar-nominated animated short films, left in 2007 when he was head-hunted by Universal Pictures to found their animation studio, Illumination Entertainment. Blue Sky had since enjoyed modest success with Rio, two films about a rare blue   parrot, but had not had a hit on the same scale as their earliest films. During this period the studio's founder, producer and voice of Scrat, Chris Wedge, wanted to direct live-action films1.

Below are listed Blue Sky Studio's films made during this period. Characters and actors in Bold appear in other Blue Sky films. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that is not about men.

10. Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie by Schulz (2015)

DirectorsSteve Martino
Plot

Warning: Does Not Contain Peanuts

Charlie Brown is a clumsy young boy. He fancies a little red-haired girl who has recently arrived in the area and started at the school. However, everything he does to try and impress her backfires, leaving him feeling insecure. Meanwhile his dog Snoopy writes a story about fighting German flying ace The Red Baron in aerial combat during the Great War.

Length88 minutes
Setting20th Century America
Characters
  • Charlie Brown, clumsy, nervous schoolboy (Noah Schnapp)
  • Linus, Charlie's best friend (Alex Garfin)
  • Schroeder, piano-playing schoolboy (Noah Johnston)
  • Snoopy, Charlie's imaginative beagle (Bill Meléndez)
  • Woodstock, a bird (Bill Meléndez)
  • Lucy, Linus' bossy sister (Hadley Belle Miller)
  • Peppermint Patty, sporty schoolgirl (Venus Omega Schultheis)
  • Sally Brown, Charlie's younger sister (Mariel Sheets)
  • Violet, Lucy's best friend and schoolgirl (Madisyn Shipmen)
  • Pig-Pen, filthy schoolboy (AJ Teece)
  • Franklin, schoolboy (Marelik 'Mar Mar' Walker)
  • Shermy, schoolboy (William Wunsch)
  • Marcie, bookish schoolgirl and Patty's best friend (Rebecca Bloom)
  • Little Red-Haired Girl, schoolgirl and love interest (Francesca Angelucci Capaldi)
  • Miss Othmar, teacher (Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews)
BechdelPass
MusicComposed by Vince Guaraldi

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie by Schulz, also known as The Peanuts Movie, is based on the comic strip created by Charles M Schulz in 1950. Popular in the 1950s-70s, and hence well-known by the grandparents of the intended audience, this was an attempt to bring the characters into the 21st Century, yet the film assumes that the audience knows who the characters are despite this being the first film featuring the characters for 35 years. It attempts to recreate the original style in 3D. Schulz' family chose Martino to direct as they had been impressed with his direction of Dr Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! (2008). Snoopy and Woodstock were played by archive recordings of animator/director/voice artist Bill Meléndez who had adapted Peanuts for television and voiced the characters for over 50 years (1965-2006) before his death in 2008.

The film was the seventh most successful animated film of the year2 but it was announced by the Schulz family that there were no intentions to make a sequel in the near future.

11. Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)

DirectorsMike Thurmeier & Galen Tan Chu
PlotWhen trying to bury his acorn, Scrat accidentally uncovers a frozen UFO and reactivates it. It flies through the Solar System causing chaos and inadvertently sending a giant asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Meanwhile Manny is having a hard time accepting that his daughter is about to get married when Buck, who has angered a family of dinobirds by stopping from them eating an egg (which he returned to its mother), informs the herd that he has learned of a prophecy of impending destruction by asteroid. Only by travelling to the asteroid's expected strike zone, known as Geotopia, can extinction of mammalian life be averted.
Length90 minutes
SettingIce Age & the Solar System, 20,000 BC
Characters
  • Manfred 'Manny', a woolly mammoth (Ray Romano)
  • Diego, a sabre-tooth tiger or smilodon (Denis Leary)
  • Sid, a giant sloth (John Leguizamo)
  • Ellie, Manny's wife and Peaches' mother (Queen Latifah)
  • Buck, one-eyed dino-hunting insane weasel (Simon Pegg)
  • Peaches, Manny and Ellie's daughter (Keke Palmer)
  • Crash and Eddie, opossums (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck)
  • Julian, Peaches' fiancé who seeks Manny's approval (Adam DeVine)
  • Granny, Sid's grandmother (Wanda Sykes)
  • Shira, a pirate sabre-toothed tiger (Jennifer Lopez)
  • Neil deBuck Weasel, Buck's imaginary scientist friend (Neil deGrasse Tysson)
  • Shangri Llama, spiritual leader of Geotopia (Jesse Tyler Ferguson)
  • Brooke, ground sloth and Sid's love interest (Jessie J)
  • Gavin, Gertie and Roger, flying dinobirds (Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz & Max Greenfield)
  • Scrat, an acorn-obsessed sabre-tooth squirrel (Chris Wedge)
BechdelPass
Others in the Series
  • 1. Ice Age (2002)
  • 3. Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
  • 5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
  • 7. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Spin Offs
  • Gone Nutty (2002)
  • No Time for Nuts (2006)
  • Surviving Sid (2008)
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011)
  • Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe (2015)
  • Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade (2016)
  • Scrat: Spaced Out (2016)

