December 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

John Lasseter-run Skydance Animation sets Apple film, TV deal

Apple has made a deal to release movies produced by Skydance Animation, the Skydance Media unit run by former Pixar and Walt Disney Animation head John Lasseter, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant said Wednesday.

As part of “an expansive multi-year partnership” with Skydance Animation, Apple will release upcoming movies “Luck” and “Spellbound,” as well as a series titled “The Search for WondLa,” based on the children’s fantasy book series by Tony DiTerlizzi. The pact will include several more yet-to-be-announced series and films, the company said in a statement.

The deal comes after December reports that Apple was in talks to buy “Luck” and “Spellbound,” which were then set up for release by ViacomCBS’ Paramount Pictures.

Lasseter in 2019 joined Skydance Media, the Santa Monica entertainment company of Oracle Corp. scion David Ellison. He was previously chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, but exited in 2018 after taking a leave of absence following allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior toward women. At the time of his Skydance hiring, he expressed regret for “how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable.”

Amid an ensuing outcry, including within Paramount, Emma Thompson left her role as a voice actress on “Luck,” citing Lasseter’s hiring.

Lasster and Ellison, the son of billionaire Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison, are credited as producers on all Skydance Animation films and executive producers on the unit’s series.

Like other streamers fighting for attention, Apple TV+ needs more content to attract young audiences as Disney+ and Netflix pile resources into expanding their online animation and family-friendly offerings. Nickelodeon shows are expected to be a key driver of audiences for Paramount+ when it launches next month, rebranded from CBS All Access.

Apple TV+ in December released the recent Golden Globe-nominated animated feature “Wolfwalkers.” It also unleashed the live-action kids TV series “Ghostwriter,” and Daytime Emmy-winning Peanuts cartoon “Snoopy in Space.”

Skydance, known for its hand in the “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek” film franchises released by Paramount, has sold many of its productions to streaming services during the pandemic while theatrical releases have been financially untenable for movie studios’ big-budget films.

Amazon in January was in talks to purchase the Chris Pratt-starring science-fiction film “Tomorrow War” for a reported $200 million. Netflix in July bought the rights to a Skydance action-adventure starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Shawn Levy.