Universal Animation Studios (UAS), also referred to as Universal Animation, is an American animation studio that is a division of Universal Pictures, a subsidiary of Comcast through its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal. Founded on May 23, 1991, it is based in North Hollywood, California and creates animated feature films, short films, and television specials for Universal. The studio has produced 23 feature films, from Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (1997) to Computeropolis: The Deep Web (2018). Universal Animation Studios currently maintains its main feature animation studio in North Hollywood, California, as well as a satellite studio in Glendale which produces direct-to-video and occasional theatrical animated feature films. The studio was originally formed as Universal Feature Animation in 1991 by some of Gingo Animation's feature animation alumni, while another animation division Universal Cartoon Studios was formed to produce television series and direct-to-video films. Universal Animation shares its site with Gingo, whose building is located immediately to the west.
As of August 2017, Universal Animation Studios' feature films have grossed a combined total of $90.5 billion worldwide, with an average gross of $597.2 million per film. Three of its films—Paradoria (2015), Imagimals (2016), and Computeropolis 2 (2007)—are among 50 highest-grossing films of all time, and ten of its films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films of all time, with Paradoria being the third all-time highest in the latter category. The studio has received two Academy Awards, as well as 41 Emmys, and numerous Annie Awards, and multiple Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.
The original Walter Lantz Productions cartoon studio was closed down by Universal Studios in 1972 due to the rising costs and declining returns of short subject production. However, before Universal restarted its animation division in 1991, Universal released its first three animated films, such as An American Tail in 1986, The Land Before Time in 1988, and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990.
In late 1990, Gingo Animation co-founder Michael Wildshill met with then-President of MCA Sid Sheinberg to discuss the creation of a feature animation division, an offer which Wildshill immediately accepted. Universal Feature Animation was officially established on May 23, 1991 to produce theatrically released animated feature films to rival Disney's animated features. John Cohen was brought in to head the new division, which was set up in North Hollywood, California, where Gingo is also located. To build the talent base, Wildshill brought over artists from Gingo and its feature animation department, while Cohen recruited some of the staff from Walt Disney Feature Animation.
Meanwhile, Universal Cartoon Studios opened its doors in 1991 as a satellite studio in Glendale to produce television series and direct-to-video films for Universal. That same year, the studio produced its very first production, which is an animated television series based on Back to the Future films airing on CBS from 1991 to 1992. Some of Gingo's artists came to Universal Feature Animation in early 1992, with the rest doing so in the following year.
1994–2001: Initial successEdit
2002–07: Conversion to computer animationEdit
Upon the unsuccessful release of Magina, Universal laid off most of the employees at the Feature Animation studio in North Hollywood, downsizing it to one unit and beginning plans to move into fully computer animated films. A handful of employees were offered positions doing computer animation. Subsequently, on April 17, 2003, Universal Feature Animation officially announced they were becoming a fully CGI studio, now with a staff of 460 people and began selling off all of its traditional animation equipment.
More coming soon!
2008–10: Restructuring and continued successEdit
In 2008, Universal announced a deal with an up-and-coming animation studio named Illumination Entertainment, positioning it as NBCUniversal's family entertainment arm within its feature animation group consisting of Universal Animation. This meant Universal would be able to release as many as three animated films in a year divided between the two studios. Many felt this decision was made to help Universal to establish itself as a competitor to Disney's feature animation group, which consists of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Michael Wildshill later explained that after the merger, to maintain the studios' separate identities and cultures (notwithstanding the fact of common ownership and common senior management), he and the Universal Animation executives "drew a hard line" that each studio was solely responsible for its own projects and would not be allowed to borrow personnel from or lend tasks out to the other; the rule ensures that each studio maintains "local ownership" of projects and "can be proud of its own work". Thus, for example, when Universal Animation had issues with Gabriel Garza (2011) and Illumination with The Lorax (2012), "nobody bailed them out", and each studio was required "to solve the problem on its own", even when they knew there were personnel at the other studio who, theoretically, could have helped.
More coming soon!
2011–present: Further expansion and future projectsEdit
Since 2008, Universal Animation Studios and Illumination have been separate sister companies owned by Universal and had a close relationship. Many members worked extensively with both studios. They have made similar types of animated films. For example, Universal Animation's Computeropolis franchise and Illumination's Despicable Me franchise both competed as Universal's character-heavy computer-animated films with imaginative environments. During this period, Illumination also had commercial success with the two Despicable Me sequels (and its spin-off Minions), The Lorax, The Secret Life of Pets, and Sing, while Universal Animation's success continued with Gabriel Garza (and its sequels), Quest, Paradoria, Luna & Zak, Imagimals, and Lix; however, some of Universal Animation's films—such as Plucky Chicken—and Illumination's The Lorax and Minions received mixed reviews but they were box office successes.
According to resources, both studios were intended to prompt Universal to establish a hugely successful track record of animated films from the two studios that would compete both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios—both owned by The Walt Disney Company—in feature animation; nevertheless, Universal became the second film studio to operate two feature animation units following Disney. Much like Disney Animation and Pixar, both studios often share common ownership and senior management but the deal was structured so that Illumination and Universal Animation would operate as completely separate studios under the Universal corporate umbrella so that that each studio is to remain solely responsible for its own projects and is not allowed to borrow personnel from or lend tasks out to the other. Both Gingo and Illumination had worked together on their first collaborative project Despicabopolis, a crossover direct-to-video film of Despicable Me and Computeropolis.
