When Hannah Minghella took the reins of Sony Pictures Animation in March 2008, rivals snickered at her lack of animation experience. Best known as Amy Pascal’s favorite D-girl and the daughter of the late Anthony Minghella, the young exec had few credentials that could be seen as useful for managing the notoriously cranky lot that inhabits the world of animation.
And the pressure was enormous. The studio was turning to the U.K. native to dramatically ramp up the number of titles on its slate. Before Minghella, SPA produced only two films in six years: “Surf’s Up” and “Open Season” — neither of which impressed at the box office.
Less than three years later, Minghella is being credited for not just fattening up the slate but keeping the label competitive for hot properties. She is currently overseeing the live-action/ani hybrid “The Smurfs,” the animated family comedy “Hotel Transylvania” and two films from Aardman Animation: the all-CG “Arthur Christmas” and the stop-frame adventure “Pirates!” Minghella is also in the thick of the direct-to-DVD sequel “Open Season 3.” In addition, she helped bring “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which was underway when she came aboard, to the goal line, with the pic subsequently grossing north of $243 million worldwide.
Amid 2010’s jam-packed production schedule, she found time to ink several deals that showcased the label’s newfound aggressiveness, most notably a pre-emptive strike for the rights to “The Familiars,” based on the buzzed-about upcoming children’s fantasy book series.
But the most important accomplishment for Minghella, who cut her teeth in the world of independent films as an exec at Miramax, was broadening the types of pics the label would consider. In other words, she injected her edgy indie sensibility into SPA’s development coffers.
“I don’t want to define us as an animation studio, and instead want to be seen as a studio that tells stories using animated characters,” Minghella explains. “I’m drawn to people who have a vision and conviction. There’s room for that in animation as much as any other art form.”