Blue Sky Studios

Blue Sky Studios, Inc. is an American computer animation film studio based in Greenwich, Connecticut. It is a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox Animation, a division of The Walt Disney Studios.

Blue Sky Studios, Inc.
IndustryComputer animation
Motion pictures
FoundedFebruary 22, 1987 (1987-02-22)
  • Chris Wedge
  • Carl Ludwig
  • Eugene Troubetzkoy
  • Alison Brown
  • David Brown
  • Michael Ferraro
Headquarters1 American Lane, ,
Key people
  • Robert Baird (Co-President)[1]
  • Andrew Millstein (Co-President)[2][3]
  • Brian Keane (COO)[4]
ProductsAnimated films
Number of employees
500[5] (2017)
Parent20th Century Fox Animation
(The Walt Disney Studios) 

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, 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. The film production started with the release of the studio's first release Ice Age on March 15, 2002 by 20th Century Fox. In March 2019, the studio was acquired by Disney, upon their acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets.

Blue Sky has produced 12 feature films, with its latest release being Ferdinand on December 15, 2017 and its next release being Spies in Disguise on December 25, 2019. Ice Age and Rio are the studio's most successful franchises, while The Peanuts Movie is its most critically praised film. As of 2013, Scrat, a character from the Ice Age films, is the studio's mascot.


1980–1989: 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.[6]: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,[6]: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.[6]: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.[6]:13[7]

At Blue Sky, Ferraro and Ludwig expanded on CGI Studio, the studio programming language they started at MAGI and began using it for animation production.[6]: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;[6]:13 Troubetzkoy and Ludwig adapted MAGI's ray tracing,[8] algorithms which simulate the physical properties of light in order to produce lighting effects automatically.[6]:13–14 To accomplish this, Ludwig examined how light passes through water, ice, and crystal, and programmed those properties into the software.[6]: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."[6]: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.[6]:14

1989–2002: Television commercials and visual effects

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.[6]:14 Using CGI Studio, the studio produced over 200 other commercials for clients such as Chrysler, General Foods, Texaco, and the United States Marines.[9]

In 1996, MTV collaborated with Blue Sky Studios on the film Joe's Apartment, for which Blue Sky animated the insect characters. Other clients included Bell Atlantic, Rayovac, Gillette and Braun.[6]:14 The Braun commercial was awarded a CLIO Award for Advertising.[6]: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.[8][10] 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".[11] Following the studio's expansion, Blue Sky produced character animation for the films Alien Resurrection (1997), A Simple Wish (1997), Mouse Hunt (1997), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Fight Club (1999).[6]: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."[6]: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.[6]:15

2002–2018: Feature films under 20th Century Fox

In March 1999, Fox decided to sell VIFX to another visual effects house, Rhythm & Hues Studios, while Blue Sky Studios would remain under Fox.[12] According to Chris Wedge, Fox considered selling Blue Sky as well by 2000 due to financial difficulties in the visual effects industry in general. Instead, Wedge, film producer Lori Forte, and animation executive Chris Meledandri presented Fox with a script for a comedy feature film titled Ice Age.[13] 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. 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 by 20th Century Fox on March 15, 2002, and was a critical and commercial success, receiving a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003.[14] The film established Blue Sky as the third studio, after Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, to launch a successful CGI franchise.[13]

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.[15][5] The studio stated in April 2017 that it intends to stay in Connecticut until 2025.[16]

In 2013, Chris Wedge took a leave of absence to direct Paramount Animation's live-action/computer-animated film Monster Trucks.[17] He has since returned to Blue Sky Studios and is working on multiple projects for the company.[18]

2019–present: Disney era

Blue Sky Studios was acquired by The Walt Disney Company as part of their 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox,[19] which concluded on March 20, 2019.[20] On March 21, Disney announced that Blue Sky Studios and its parent company 20th Century Fox Animation would be integrated as units within the Walt Disney Studios with co-presidents Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird continuing to lead the studio reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.[21] In July 2019, Miloro announced that she would be stepping down from her role as co-president leaving Baird as sole president.[22]