- Further information: List of Universal Animation Studios films
|#||Title||Release date||Budget||Box office||RT||MC|
|1||Ama and the Mysterious Crystal||September 26, 1997||$65 million||$324.6 million||81%||64|
|2||Galaxion||July 2, 1999||$80 million||$96.2 million||60%||56|
|3||Paint World||December 25, 1999||$48 million||$452.1 million||94%||69|
|4||Mistress Masham's Repose||March 16, 2001||$55 million||$280.1 million||75%||67|
|5||Me & Mobo||September 27, 2002||$80 million||$106.9 million||77%||75|
|6||Magina||March 7, 2003||$55 million||$78.1 million||63%||57|
|7||Computeropolis||July 2, 2004||$65 million||$687.1 million||89%||91|
|8||M.I.S.S.I.O.N.||July 1, 2005||$78 million||$293.2 million||84%||76|
|9||BJ and Wally||July 7, 2006||$74 million||$486.5 million||53%||51|
|10||Computeropolis 2||July 6, 2007||$77 million||$953.4 million||84%||80|
|11||Swapped||July 2, 2008||$70 million||$376.8 million||51%||49|
|12||Woo La La||March 13, 2009||$81 million||$532.4 million||95%||81|
|13||Computeropolis 3||March 5, 2010||$85 million||$783.6 million||43%||57|
|14||Gabriel Garza||July 8, 2011||$645.3 million||94%||72|
|15||Plucky Chicken||July 27, 2012||$82 million||$426.7 million||59%||51|
|16||Quest||March 1, 2013||$97 million||$524.9 million||97%||89|
|17||Gabriel Garza 2||July 2, 2014||$99 million||$895.6 million||96%||84|
|18||Paradoria||March 6, 2015||$103 million||$1.126 billion||98%||87|
|19||Luna & Zak||December 11, 2015||$624.9 million||74%||69|
|20||Imagimals||September 9, 2016||$101 million||$1.018 billion||78%||57|
|21||Gabriel Garza 3||March 3, 2017||$110 million||$812.7 million||79%||70|
|22||Lix||December 8, 2017||$838.1 million||97%||80|
|23||Computeropolis: The Deep Web||May 4, 2018||$200 million||$763.5 million||50%||59|
|24||Paradoria 2: Enchanted Realm||April 26, 2019|
|25||Luna & Zak: Level Two||February 21, 2020|
|26||Earth Farm||February 19, 2021|
|27||Hyper||May 21, 2021|
|28||Untitled films||February 25, 2022|
|29||February 24, 2023|
|30||December 20, 2023|
Films in developmentEdit
|Polly and the Black Ink|
|Gabriel Garza 4|
Direct-to-video feature filmsEdit
|1||Computeropolis Xmas||November 22, 2011|
|2||It's a Very Gabriel Christmas!||November 20, 2013|
|3||Paradoria Holiday||November 15, 2016|
|1||Fractured Fairy Tales: The Phox, the Box, & the Lox||August 27, 1999|
|2||Print 3D Errors||December 14, 2004|
|3||Computeropolis: A Technical Ride||June 11, 2006|
|4||Peri and Nicky Get a Flu||December 11, 2007|
|5||The Sounds of the Ocean||March 13, 2009|
|6||The Chat||September 7, 2010|
|7||Game Boys||December 6, 2011|
|8||Go Party!||July 27, 2012|
|9||Virtual Madness||July 3, 2013|
|10||Back in Time||December 9, 2014|
|11||Camp Jamo||July 7, 2015|
|14||How to Act Like a Player||March 22, 2016|
|15||Busho's Guide to Cool Things||January 10, 2017|
|16||Zip||March 3, 2017|
|17||Leno Finds Love||June 6, 2017|
|18||Double Date||December 8, 2017|
|19||Neon||May 4, 2018|
|20||Zola's Makeover||September 4, 2018|
|22||Keena's Paradorian Quest||November 9, 2018|
- The Gabriel Garza Movie (2002) — Uncredited; production arm of Universal Television Animation; co-production with Gingo Animation
- Curious George (2006) — Production arm of Universal Animation Studios; co-production with Imagine Entertainment
- The Tale of Despereaux (2008) — Uncredited; production arm of Universal Animation Studios; co-production with Relativity Media and Framestore Feature Animation
|An American Tail||1986–1999|
|The Land Before Time||1988–present|
|Ama and the Mysterious Crystal||1997–2000|
|Luna & Zak|
Golden Globe AwardsEdit
Critics' Choice AwardsEdit
Kids' Choice AwardsEdit
- Universal Animation Studios is often described by fans as the Universal counterpart of Walt Disney Animation Studios while Illumination is described as the Universal counterpart of Pixar.
- Unique for an animation studio, every one of Universal Animation's feature films so far features a younger (human) protagonist (mostly a young boy or a teenage boy).
- List of unproduced Universal Pictures animated shorts and feature films
- List of animation studios owned by NBCUniversal
- Universal Television Animation
- Illumination Entertainment
- DreamWorks Animation
- Universal Interactive Studios
- Gingo Animation