Animation director Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “Zootopia,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet”) has left Disney to join the “Spider-Verse” of Sony Pictures Animation, where he will develop, produce, and direct original animated features as well as advise on upcoming movie and series-based projects. This is a major defection for the post-John Lasseter Disney (now under the leadership of Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee, who Moore collaborated with on “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Zootopia”), but also a major coup for the Oscar-winning Sony (led by President Kristine Belson).
Lasseter recruited Moore to Disney a decade ago after he needed a change from “The Simpsons,” and it appears that the time was right for another creative change. “Ten years is a long time,” Moore said in a prepared statement, “but when you’re working on incredible films with people you love as I have these last 10 years, that time flies by. I will always cherish my days at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and I leave with the faith that the studio is in good hands. I remain a lifelong Disney Animation fan and look forward to the films they’ll create in the future.”
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At the same time, Moore alluded to how impressed he was with the innovative and disruptive “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have transformed Sony into a force to be reckoned with. “Sony Animation has emerged as a major player among animation studios,” he said. “Their vision to give filmmakers and artists the freedom to take risks, and to really push the envelope when it comes to visual style and breadth of storytelling is impressive, and I can’t wait to be a part of shaping the studio’s future.”
Risk-taking has always been part of Moore’s non-conformist DNA. It’s what animated his three Oscar-nominated features at Disney, which embraced inclusion, diversity, and fresh twists on the buddy comedy. While Disney is even more devoted to inclusion and diversity under Lee, along with greater creative risk-taking, the opportunities at Sony were probably too enticing for Moore to pass up. He not only gets to participate in the “Spider-Verse” franchise but also dabble with more mixed animation styles and new genre frontiers.
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“Rich is a world-class storyteller and he brings with him a wealth of experience and a unique sensibility for story, comedy, and heart,” added Belson in a prepared statement. “We are so excited for him to join our team of filmmakers at Sony Pictures Animation as we continue to develop a slate of animated features that are big, bold, and will take audiences by surprise.”
Sony’s upcoming animated slate includes “Vivo” (November 6th, 2020), the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical (with 11 original songs by the “Hamilton” creator), directed by Kirk De Micco (“The Croods”), about a capuchin monkey that ventures from Havana to Miami to achieve a musical dream; the Miller/Lord-produced sci-fi comedy about a road trip interrupted by an tech uprising (previously titled “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”), slated for early 2020; and “Hotel Transylvania 4” (December 21st, 2021).