Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blue Sky

Blue Sky Studios was formed in 1987 by Chris Wedge, one of the first computer animators. Like most companies trying to focus on computer animation, they did a lot of work for commercials and special effects in movies and TV shows. Starting in 1990, Wedge began working on a short animated feature to help demonstrate the power of their system, CGI Studio. It wasn’t heavily worked on until five years later and would eventually be released in 1998, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. This success gave Blue Sky the opportunity to product full length animated films. The studio was bought by 20th Century Fox in 1997, their way of getting into the CG market. Blue Sky thus turned into the successor to Fox Animation Studio. Blue Sky operates under the 20th Century Fox Animation umbrella, the same as Fox Animation Studio. 20th Century Fox Animation itself has released one movie that isn’t related to Blue Sky or produced by an outside animation company, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Directed by Wes Anderson, the quirky stop-motion film was originally going to be animated by Henry Selick, but he left to work on Coraline. He was replaced by Mark Gustafson. Fantastic Mr. Fox, while not a hit at the box office, was universally praised, as most Wes Anderson movies are. Blue Sky is strictly a CG film company, so it seems 20th Century Fox Animation just did it themselves. Blue Sky didn’t always have it easy. The studio was almost closed after the F/X market crashed. Fox had sold off special effects branch and was considering doing away with Blue Sky altogether. What really saved Blue Sky was the release of Ice Age in 2002.

Ice Age, a testing ground for Blue Sky, ended up being a smash hit, grossing $383 million against a $59 million budget. The film received generally favorable reviews, and in the end would be the best reviewed of the whole series. Ice Age gave Blue Sky the ability to continue making movies, and they did exactly that, coming out with Robots a few years later in 2005. While not as big of a hit as Ice Age, it did well enough. They followed with Ice Age’s first sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown, which grossed an impressive $660 million. As mentioned before, however, reviews were not too good. It didn’t matter! They continued to release three more Ice Age sequels with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs grossing the highest of all of them, $886 million. Again, it doesn’t matter if the movie is crap, if kids recognize the characters, they’ll make their parents go to see it. Blue Sky has come out with eleven total films, but only has two franchises to their name: Ice Age and Rio. Ice Age is clearly paying dividends, though the last one, Ice Age: Collision Course, made about half as much as Ice Age: Continental Drift. Probably should try to make an actual good movie, huh? Rio and Rio 2 both made around $500 million but reviews weren’t terribly good for either. The most promising property that Blue Sky has right now is The Peanuts. The Peanuts Movie didn’t blow anyone away at the box office, but it is the highest rated of all their movies. Currently there is no Peanuts sequel in the works, but hopefully they’ll revisit it. Blue Sky, honestly, has one of the worst track records for a modern animation company, speaking only on critical reception. Peanuts, as mentioned before, is their highest rated, with Horton Hears a Who! not far behind. Most of their other films are very much middle of the road, or downright awful. I’m looking at you, Ice Age: Collision Course. Hopefully their next couple of films can bring them into a higher standing, but right now, they’re in the back in the animation department.

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