It's time for another installment of Animation Studios from the Past! Last month we covered United Productions of America (UPA), Amblination, and Pacific Data Images (PDI). This month we'll discuss 3 studios that have not all folded into DreamWorks, only one!
1. Will Vinton Studios
Will Vinton Productions (later changed to Will Vinton Sudios) was formed by Will Vinton in 1976 after he and his partner Bob Gardiner parted ways after working on short film named Mountain Music. Vinton created the studio to focus and capitalize on animation technology. Throughout the years Vinton created and helped produce notable characters such as, The California Raisins and M&M's. His studio also provided animation affects for The Adventures of Mark Twain, Return of Oz, and The PJs. In the late 1990's, Vinton was in need of more funds to create feature films, and caught the attention of investor Phil Knight, owner of Nike. As the studio began to take to more projects then they had money for, Knight gained more control he demanded his son Travis Knight be hired as an animator. Travis, after a failed career as a rapper (name was Chilly Tee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y14dDzGPFbs) wanted to try his luck as an animator. In 2002, Phil Knight became the majority shareholder at Will Vinton Studios and dismissed Will Vinton from the studio. In 2005, Will Vinton Studios was renamed to Laika Studios. You might know Laika from its feature films “Kubo and the two Strings”, “The Boxtrolls”, “Paranorman”, or "Coraline”. Travis is now the President and CEO, who directs some of the films, and even still animates on some of them.
2. Fleischer Studios
In 1921 brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer founded Inkwell Studios (changing to Fleischer Studios in 1929) in New York. Unlike other animation studios at the time, Max and Dave focused on human characters, rather than animal characters. Their most notable characters include, Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. As a reflection to the Depression, most of their images and environments were grittier and urban. While creating their first feature film for Paramount in the late 30's, the brother's relationship began to deteriorate due to the pressure of finishing the studio's first feature film. In the early 40's profits began to fall, and Paramount was having to advance money to the studio. in 1941, when profits continued to dwindle, Paramount assumed full ownership of Fleischer Studios.
3. Classic Media
Classic Media's history is a bit of a purchasing rollercoaster, try and follow! Eric Ellenbogen and John Engelman founded Classic Media in 2000 and acquired UPA's catalog at the same time. Classic Media then bought Harvey Entertainment in March 2001. In May of 2001, Classic Media and Random house won a joint bid on Golden Books, and Classic Media acquired Golden Books entertainment assets. In 2003, Classic Media bought Big Idea Entertainment who was filing for bankruptcy at the time. In 2006, Classic Media was bought by their UK rival, Entertainment Rights. In 2009, Boomerang Media bought Entertainment Rights. Then in 2012, DreamWorks Animation acquired Classic Media from Boomerang Media. Finally, in 2016, DreamWorks Animation was acquired by NBCUniversal through Universal Studios, which is all owned by Comcast. Did you get all that?