Skydance Media has acquired the animation unit of Madrid-based Ilion Studios. The new entity will be rechristened Skydance Animation Madrid.
The companies had been working together for some time. The acquisition gives animation chief John Lasseter control over all aspects of production. Skydance and Ilion, both of which are privately held, did not disclose a purchase price.
The deal will give Skydance roughly 500 employees across two continents. It comes as Lasseter is trying to transform the company into a major force in animation. That transformation has been bumpy, at times, primarily because Lasseter’s hire was controversial. Lasseter, the major creative force at Pixar and Disney Animation, was ousted from the company in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct with employees.
At Skydance, Lasseter appointed industry veteran Holly Edwards to be president of Skydance Animation and has worked to expand the company’s production slate. The company’s upcoming films include “Luck,” the story of the unluckiest girl alive, and “Spellbound,” a musical fantasy set in a magical kingdom. The company is also developing television animated series. But the company has also faced pushback, with leading figures such as Emma Thompson publicly withdrawing from projects due to Lasseter’s hire.
Skydance is backed by David Ellison, the son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison. In a statement, he alluded to the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the entertainment business and normal life.
“The world is going through an unprecedented and uncertain time. Today’s acquisition marks the culmination of many months of work to build one studio across two continents, with the goal of creating the highest-quality animation, led by best-in-class talent from around the world,” Ellison said in a statement. “The addition of Skydance Animation Madrid to our portfolio of businesses underlines my passion and commitment to bringing iconic animated stories and characters to life from some of the most talented artists and voices in the industry.”
Latham & Watkins acted as legal adviser to Skydance Media and Loyra Abogados represented Ilion in the deal.