Part of what it describes as a bold and rapid expansion of its long-form animation department, London-based Oscar winning Passion Pictures has appointed Nicki Cortese as head of development for animated features and series.

Cortese joins Pixar veteran David Park, a production manager on “Coco” and animation department manager on “Toy Story 3,” who was himself hired as Passion head of production for long-form animation in 2021, as well as executive producer Debbie Crosscup.

Joining Passion ahead of Annecy, Cortese served as head of development for Elisabeth Murdoch’s Locksmith Animation, where she worked on Disney’s “Ron’s Gone Wrong” as well as the just-announced Netflix feature “That Christmas,” based on children’s books by “Four Weddings and a Funeral’s ”Richard Curtis. Cortese had a first-look deal with Brian Robbins’ studio, Awesomeness Films, and, prior to that, oversaw the “Divergent” franchise at Red Wagon.

Cortese comes to Passion after it has begun to ramp up its long-form animation producing episodes of Netflix’s “Love, Death and Robots” as well as Netflix’s “Headspace,” Disney’s “101 Dalmatian Street” and Nickelodeon’s “Lego City Adventures.”

In a period of “dynamic expansion,” Passion’s animation team is currently in production on a highly-anticipated animated series for a major streamer and working on a broad range of original features and episodic series, with a number of major streamers and studio partners with development deals already in place, Passion said Monday in a written statement,

Cortese will focus on creating and developing IP alongside Passion’s in-house directors and creative team as well as acquiring outside IP before taking the projects to the wider market for distribution, it added.

She is also leading development on two Passion projects to be unveiled at the MIFA TV Series & Specials Pitches on June 16, the biggest presence of any company in a category which represents one of the most exciting and innovative of animation spaces. Passion is the only company to have two titles in this category.

“We are thrilled to have Nicki join our rapidly expanding Features and Series team to develop our original long form animation slate,” said Passion founder and creative director Andrew Ruhemann.

He added: “A creative pioneer, Nicki possesses the perfect mix of an independent film making mind-set with vast experience of developing and producing major studio feature productions. This exciting combination perfectly complements Passion’s intention to create original animated productions with a unique voice and clear vision that will appeal to the global market.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the innovative and accomplished team that Andrew and Nick have built and I am excited to be working with David, Debbie and the wider Passion team to develop and expand the company’s ambitions in long-form animation features and series,” Cortese added.