The story was inspired by the frozen UFO that was briefly glimpsed in Ice Age. A sequence to explain the UFO was written but did not make the final film. This would have had Scrat encounter the intergalactic race of Scratazons, highly advanced feminine Scrat-like squirrels who had travelled to Earth to gather nuts and lived on an acorn-shaped mothership. They had also carved the obelisk that predicted the asteroid's impact.

Ice Age: Collision Course, though successful, was critically hated and made less than half the amount of the previous two films in the series, despite costing over $10 million more. It was also the first film in the series not to be the most successful animated film of the year. In fact it finished seventh, behind Pixar's Finding Dory, Disney's Zootopia, Illumination Entertainment's The Secret Life of Pets, Disney's Moana, Illumination Entertainment's Sing and DreamWorks Animations' Kung Fu Panda 3.

12. Ferdinand (2017)

DirectorCarlos Saldanha
PlotFerdinand is a young, pacifist bull raised in a bullfight training camp. Uninterested in violence he escapes to a farm where he can live among flowers with a young girl called Nina. When Ferdinand inadvertently causes chaos in a nearby town's china shop he is re-captured and chosen to fight the final fight against Spain's greatest bullfighter, El Primero, just as he realises that bulls never win. Who will have a cowlick hairstyle? Can Ferdinand save the day and himself?
Length100 minutes
SettingSpain, mid-1930s
Load of Bull
  • Ferdinand, a bull who likes flowers, not fighting (adult: John Cena, calf: Colin H Murphy)
  • Valiente, highly aggressive bull (adult: Bobby Cannavale, calf: Jack Gore)
  • Angus, a Scottish Highland bull who struggles to see through his long hair (David Tennant)
  • Bones (adult: Anthony Anderson, calf: Nile Diaz:)
  • Guapo (adult: Peyton Manning, calf: Jet Jurgensmeyer)
  • Maquina (Tim Nordquist)
  • Raf, Ferdinand's father (Jeremy Sisto)
Characters
  • Lupe, calming goat and bull trainer (Kate McKinnon)
  • El Primero, famous retiring bull fighter (Miguel Ángel Silvestre)
  • Nina, Ferdinand's owner (adult: Lily Day, child: Julia Scarpa Saldanha)
  • Juan, Nina's father (Juanes Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez )
  • Paco, Nina's dog (Jerrod Carmichael)
  • Una, Dos & Cuatro, hedgehogs (Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, Gabriel Iglesias)
MusicSoundtrack composed by John Powell, songs:
  • 'Home' by Nick Jonas, Justin Tranter and Nick Monson
  • 'Watch Me' by Nick Jonas, Jason Evigan, Sean Douglas, Jonathan Tucker and PJ Bianco
  • 'Lay Your Head On Me' by Alexander Izquierdo, Stefan Johnson, Juan Aristizabal, Marcus Lomax and Jordan Johnson
BechdelPass
InspirationThe Story of Ferdinand (1936) by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson

This is an adaptation of the popular children's story that had previously been adapted as animated short Disney film Ferdinand the Bull in 1938. Unsurprisingly the film attracted intense criticism from pro-Bull Fighting groups in Spain. Curiously despite the anti-fighting message, the star of the film, John Cena, is a wrestler.

Ferdinand was Oscar-nominated for Best Animated Film, losing to Pixar's Coco, and was the sixth most-successful animated film of 2017 behind Illumination's Despicable Me 3, Pixar's Coco, DreamWorks Animation's The Boss Baby, Pixar's Cars 3 and Warner Animation Group's The Lego Batman Movie.

13. Spies in Disguise (2019)

DirectorsTroy Quane & Nick Bruno
Plot

Lance Sterling, the world's most awesome spy, is sent on a mission to recover a sophisticated assassin drone from a Japanese arms dealer, but instead is framed for its theft. Hunted by his own agency and wanting to clear his name, Sterling reluctantly teams up with the unorthodox scientist Walter Beckett, who believes in nonlethal inventions, as he had heard Beckett boast he had invented a method of making spies disappear.

