John Lasseter, head of Skydance Animation, has enjoyed recent success with Blush (2021), a short, animated love story that’s out of this world. Known for creating Pixar’s success with the Toy Story franchise, John Lasseter also saw success with the feature film Luck (2022), an animated short about an unlucky young woman who finds (and loses) a lucky penny with the company of an adventurous talking cat. Apple+ has ordered both of these successes and continues its commitment to programming for children in 2023 with Skydance via The Search for WondLa.
The Search for WondLa
After getting the green light from Skydance Animation President Holly Edwards and Skydance Media Lead David Ellison, John Lasseter’s latest will include Lauren Montgomery, Chad Quant, and The Search for WondLa author Tony DiTerlizzi as executive producers. The Search for WondLa is based on DiTerlizzi’s book series, which follows a girl dealing with themes such as the destruction of the environment, discovering the outdoors, robots, and the quest for a magical place called WondLa.
Also capturing the zeitgeist is Skydance Animation’s upcoming Spellbound, featuring a star-studded cast including John Lithgow, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Rachel Zegler, and Jenifer Lewis. Spellbound follows the adventures of Princess Ellian, a girl who copes with division in her kingdom. Originally slated for a 2022 release, Spellbound underwent several title changes and iterations until early 2022, when much of the production occurred remotely due to the pandemic.
Skydance Animation has entered a deal with toymaker Spin Master Entertainment to manufacture and distribute toys based on the movie, and as this and other merchandising rolls along, things look promising for John Lasseter in this role.
Back in the 1990s, Brad Bird and Matthew Robbins created a script for Ray Gunn, a detective story with a retro aesthetic, set in the future in a city called Metropia. In this film, the writers aimed to combine aesthetics and themes from both pupil novels and more polished pieces like Buck Rogers to create a new type of work in the genre. While we’re still not sure if the original Bird and Robbins script is going to be used to create this version of Ray Gunn, we do know that Skydance Animation intends to work on Ray Gunn in 2023.
Skydance Animation: Making Moves in 2023
John Lasseter’s presence has brought some other big names to Skydance Animation, most notably, some other Disney alumni. Now at Skydance is Rich Moore, who had been at Disney Animation for a decade before spending a bit of time at Sony Pictures Animation. You might recognize Moore from Zootopia, as he won the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2017. Moore also worked on the Wreck-It Ralph franchise as well as in advisory capacities for Tangled, Frozen, and Moana. Moore is slated to work on Spellbound, reuniting the fantastic Lasseter/Moore winning combo.
Skydance also brings Alan Menken on board. The Academy Award winner has worked on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Little Mermaid. Along with multiple Golden Globes, Tonys, and Grammy Awards, this “EGOT” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner is in high demand. He’ll add the musical component to Spellbound.
To bring Ray Gunn to life, Skydance Animation needed Brad Bird, who co-wrote the original script and wrote and directed Pixar hits with John Lasseter, such as Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and The Incredibles 2. With an impressive background, Bird has also worked with Steven Spielberg and directed the retro-futuristic Tomorrowland.
It’s clear that John Lasseter is getting the band back together at Skydance Animation. He knows the formula to make magically animated movies, and that means gathering all-star casts and award-winning teams. In this fashion, he’s setting Skydance up for success in 2023 and beyond.