It seems Warner Bros. aren't content with just being a studio with a strong animation history, as Variety reports the studio has put in place a "creative consortium" (á la Pixar's Brain Trust I imagine) to spearhead its new animation initiative.
In recent years, Warner Bros. has output live-action mega-blockbusters, like Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, however, its animation front hasn't really been firing on all cylinders since the golden days of Looney Tunes. The studio looks to try and fix that with this new set-up, aiming to release one "high-end" film a year, starting in 2014 with Lego.
The newly formed consortium consists of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Crazy, Stupid, Love., Cats & Dogs), Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets), Phil Lord and Chris Miller - not DreamWorks' Chris Miller - (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Jared Stern (Mr. Popper's Penguins). A pretty strong gathering, it seems, with a firm grounding in animation. As mentioned, the group's first project is next year's The Lego Movie (released 7th February, 2014), which is directed by Lord and Miller and stars the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and others.
Presto director Doug Sweetland will direct Warner Bros.' Storks.
Following that, the studio will release Storks in 2015, written by Stoller and directed by Pixar alum Doug Sweetland (Presto). What's interesting though is that Sweetland was previously associated with directing The Familiars for Sony, which a Sony Pictures Animation representative recently told me "is one of the many projects still in development at Sony Pictures Animation." It will be interesting to see if this announcement changes that at all; maybe the project will advance with a new director. I've emailed Sony, so I'll update this post if and when I get a response. Either way, I'm very excited to see anything he does! UPDATE - 08/01/2013, 20:46 (GMT): SPA's reps replied "The only information I can give out at this moment is that the The Familiars is still in development.", which to me sounds noncommittal - as if Doug perhaps is no longer directing - but I guess we'll have to wait and see.
2016 will then see the release of Smallfoot, written by Requa and Ficarra, from an idea by director Sergio Pablos (originator of the story for Despicable Me).
"Warner Bros. has an extraordinary legacy in the world of animation, including some of the most enduring characters in cinema history. Looking to the future, we have now gathered some of the best and brightest talents in the industry to help us grow and broaden that legacy. Drawing upon their imaginations and inspiration, the Studio will produce a slate of new and original animated films that are sure to delight audiences of all ages." said Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov.
With this announcement coming mere month after Paramount's similar one (also toting high-profile names) it's clear to see that big studios see the potential, creatively and financially, of animation.