In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of animation, few behind-the-scenes names are celebrated for innovation and creativity quite like John Lasseter. As a renowned animator and filmmaker, John Lasseter has played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of the global animation industry, from his time at Disney, Lucasfilm, and Pixar to his contributions to animated classics.
His journey with Skydance Animation has only just begun but marks a transformative phase in the studio’s history. Skydance’s future is still being written and will only begin to flourish with each new animated film they produce. With Lasseter’s leadership and dedication to the field of animation, Skydance has an influential player in the ring that could land their animation projects success among the giants of the animation world, and completely shape the future of their company.
The History Of Skydance Productions & Skydance Animation
Skydance Animation is the offspring of Skydance Productions, headed by CEO David Ellison. Parent company Skydance Productions began in 2006 and has gone on to produce several award-winning, feature-length films, including 2022’s Oscar-winning film, Top Gun: Maverick. This film nods to David Ellison’s love of flying, which is where Skydance got its name. Ellison is a skilled pilot, as well as the CEO of the company. While the company shoots more than just films about flight, it is clear flight has a huge symbolic impact on David Ellison’s ventures.
Although Skydance Productions has been around for nearly two decades, Skydance Animation is still a fledgling. Formed in 2017, Skydance Animation Madrid was the brainchild of Javier and Ignacio Dolset. It was formerly known as Ilion Animation Studios and was founded in 2002. Ellison began working with Ilion Animation on several projects they had slated for streaming services, but the studio would eventually merge with Skydance to become their main Animation production. Only a few short years later, John Lasseter would join the Skydance animation team.
When John Lasseter joined Skydance Animation, it began an exciting new chapter in the studio’s history. With a career defined by groundbreaking achievements in both traditional and computer animation at Pixar and Disney, Lasseter’s arrival at Skydance Animation was a strategic move that aimed to disrupt the status quo of filmmaking. Lasseter had forty years of animation with well-known studios like Disney and Pixar under his belt. He brought a wealth of experience and creativity with him to the studios. His association with beloved classics like Toy Story, Cars, and Finding Nemo captivated audiences of all ages.
Lasseter joined the team in January 2019, after leaving Disney. Shortly thereafter, Ilion Studios was officially rebranded as Skydance Animation Madrid. With that merger, It was the dawn of a new era for Skydance, which now had its dedicated wing for creating animated films. David Ellison was very aware of what adding the animation mogul to the team would do for Skydance, and though the animation company is still testing the waters with its animation, the influence is unparalleled.
“John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” said Ellison. “He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe… we look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership, and his exuberance to Skydance as we continue to expand our animation efforts for the global marketplace.”
Collaborative Magic At Skydance
Lasseter’s former work speaks for itself and nods to where the animation studio is headed. He is the recipient of a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, A David O. Selznick Achievement Award, and many more. During his time at Pixar, he received multiple awards for his animation, including the Special Achievement Oscar and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Toy Story, which was written by Lasseter. Toy Story was unique in that it was the first instance of an animated storyline being nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, and looking back on his work, it’s unsurprising that it won the Oscar. That film truly broke the mold when it came to computer-animated films.
In his life post-Pixar, his experience has breathed new life into the creative process at Skydance Animation. His firsthand experience in storytelling, character development, and animation techniques has instilled excitement and curiosity within the studio’s teams. Lasseter’s approach extends beyond merely producing films; it’s about crafting immersive worlds and unforgettable characters that resonate with audiences of all ages – like the unluckiest girl in the world (Luck), or a princess whose parents are turned into monsters (Spellbound).
John Lasseter’s leadership at Skydance Animation has also been defined by his unwavering commitment to nurturing creativity in his studio. His work at Skydance on films like Blush and Spellbound showcases that he firmly believes true innovation comes from taking risks and exploring uncharted territories. This philosophy echoes his illustrious career, where he consistently pushed the boundaries of what animated films could achieve. More than that, he has been bringing in big names to collaborate on Skydance Animation projects.
One of the most defining aspects of the change in leadership at Skydance Animation is Lasseter’s ability to identify and collaborate with exceptional talents in the industry. He is bringing in Disney & Pixar greats to the Skydance Animation studio to ensure the name Skydance is synonymous with excellence. Many key names to the two animation giants, like composer Alan Menken, are joining Skydance’s bigger projects. Brad Bird of The Iron Giant fame will be joining Skydance to work with the animation studio on Ray Gunn, which has been in the works since around the same time as The Iron Giant.
Bird and Lasseter have a history of working together, having collaborated on Ratatouille and The Incredibles. Lasseter’s knack for bringing together directors, writers, and artists who share his passion for storytelling has been instrumental in the studio’s success. This collaborative magic has given rise to projects that entertain and deeply touch viewers’ hearts. Within the Skydance studio, the culture of collaboration among directors, producers, animators, cast, and animation crew has yielded stories that are emotionally resonant and visually stunning. Lasseter’s unique ability to bring out the best in his teams has led to a synergy that breathes life into every frame of Skydance Animation’s films.
A Commitment to The Future Of CGI: Skydance’s Animated Vision
Innovation has always been at the core of all Skydance productions, as well as John Lasseter’s creative vision approach to animation. From introducing groundbreaking CGI techniques in Toy Story to creating immersive worlds in WALL-E, his career stands as a testament to the importance of pushing animation’s boundaries. At Skydance Animation, this commitment to innovation remains undiminished. The studio only has one full-length animated feature out, and its next, Spellbound, is a fully-fledged animated musical with a full, Broadway-experienced cast. It’s not often animation studios make as bold a choice as that.
Lasseter’s influence is also evident in the studio’s embrace of cutting-edge technology. His vision has encouraged the development of new animation styles and techniques that enhance the story from start to finish. From meticulously crafted character designs to breathtakingly detailed backgrounds, every aspect of Skydance Animation’s projects benefits from Lasseter’s drive to leverage technology for artistic expression.
As bystanders get to witness the transformative journey of Skydance Animation under the guidance of an acclaimed animator and filmmaker, it becomes abundantly clear that his impact goes beyond creating and marketing individual films. The storylines and filmmaking techniques under John Lasseter set the standard for the industry to follow. Skydance yet-to-be-written legacy is not just about the success of the studio but about paving the way for future generations of animators and storytellers, as well as creating memorable stories for the next generations of viewers.