Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Shiftin' Sony: Sony Animation Gets New Head of Production

Change continues to happen at Sony Pictures Animation.

Regardless of what we may think of the pictures they are releasing over the next eight months, this is a big year for Sony Animation. For the first time ever, they are releasing three animated features in the same calendar year. Something DreamWorks tried to do a few years back, but that ultimately backfired. Walt Disney Animation Studios once tried this as well, at the beginning of this century. That plan also backfired for various reasons. Now Sony Animation is stepping up to that plate...

The first of the three features - franchise reboot Smurfs: The Lost Village - is opening in less than a month. Perhaps because she is confident in this slate, Sony Pictures Animation's president Kristine Belson has named Pam Marsden head of production. A key player at the studio for years, Marsden produced both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films, and has been in the field for quite some time. The producer of Disney Animation/Secret Lab's Dinosaur (one of the three WDFA features that was wide-released in 2000), she went on to produce the DTV feature Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas and Nickelodeon's Barnyard.

I'm not quite sure about this choice, because out of all those movies, Cloudy uno is the clear home run here. Sony Animation's slate looks like a mixed bag to me, and I feel Marsden's resume is just that as well. I'm not sure what this change will mean for the studio.

Call me a bitter person who can't let go of the past, but... Belson seems to have gutted the place. The more interesting projects that were in development are gone or have been watered down, and they have made way for things like The Emoji Movie. We got some bone-tosses here and there, like Animated Spider-Man and the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical Vivo, but the rest of the slate is rather... Uninteresting. Having seen the latest Smurfs: The Lost Village trailer, I'm not really onboard that flick. The Star could be a decent Nativity retelling, or just another generic talking animals movie. Hotel Transylvania 3 could be uneven likes its predecessors, or maybe it could be a genuinely good comedy romp.

For now, I remain skeptical of Sony Animation, and Sony Pictures in general. That whole division seems to be digging its own grave. I know SPA can be a great studio, and they've shown it before. Have you seen Surf's Up? Have you seen the first Cloudy movie? Both high points, I think. Hopefully once we get past schlock like The Emoji Movie (and I'll eat lots of crow if Emoji somehow turns out to be a good movie), we'll see what this house - under Belson - is really made of.

What say you?

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