Sterling inadvertently drinks Beckett's formula, which has the power to transform people into pigeons. Can a pigeon and backroom boffin with nonlethal devices discover who has been framing Sterling, recover the stolen weapon system, and defeat the most perfect killing machine ever devised?

Length98 minutes
Setting21st Century Japan, Washington DC, North Sea, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Venice
Characters
  • Lance Sterling, framed spy turned into a pigeon (Will Smith)
  • Walter Beckett, eccentric inventor and pacifistic genius (Tom Holland, young Walter: Jarrett Bruno)
  • Marcy Kappel, agent who believes Sterling is a traitor (Rashida Jones)
  • Robo-Hand, bionic-armed terrorist seeking vengeance against Sterling by framing him (Ben Mendelsohn)
  • Joy Jenkins, Spy agency director (Reba McEntire)
  • Eyes, agent specialist in spectral analysis and quantum optical thermography (Karen Gillan)
  • Ears, agent specialist in communications (DJ Khaled)
  • Wendy Beckett, Walter's deceased mother who was a police officer (Rachel Brosnahan)
  • Katsu Kimura, overweight Japanese arms dealer (Masi Oka)
BechdelPass
MusicSoundtrack composed by Theodore Shapiro, songs by:
  • 'Rocket Fuel' by Gary DeCarlo, Paul Leka, Dale Frashuer, David Jolicoeur, Kelvin Mercer and Josh Davis aka DJ Shadow
  • 'Freak of Nature' by Mark Ronson, Thomas Brenneck, Ilsey Juber and Alana Chenevert
  • 'Knock Knock' by Woo Min Lee, Eun Jee Sim and Mayu Wakisaka
  • '(They Long to Be) Close to You' by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
  • 'Then There Were Two' by Mark Ronson, Brandon Anderson) and Tommy Brenneck
  • 'Con Calma' by Michael Grier, Edmond Leary, Shawn Moltke, Terri Moltke, Darrin O'Brien, Juan Salinas, Oscar Salinas, Ramon Ayala and David Macias
  • 'It Takes Two' by James Brown and Robert Ginyard Jnr
  • 'They Gotta Go' by Jonathan H & Nathan M Smith and Bobby Ross Avila
  • 'Fly' by Mark Ronson, Alana Chenevert, Alexander 'Eskeerdo' Izquierdo, Maxime & Clément Picard
  • 'Turn Down for What' by William Grigahcine, Steve Guess and Jonathan H Smith
InspirationShort animated film Pigeon: Impossible by Lucas Martell

Originally intended to be the final animated film from Blue Sky Studios before its purchase by Disney, it instead became the first to be released after the deal was completed and the final animated film of the decade. More than just a spoof of James Bond films, this film features similarities with Tom Holland's earlier film of the year, Spider-Man: Far From Home, as both involve Tom Holland's character in Venice fighting stolen drones as well as villains who use holographic technology to disguise themselves. It is also an unlikely buddy movie and very much a spy film for the 21st Century yet, although the film has been praised for its diverse characters, it does use the 'villain with a robotic hand' trope, first used by Dr No in 1962.

Technically the title is misleading; only one spy is seen in disguise and even then, as Sterling is turned into a pigeon, whether changing species counts as a 'disguise' per se is a matter of debate. The other character who changes their appearance, the villainous Robo-Hand3 appears to be acting as a terrorist seeking personal revenge, and not the employee of an enemy government agency on a infiltration or information-gathering mission.

Despite being Blue Sky Studios' fourth-highest rated animated film yet, it was by far their least commercially successful. It failed to make the top ten animated films of the year list.

Into the Future

In early 2019 21st Century Fox, the parent company of 20th Century Fox including Blue Sky Studios, was purchased by the Walt Disney Corporation for $71 billion. Officially Disney have said they have no plans to close Blue Sky Studios, yet as Disney own two more prestigious animation studios, the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, do they need to own a third? Blue Sky Studios' continued existence may well depend on the success of the films in production at the time of acquisition.

1In 2016 his first live-action film Monster Trucks, made by Paramount not Blue Sky Studios, bombed. It recouped only $60 million from its $120 million production budget, which, taking marketing costs into consideration, lost the studio over $120 million.2Behind Illumination Entertainment's Minions, Pixar's Inside Out, Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Transylvania 2, DreamWorks Animation's Home, Pixar's The Good Dinosaur and Nickelodeon Movies' The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.3The character is called 'Killian' in the credits but never referred to as such, as his identity is unknown.

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