EXCLUSIVE: As the Annecy Animation Film Festival gets underway this weekend, Warner Bros’ newly hired President of Feature Animation Bill Damaschke has announced a rebranding of the motion picture division with a focus on filmmakers.
Previously known as WAG, aka Warner Animation Group, the Burbank, CA lot’s feature toon unit will now be known as Warner Bros Pictures Animation.
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“It’s honoring the past and rich history of the company. Warner Bros Pictures Animation released movies like Iron Giant, Space Jam, Corpse Bride, Polar Express, Happy Feet and The Lego Movie — benchmark films that broke new ground, new technology, new ways of telling stories and were successful, artistically and commercially. They last in people’s hearts, every one of those films,” said Damaschke about the label, which counts a filmmaker-driven original feature animated canon from such directors as Brad Bird, Tim Burton, George Miller, Robert Zemeckis, and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Damaschke’s plans with Warners include hatching original IP much like he did during his two decades at DreamWorks Animation.
“Pamela Abdy and Michael De Luca are inspiring producers and filmmakers themselves who are focused on directors and writers as part of their studio leadership,” Damaschke said, “and we plan to follow their creative lead at WBPA.”
“Under Pam and Mike’s leadership with the support of (Warner Bros Discovery CEO) David Zaslav, we have an opportunity to really support these types of films and filmmakers in a way that will create new stories and worlds that audiences can anticipate and recognize for years to come,” added Damaschke.
WAG’s slate centered on established animated IP such as Scoob!, Tom & Jerry, Space Jam: A New Legacy and DC League of Super-Pets. Storied Warner Bros toon franchises will continue to be part of the mix, but with an eye on starting new franchises as well. The plan is to have the division ultimately yield two animated theatrical releases a year.
Damaschke arrives to WBPA from Skydance Media. In addition, he previously produced the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Moulin Rouge! and The Prom through his independent production company StoryKey Entertainment.
He’s working with a core staff of 90 at Warner Bros that includes production artists, filmmakers and writers with the remaining WAG production, The Cat in the Hat, in the works from Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Erica Rivinoja (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) and Annie Award-nominated Alessandro Carloni (Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon). The plan is to have that film ready for either a 2025 or 2026 theatrical release. (Back in 2018, Warners struck a deal with Dr. Seuss Enterprises Lp to produce multiple animated films based on the author’s children’s books.)
Animal Logic, an animation partner in Vancouver, BC, will continue to team with Warner Bros on animated projects. Also finishing up from WAG is the Dave Green-directed Coyote vs. Acme, produced by Chris DeFaria and James Gunn. Damaschke also tells us that a Flintstones origin story movie Meet the Flintstones is also in early development, written by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who directed The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
We first told you in February that Damaschke notched the top animation post at Warner Bros, a feature division that Zaslav was prizing next to DC, which is run by Gunn and Peter Safran, and the Warner Bros Motion Picture Group (WBMPG). Damaschke will report to the latter group’s co-chairs and co-CEOs De Luca and Abdy.
Damaschke got his start at DWA, where he landed his first animation job as production assistant on The Prince of Egypt, ultimately rising through the ranks to lead the company as Chief Creative Officer. During his long tenure there, he steered a number of acclaimed and popular animated franchise films to the big screen including the blockbusters Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods. Damaschke also oversaw all of DWA’s live theatrical productions, including the award-winning Shrek the Musical. He also served as a producer on Shark Tale, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2004, and as an EP on Over the Hedge and Kung Fu Panda.
“Bill combines the unmatched creativity and imagination of an artist with the acumen, instincts and amazing track record of a born leader,” said De Luca and Abdy. “His decades of experience, passion for storytelling, and forward-focused vision align perfectly with our overall creative strategy for the studio and make him the ideal shepherd for Warner Bros’ groundbreaking and iconic film animation business. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Bill to the Warner Bros family and can’t wait to dive into this exhilarating new era with him at the helm.”
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