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This article is about the main feature animation division of Universal Studios. For the animation studio that maintains both the Universal City and Glendale studios, see Universal Animation Studios.

The feature animation department of Universal Animation Studios, formerly known as Universal Feature Animation or simply Universal Animation, is the in-house animation division of Universal Pictures, founded in May 1993 by Michael Wildshill and some alumni of Gingo Animation's former feature animation branch Gingo Feature Animation. Based in Universal City, California, the studio has produced a total of 23 feature films within the Universal Animated Features canon, from Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (1997) to Computeropolis: The Deep Web (2018).

As of September 2018, Universal Animation's feature films have grossed a combined total of $153.3 billion worldwide, with an average gross of $726.9 million per film. Three of its films — Computeropolis: The Deep Web (2018), Paradoria (2015), and Imagimals (2016) — 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 Computeropolis: The Deep Web being the fourth all-time highest in the latter category. The studio has received one Academy Award, 41 Emmys, numerous Annie Awards, and multiple Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

History

In early 1993, 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. That same year, Universal Studios, as well as several other Hollywood studios, moved into feature animation following the success of Disney animated features. Universal Feature Animation was officially established in May 1993 to produce theatrically released animated feature films to rival Disney. John Cohen was brought in to head the new division, which was set up in a building on the Universal Studios lot. 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.

Some of Gingo Feature Animation's artists in North Hollywood came to Universal Feature Animation in early 1994 when their first feature was in post-production, with the rest doing so in the following year when Gingo Feature Animation merged into UFA. In October 1994, Universal Feature Animation announced a full slate of animated projects in development: Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (then titled Legend of the Magic Crystal), an adaptation of T. H. White's Mistress Masham's Repose, Galaxion, and Oceanic (which got later shelved). Shortly after Gingo Feature Animation merged into Universal in 1996, Universal signed a co-production deal with Gingo to co-produce and distribute Paint World (1999). During the time, Universal owned 40% of Gingo. This partnership had Universal participating in the production of Gingo films in North Hollywood, and also had Gingo participating in some of the animated films made in Universal City.

Upon the unsuccessful release of Magina, Universal laid off most of the employees at the Feature Animation studio in Universal City, 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. In early 2005, Gingo Animation was spun off into a separate independent company, promoting Wildshill to remain on board as a consultant while Universal handles the rights to the pre-2005 Gingo library.

In January 2008, Universal renamed its Feature Animation unit to Universal Animation Studios, and merged its direct-to-video and television animation unit with the feature animation. Animators at Universal City worked on projects based at the Universal City studio, but also assisted in projects based in the Glendale UAS studio. Two months later, 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.

In September 2012, Universal named former Walt Disney Feature Animation president Peter Schneider the new president of Universal's Feature Animation division; however, in January 2013, Schneider resigned for personal reasons. In September 2013, Universal named another former Disney Animation president David Stainton as the president of the feature animation studio.

In October 2015, Universal named former Cartoon Network president Stuart Snyder as the executive vice president of the Universal Feature Animation Group.

On April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal announced its intent to acquire competing studio DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion, making DreamWorks Animation a sister studio to Universal Animation Studios and Illumination Entertainment; the acquisition was later completed on August 22, 2016.

Projects

The first of Universal's animated features was Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (1997), a fantasy adventure featuring the voice talents of Christina Ricci, Hank Azaria, and Patrick Stewart and the beginning of the Universal Animated Features (UAF) canon. Directed by Michael Wildshill, Ama received positive reviews from critics and was a success at the box office, which overpowered Disney's summer release for that year, Hercules. Ama established Universal as Disney's then-first major competitor in feature-film animation. Animation production for Ama was primarily done at the new Universal feature animation studio, although much of the work was outsourced to animation studios around the world.

In 1999, its next film, Galaxion (1999), received mixed reviews and under-performed at the box office. In the same year, Gingo's Paint World, UFA's third animated feature, was released to critical and financial success; it grossed over $452 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film of the year as well as the second highest-grossing animated film of the year behind Toy Story 2.

The fourth animated feature from Universal Feature Animation, Mistress Masham's Repose (2001), received a positive reception from critics and audiences and was a modest success at the box office.

The studio's next film, Me & Mobo (2002), received a positive reception from critics and audiences. However, the studio decided to rush its release to September with a rushed marketing push. UFA's next feature Magina, released in 2003, received mixed reviews from critics and under-performed at the box office which led to a growing perception that hand-drawn animation was becoming outdated and falling out of fashion in favor of the increasing popularity of computer animation, so UFA decided the same year to exit hand-drawn animation business after the next two of total seven hand-drawn films.

