Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul will write the songs for an upcoming Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios project, Variety has learned. The family film has the working title “Foster” and will reunite the musical duo with their “La La Land” producer Marc Platt.
The project is an adventure film that centers on a young super fan who isn’t satisfied with the ending to a series of fantasy books. After he seeks out the author to voice his displeasure, the pair finds themselves transported into a mystical world.
“It’s a heartfelt journey through this huge imagined world,” said Fox Animation co-president Andrea Miloro.
Karen Disher (“Daria”) and Steve Martino (“The Peanuts Movie”) will co-direct the picture from a script by Tim Federle (“Ferdinand”). It hits theaters on March 5, 2021. In addition to “La La Land,” Pasek & Paul created the Tony-winning Broadway smash “Dear Evan Hansen” and wrote the original music for “The Greatest Showman.” They won a best original song Oscar for “City of Stars” from “La La Land” and are nominated this year for “This Is Me” from “Greatest Showman.”
Since taking the reins as the sole chairman of Fox, Stacey Snider has expended a great deal of effort building up its animation output. Snider formed a co-production pact with Locksmith Animation to bolster the studio’s slate and set a goal of releasing an animated film every year. Fox is poised to accomplish that feat. It will release “Spies in Disguise,” an action-comedy with the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland, on Jan. 18, 2019. Then “Nimona,” an adaptation of a fantasy web comic, opens Feb. 14, 2020. And “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” a collaboration with Locksmith, debuts in November of 2020. Snider believes that a new era for Fox Animation began with the release of “Ferdinand” last year.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work to re-position Fox Animation as a competitor,” Snider said. “We feel that we have wind in our sails after ‘Ferdinand’ and we’re building a ton of momentum. Every year you’ll see something from us.”
As part of the increased emphasis on family fare, Snider appointed new heads of Fox Animation in October. She elevated Miloro and Robert Baird to co-presidents of the division and moved former head Vanessa Morrison to a new position as the leader of Fox Family. Miloro was a senior production executive at Fox Animation before her promotion while Baird wrote “Ferdinand,” and contributed to the scripts of Pixar releases such as “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars.” In their roles, they not only oversee the Fox Animation team in Los Angeles, they are also in charge of Blue Sky, the Connecticut-based studio behind the “Ice Age” franchise that Fox owns.
“As we were building the slate, Andrea and I talked a lot about what makes a Blue Sky movie, a Blue Sky movie and what makes a Fox Animation movie, a Fox Animation movie,” Baird said. “We want to make movies that have complex and challenging themes, but also lean into the hilarious. They’re movies that have a bit of an attitude.”
“Animation is one of the last bastions of original storytelling,” Miloro added. “We’re definitely on the hunt for original ideas.”
Fox Animation has lined up several projects for the next four years, but its future remains murky. The studio is being sold to Disney, along with the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s film and television holdings. The $52.4 billion deal is still awaiting regulatory approval, which could take up to 18 months, but it’s unclear what Disney will do with Fox’s animation unit, given that the studio already has hit-making family film brands such as Pixar. Despite the uncertainty, Baird and Miloro insist that corporate concerns aren’t impacting their day-to-day work.
“We’re keeping our heads down,” Baird said. “We’re aware of what’s happening in the world, but we don’t have time to think much about it. It’s all we can do to keep our eye on the ball and make great movies.”
They’re also excited to dip into the musical genre, a first for a Blue Sky production, with “Foster.”
“We’ve tasked Pasek & Paul with doing a different kind of animated musical and to create something that’s never been done before,” Baird said. “We want to make our characters sing in a different way.”