In August 2019, former Walt Disney Animation Studios head Andrew Millstein was named as co-president of Blue Sky Studios alongside Baird, while Pixar Animation Studios president Jim Morris would also be taking a supervising role.[2][3]


Feature films

Released films

# Title Release date Distributor/Co-production with Budget Gross Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1Ice AgeMarch 15, 200220th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
$59 million$383 million77%60
2RobotsMarch 11, 2005$75 million$260 million64%64
3Ice Age: The MeltdownMarch 31, 2006$80 million$660 million57%58
4Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!March 14, 2008$85 million$297 million79%71
5Ice Age: Dawn of the DinosaursJuly 1, 2009$90 million$886 million46%50
6RioApril 15, 2011$484 million72%63
7Ice Age: Continental DriftJuly 13, 2012$95 million$877 million38%49
8EpicMay 24, 2013$93 million$268 million64%52
9Rio 2April 11, 2014$103 million$500 million46%49
10The Peanuts MovieNovember 6, 2015$99 million$246 million87%67
11Ice Age: Collision CourseJuly 22, 2016$105 million$408 million18%34
12FerdinandDecember 15, 201720th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
Davis Entertainment
$111 million$296 million72%58

Upcoming films

# Title Release date Distributor/Co-production with Ref(s)
13Spies in DisguiseDecember 25, 201920th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
Chernin Entertainment
14NimonaJanuary 14, 202220th Century Fox
20th Century Fox Animation
Vertigo Entertainment

Television specials

# Title Release date
1Ice Age: A Mammoth ChristmasNovember 24, 2011
2Ice Age: The Great Egg-ScapadeMarch 20, 2016

Short films

# Title Release date
1BunnyNovember 2, 1998
2Gone NuttyNovember 26, 2002
3Aunt Fanny's Tour of BootySeptember 27, 2005
4No Time for NutsNovember 21, 2006
5Surviving SidDecember 9, 2008
6Scrat's Continental Crack-Up[31]December 25, 2010
7Scrat's Continental Crack-Up: Part 2[31]December 16, 2011
8Umbrellacorn[32][33]July 26, 2013
9Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe[34]November 6, 2015
10Scrat: Spaced Out[35][36]October 11, 2016



Titles Movies Release years
Ice Age 5 2002–present
Rio 2 2011–present


Academy Awards

1998BunnyBest Animated Short FilmChris WedgeWon
2002Ice AgeBest Animated FeatureNominated
2003Gone NuttyBest Animated Short FilmCarlos Saldanha and John C. Donkin
2006No Time for NutsChris Renaud and Mike Thurmeier
2011RioBest Original Song"Real in Rio"
Sérgio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
2017FerdinandBest Animated FeatureCarlos Saldanha and Lori Forte

Annie Awards

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 John David Thornton
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 an 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
2019 Spies in Disguise Outstanding Achievement for Character Design in an Animated Feature Production José Manuel Fernández Oli Pending
Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production Mark Ronson and Theodore Shapiro Pending

Critic's Choice Awards

2002Ice AgeBest Animated FilmChris Wedge and Carlos SaldanhaNominated
2015The Peanuts MovieSteve Martino

Golden Globe Awards

2015The Peanuts MovieBest Animated Feature FilmSteve MartinoNominated
2017FerdinandCarlos Saldana
Best Original Song (Home)Nick Jonas, Justin Tranter, and Nick Monson

