Annapurna establishes a division dedicated to animation, led by Robert Baird and Andrew Milstein

Production company Annapurna has launched a specialized animation division, co-directed by former Disney Animation and Blue Sky execs Robert Baird and Andrew Milstein.

Annapurna is not a complete newcomer to animation, having previously distributed Laika's "The Missing Link," co-produced "Sausage Party" with Columbia Pictures, and produced several hit video games. The first project the studio's dedicated animation division is working on is the previously announced adaptation of "Nimona," which will be available on Netflix next year.

This seems like great news for the animation industry. Annapurna may be an indie company, but it is headed by Megan Ellison, daughter of billionaire Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison and sister of Skydance founder David Ellison. The latter has already made a significant impact on the animation industry, launching Skydance Animation and bringing another former Disney Animation executive, John Lasseter, into the studio's leadership. Baird and Milstein recently worked with Annapurna to finish work on "Nimona," which they began when they were in charge of Blue Sky Studios. Blue Sky was at the time the largest animation studio on the East Coast of the United States, and it was there that Baird and Milstein oversaw a team of over 500 artists working on the studio's animated content.

Prior to Blue Sky, Milstein was president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, and during his tenure he produced such blockbusters as "Big Hero 6," "Zootopia," "Moana," and "Ralph Breaks the Internet."

Baird is a screenwriter whose credits include "Monsters, Inc.", "Cars", "Monsters University", "Big Hero 6", and "Ferdinand".

According to Baird and Milstein, Annapurna's new animation department will work closely with other Annapurna departments, including the interactive team that created "Stray," one of the nominees for the 2022 annual video game award.

Megan Ellison, founder and CEO of Annapurna, said, "Working with them and the Nimona team has been an amazing experience and we can't wait for audiences to see the film. We believe that adding animation to our other divisions, coupled with the depth of our catalog, will lead to tremendous opportunities. Anything is possible."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Baird and Milstein acknowledged that the animation industry is experiencing uncertainty right now, especially with major upheaval at Disney, Warner Brothers, and Netflix this year. However, they are hopeful about the future, he told the newspaper.

"I think in terms of talking to the artists, in this particular moment that we're in, they recognize the sea change and the instability right now," Milstein told the paper. 'It's constructive flexibility. I feel like there is a lot of hope and respect for what we are trying to bring. So despite the choppiness, I think there is an eagerness to be involved in something new and a respect for the process."

Baird added: "We've been there. We were there. I think one of the things that the filmmakers we work with appreciate is that we have the same experiences and we speak the same language. We experience the same ups and downs as everyone else, and we are sensitive to them. We are committed to being a port in the storm. "

While it seems unlikely that Annapurna will be able to fill the gap left when Disney closes Blue Sky, at least not completely or immediately, its impressive track record in live-action film production and video game production and two high-profile figures like Baird and Milstein figures, there is certainly reason for optimism that the company will do important work and open new doors for artists and creators.