Monday, June 20, 2016

Sony's Full Slate

Sony Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation has a multitude of projects lined up on the tarmac:

Sony Pictures Animation has drawn up plans for its 2017-18 slate, setting release dates for Hotel Transylvania 3, its animated Spider-Man feature, the first fully animated Smurfs movie and the newly titled original pics Emoji movie: Express Yourself and The Star. The toon studio also is crossing streams on a just-announced Ghostbusters: Ecto Force TV show, along with other series based on the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania movie franchises.

The announcements spotlight SPA’s increased year-round production across multiple platforms. “We are meaningfully stepping up our level of production, while creating an environment that fosters the best talent,” said Kristine Belson, President of Sony Pictures Animation. “Our goal is to enlarge our presence in the animation landscape with a uniquely diverse slate, and our strategy to get there is to let artists drive the movies creatively.” ...

Sony is an interesting corporation, animation-wise.

Back in the 1990s, Sony launched a TV animation unit named Sony Adelaide, and for a brief while it was one of the largest television cartoon studios in Southern California. It started in a small building and then moved to a larger building, and then to TWO buildings. For a while there, the studio was firing on all cylinders, but Sony didn't own any distribution outlets, and eventually the high trajectory came back to earth.

Around the time Adelaide was fading away, Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) came into existence. Its mission was to create high-end theatrical animation that would compete with Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation. The launch of the studio was promising, but several pictures didn't perform, upper Sony management changed SPA executives, and nothing seemed to work. (One example: Surf's Up, which garnered favorable reviews, failed to perform at the world box office. Turns out you can't be the third or fourth penguin picture out of the gate and expect to do gangbuster business.)

Of late, however, Sony Pictures Animation has found firmer footing. Hotel Transylvania 2 grossed $468 million on an $80 million budget (free Canadian money was a big help) and the division now appears to have a vision of where it's going. This is good news for Sony, and good news for animation in general.


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