Fox, Blue Sky warming up assembly of ‘Robots’

Studio finds 'Ice' follow-up

Fox Animation and its Blue Sky Studios have launched development on “Robots,” their next animated project following their impressive success with CGI comedy “Ice Age.”

Work so far on “Robots” has included extensive visual development, early animation and preliminary storyboarding. Release date will likely be several years out given the complicated nature of CGI work.

Project will be a collaboration between “Ice Age” helmer Chris Wedge and children’s book author William Joyce, set in a world inhabited solely by robots. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel have been penning a draft.

Fox Animation prexy Chris Meledandri said the development of “Robots” was not tied to the success of “Ice Age” and noted the first animation tests on “Robots” came a year ago. But he said the strong performance by “Ice Age,” which has topped $88 million domestically in 10 days, certainly has not hurt.

“The success of ‘Ice Age’ is something that gives us additional momentum,” he added. As to whether an “Ice Age” sequel may also be developed, Meledandri said, “It’s too early to say, but it’s certainly something we’ll explore.”

For Fox, “Ice Age” has been a payoff for its patience in launching an animation division, which produced “Anastasia” and “Titan A.E.,” and investing in Blue Sky in 1998. “Ice Age” was greenlit in September 1999 by former Fox chief Bill Mechanic.

Blue Sky, based in White Plains, N.Y., spent the next 120 weeks developing and producing the pic with an animation staff directed by Chris Hedges that grew from 65 to nearly 170.

Meledandri stressed that the long-term backing of the studio and toppers Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos has been crucial. “The support from Tom and Jim has been great because CGI movies take so long to make. They’re marathons.”