See also


  1. Kilday, Gregg (October 30, 2017). "Fox Animation Names Andrea Miloro, Robert Baird Co-Presidents". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  2. Ryan, Faughnder (August 9, 2019). "Disney shuffles animation and Blue Sky studio ranks after Fox acquisition". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  3. Lang, Brent (August 9, 2019). "Disney Taps Andrew Millstein, Clark Spencer for Top Animation Posts". Variety. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  4. "Vanessa Morrison Re-Ups With Fox, Brian Keane With Blue Sky After 'Ice Age 4′". Deadline. July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  5. 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.
  6. Friedman, Jake S. (2014). The Art of Blue Sky Studios. San Rafael, California: Insight Editions. ISBN 9781608873173.
  7. Dumas, Timothy (October 2010). "Animation Domination". Greenwich Magazine. Archived from the original on May 6, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  8. "Our Story: Blue Sky Studios". Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky Studios. Archived from the original on October 21, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  9. Ohmer, Susan (May 1, 1997). "Ray Tracers: Blue Sky Studios". Animation World Network. Retrieved September 29, 2006.
  10. Mellor, Louisa (July 14, 2016). "The 'Ice Age' franchise never would've happened without this movie". Business Insider. Business Insider. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  11. "Imaginative Pix takes interest in Blue Sky". Variety. August 27, 1997. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  12. Graser, Marc (March 3, 1999). "Fox to sell visual F/X division to R&H". Variety. Variety Media. Archived from the original on February 19, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  13. Fritz, Ben (May 2, 2008). "Fox animation soars under Blue Sky". Variety. Variety Media. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  14. "The 75th Academy Awards, 2003". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  15. Strike, Joe (January 28, 2009). "Checking Out Blue Sky's New Connecticut Studio". Animation World Network. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  16. McNary, Dave (April 7, 2017). "Fox's Blue Sky Studios Staying in Connecticut Through 2025". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  17. 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.
  19. Giardina, Carolyn (December 14, 2017). "Disney Deal Could Redraw Fox's Animation Business". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  20. Szalai, Georg; Bond, Paul (March 20, 2019). "Disney Closes $71.3 Billion Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  21. Hipes, Patrick (March 22, 2019). "After Trying Day, Disney Sets Film Leadership Lineup". Deadline. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  22. Keegan, Rebecca (July 25, 2019). "Fox Animation Co-President Andrea Miloro Stepping Down". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  23. Fox Consumer Products (August 23, 2016). "TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX CONSUMER PRODUCTS - BLE 2016 PREVIEW STATEMENT" (Press release). Virtual Press Office. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  24. "Pigeon Impossible". Box Office Mojo (2019). Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  25. McNary, Dave (March 14, 2017). "Animated Movie 'Darkmouth' Finds Directors in David Pimentel, Douglas Sweetland". Variety. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  26. "Spies in Disguise to be Voiced by Will Smith and Tom Holland". October 9, 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  27. Lang, Brent; Rubin, Rebecca (May 7, 2019). "Disney Announces New 'Star Wars' Films, Moves 'Avatar' Sequels". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  28. Kit, Borys (June 11, 2015). "Fox Animation Nabs 'Nimona' Adaptation With 'Feast' Director (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  29. 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,...
  30. Couch, Aaron (June 30, 2017). "Fox Carves Out Dates for 6 Mystery Marvel Movies". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  31. Debruge, Peter (June 28, 2012). "Ice Age: Continental Drift". Variety. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  32. "Umbrellacorn (2013)". Blue Sky Studios. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  33. "Umbrellacorn". Rooftop Films. Archived from the original on July 6, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
  34. Truitt, Brian (November 6, 2015). "Sneak peek: Scrat heads to space for 'Ice Age' short". USA Today. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  35. "Ice Age: Collision Course 4K Blu-ray". August 30, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  36. 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.
  37. SGI (April 4, 2002). "Blue Sky Is Red Hot With Ice Age" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  38. "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.
  39. Patten, Fred (November 12, 2014). "Book Review: The Art of Blue Sky Studios". Animation World Network. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  40. Leigh, Danny (August 2000). "Jesus' Son (1999)". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  41. Lambie, Ryan (October 2, 2014). "The Art Of Blue Sky Studios review". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  42. Mink, Eric (April 13, 2000). "The Brains Behind the Talking Fish". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  43. Moltenbrey, Karen (August 2000). "After Earth". Computer Graphics World. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  44. MacFarlane, Seth (2006). Family Guy season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Sibling Rivalry" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  45. 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.
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