Paramount Animation to Retire from Original Animated Feature Films and Focus on Nick IP

In a wide-ranging profile in Variety, Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins reveals new details about how he intends to rebuild the ailing Paramount Animation division.

The timing is opportune: Paramount is about to release "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," which will almost certainly be Paramount Animation's most successful film ever.

Not that "Most Successful Paramount Animation Film" is a prestigious competition; since its inception in 2011, the category has been dominated by a handful of tedious projects that have been surprisingly consistent in their silliness ("Wonder Park," "Sherlock Gnome," Rumble, and Monster Trucks) and two moderately successful SpongeBob films.

In any case, Robbins seems ready to bask in TMNT glory. Citing recent stumbles like Disney-Pixar's "Elemental," he told Variety, "It's not a Disney or Pixar problem anymore." Forget the fact that Robbins would kill for a stumbling animated feature like "Elemental. The Elemental is on track to make $400 million worldwide, far more than any animated feature film produced by Paramount Animation has ever made at the box office.

If Disney and Pixar are no longer relevant, then what is ...... According to Robbins, he has found that "people are looking for animated films that are irreverent and have a comedic point of view. It was fortunate that he realized earlier than any other American animation producer that comedy and irreverence work well in animation.

Robbins' second major insight was that original animation is not worth the investment. He says, "I wouldn't release an expensive original animated film and just pray that audiences would show up." Robbins decided it was easier to drop the produce-and-pray approach and remove all traces of originality from the studio's feature pipeline. He revealed that the previously theatrical Under the Boardwalk is now quietly moving to Paramount+, and it was previously announced that Ron Howard's The Shrinking of Treehorn had been sold to Netflix.

Instead of the original concept, Robbins is turning Paramount Animation into a clearinghouse for Nickelodeon IP. First up is the aforementioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The company announced today that a sequel to "TMNT" and a Paramount+ spin-off series titled "Tales of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" are also in development.

The studio is also working on features in the Sponge Bob universe, including Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie (Netflix, 2024) and Avatar: The Last Airbender series. A new Paw Patrol film will also be released this year.

It is worth noting here that none of Nick's IPs magically appeared out of thin air, as Robbins believes. They are all original concepts at some point in their history, developed over years by artists. Before they could become familiar IPs, some animation studio had to invest in the original idea. Good luck to Robbins and his all-in-nick strategy, which will look like a great decision in early August after TMNT is released. But years from now, he will realize that abandoning his original idea is a long-term strategy that is neither viable nor wise for any feature animation division.