After co-producing a number of animated projects like Sausage Party and Missing Link with the help of other studios, Annapurna Pictures is gearing up to launch its own in-house animation arm with two Disney alums leading the division.
Today, Annapurna announced that it has tapped former Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein and screenwriter Robert Baird (Monsters University, Big Hero 6) to head up its animation production arm, which will release the studio’s forthcoming Nimona adaptation in 2023 with Netflix. In a press release about the new studio, Annapurna founder and CEO Megan Ellison said that Millstein and Baird’s contributions to Nimona’s production were key to bringing the project home and described bringing them on board as part of the studio’s efforts to bolster its animated offerings.
“Working with them and the Nimona team has been an incredible experience and we cannot wait for audiences to see the film,” Ellison said. “We believe adding animation alongside our other divisions, in combination with the depth of our catalog, will lead to tremendous opportunities. Anything is possible.”
An adaptation of Nimona — She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator ND Stevenson’s comic series about a queer shapeshifting squire and a villainous knight — was first announced by 20th Century Fox Animation back in 2015, with the studio’s Blue Sky Studios subsidiary attached to produce the project. Though the film was initially slated for a 2020 release, those plans were waylaid by Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019, which subsequently led to Nimona’s release date being delayed several times before Blue Sky Studios was ultimately shut down despite the project reportedly being 75 percent completed at the time. Following that initial derailment, a number of former Blue Sky employees alleged that they received considerable pushback from Bob Chapek’s Disney during production over the way Nimona features a same-sex kiss as well as other aspects of queer identity explored in the story.
In the statement about his new role, Baird described the indie darling as “a deep match with our values and the types of impactful stories we want to help bring to life.” That’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to read in this kind of press release, but it is going to be genuinely interesting to see just what Annapurna’s vision for animation entails. We still don’t know exactly when Nimona’s going to hit Netflix, but Annapurna stepping in to complete it is the reason people are finally going to be able to see the movie in 2023.