Blue Sky Studios was an established low-budget animation studio owned by 20th Century Fox, a division which had created one highly-successful animation series in four Ice Age films made to date, but none of their other films had matched that success. Their 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)
Warning: Does Not Contain Peanuts
Charlie Brown is a young, clumsy boy who 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.
|Setting||20th Century America|
|Music||Composed 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 so 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 directing 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 fifty 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)
|Directors||Mike Thurmeier & Galen Tan Chu|
|Plot||When trying to bury his acorn, Scrat accidentally uncovers a frozen UFO and reactivates it, which 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 them eating an egg and returning it to its mother, informs the herd that he is learnt 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.|
|Setting||Ice Age & the Solar System, 20,000 BC|
|Others in the Series|
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)
|Plot||Ferdinand 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?|
|Load of Bull|
|Music||Soundtrack composed by John Powell, songs:|
|Inspiration||The Story of Ferdinand (1936) by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson|
This is an adaptation of a popular children's story which 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 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)
|Directors||Troy Quane & Nick Bruno|
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 discover who has been framing Sterling and recover the stolen weapon system, and defeat the most perfect killing machine ever devised with Beckett's nonlethal devices?
|Setting||21st Century Japan, Washington DC, North Sea, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Venice|
|Music||Soundtrack composed by Theodore Shapiro, Songs by:|
|Inspiration||Short animated film Pigeon: Impossible by Lucas Martell|
Originally intended to be the final animated film from Blue Sky Studios before being purchased 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 Robohand3 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.