It’s been one year since California-based Skydance Media opened its animation division, and the production company is now ready to sashay further into the kids and family space—all thanks to a quartet of former DreamWorks Animation execs. The company’s new hires include Holly Edwards as head of animation production, Kim Mackey for head of talent acquisitions and development, Jessie Carbonaro as director of talent acquisitions and talent development, and Matthew Burke in the role of finance director.
“Everyone brings a wealth of experience and a certain skill set that we will need in order to help build Skydance Media’s animation studio from the ground up,” says Bill Damaschke, president of animation and family entertainment. “We’re truly in startup mode with Edwards on board leading the production side of the business, and Mackey heading up our recruiting and talent development. The pair understands how to build the right culture we need to make great films.”
Edwards spent the past 16 years at DreamWorks Animation in both production and executive roles for films including Trolls, Penguins of Madagascar, Mr. Peabody and Sherman and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. With these credits under her belt, Edwards is looking forward to building new animation franchises from scratch.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build up an animation studio and handpick the best possible team,” says Edwards. “Our first order of business is getting our studio fully staffed with talented artists, writers and producers. I’m working closely with Mackey to make sure we get the right people in here for our projects, and I’m collaborating with Bill so I can execute on his and Skydance Media founder David Ellison’s vision to launch and grow this studio.” Damaschke also notes that Skydance is actively working to build a team of artists and technologists, with additional appointment announcements expected soon.
The extra manpower is warranted. Last year, Skydance inked a multi-year partnership with Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios to develop and produce animated feature films and TV shows. The companies’ upcoming film slate kicks off with Luck in 2019, followed by Split and Powerless (all working titles). Directed by Vicky Jenson (Shrek) and written by Linda Woolverton (Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast), Split follows a teenager who comes of age using magical powers to defend her family from light and darkness. Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (Kung Fu Panda), will be released in March 2021, while Powerless will be directed by Nathan Greno (Tangled), who just signed a multi-year agreement with Skydance to consult on current projects in development.
Before getting into animation and family productions, Skydance churned out feature films including Annihilation and Star Trek Beyond. It has also worked with Netflix on TV productions including Altered Carbon and Grace & Frankie. (Damaschke declined to comment on whether the studio will be working with Netflix on any of its upcoming kids productions.)
“We are very focused on film, but we are also planning to do more television series in the near future,” Edwards adds. “We’ll have more news in that area soon.”
As for Skydance’s additional hires, Mackey will recruit talent and develop strategies across all company divisions, with a main focus on animation. As head of recruiting at DreamWorks, she managed resources for the company’s entire production slate, including major franchises like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon.
Carbonaro, meanwhile, spent 13 years at DreamWorks Animation as a producer and writer. She was most recently a production supervisor on projects including Shrek the Third, Shrek Forever After and Megamind. Fellow DreamWorks alum Burke will helm all finance strategies at Skydance, drawing on his prior experience as senior production assistant at Walt Disney Imagineering’s film division.
Damaschke, for his part, also hails from DreamWorks, where he was appointed chief creative officer in 2011 before stepping down in 2015.