In 2004, Universal released its first fully in-house computer-animated feature film Computeropolis to critical and commercial success. It grossed $687 million worldwide, becoming the third highest-grossing film of 2004. Computeropolis established Universal as the fourth studio after Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Blue Sky Studios to have launched a successful CGI franchise.

In April 2005, Universal announced that it would be creating Computeropolis: A Technical Ride, a 3-D ride at Universal Parks & Resorts locations in Orlando, Hollywood, Sentosa, and Osaka. The ride officially opened on June 11, 2006 in Orlando, in Hollywood on March 15, 2008, in Sentosa on March 18, 2010, and in Osaka on March 4, 2011. In July 2005, the studio released its second computer-animated film M.I.S.S.I.O.N., which had been in active development since 1997, to generally positive reviews and had grossed over $293 million worldwide at the box office.

In 2006, UFA's ninth film and third computer-animated film BJ and Wally, in co-production with Gingo, was released to mixed reviews from critics. However, it was a box office success, earning $486 million worldwide. The studio's next feature and first sequel Computeropolis 2 opened in 2007. It earned over $953 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of the year and breaking a record as the most profitable film from Universal Animation.

In 2008, Universal Animation released its eleventh feature Swapped, a CGI animated comedy that follows a young girl and a teenage goth boy who swap bodies. The film opened to a much bigger than expected $43 million opening, and ended up with $376 million worldwide.

Woo La La, the studio's twelfth feature film, was released in 2009 and became a significant critical and commercial success, earning $532 million worldwide. The following year, Computeropolis 3, the third installment in the Computeropolis franchise, was released. The film was a box office success, earning over $783 million worldwide. However, unlike the first two Computeropolis films, Computeropolis 3 was not well-received critically.

After Computeropolis 3, Gabriel Garza, a new CGI feature film that marked a return to the Gabriel franchise, followed in 2011 to critical acclaim and commercial success and was nominated for several accolades. The film earned $645 million worldwide, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of 2011.

The studio's next feature was Plucky Chicken, released in 2012 and grossed $426 million worldwide, but received mixed reviews. In March 2013, the studio released Quest to critical acclaim and earned over $524 million worldwide, becoming a box office hit. Universal Animation's seventeenth film Gabriel Garza 2, a sequel to the studio's 2011 film Gabriel Garza, opened in theaters in 2014, earning over $895 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing animated film of 2014.

Paradoria, a CGI fantasy-adventure film, was released in March 2015 to widespread acclaim and became a blockbuster hit. Directed by Steve Samono and Gary Hall, it was the first Universal animated film to earn over $1 billion in worldwide box office revenue and is currently the highest-grossing Universal Animation film (surpassing Computeropolis 2 in 2007) and the third highest-grossing animated film of all time, behind Frozen and Minions. In December 2015, the studio's next film Luna & Zak, directed by Mark Dindal, was released and was another commercial and critical success for the studio, grossing over $600 million worldwide.

Imagimals, a Geo G.-directed animated film set in the world of imaginary creatures, was released in September 2016. It was the second Universal Animation film to cross the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office revenue. Universal Animation's latest releases are the third installment in the Gabriel Garza reboot film series, Gabriel Garza 3, released on March 3, 2017, the musical Lix, released on December 8, 2017, and the fourth installment in the Computeropolis franchise, Computeropolis: The Deep Web, released on May 4, 2018.

Upcoming projects

Universal Animation is currently working on Paradoria 2: Enchanted Realm (2019), Luna & Zak: Level Two (2020), Earth Farm (2021), Computeropolis 5 (2021), and Hyper (2022). Two untitled Universal Animation films are set for release on February 24 and December 20, 2023. They were previously scheduled for March 3 and December 22, 2023. Other Universal Animation films in development include a film adaptation based on the children's book Sector 7, Polly and the Black Ink, Gabriel Garza 4, Lix 2, Imagimals 2, Mech-Girl, an original animated film that pays homage to Japanese mecha anime written and directed by Computeropolis and Quest creator Audel LaRoque, and Bauhaus Gone Bonkers!, another original film about how a bunch of kids in Germany take back their arts industry from the monstrous Bauhaus museum, who's part of a major pop culture conspiracy regarding paintings and creativity.

Filmography

Feature films

Further information: List of Universal Animation Studios films

Released 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[R] 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 $1.133 billion 50% 59
RNot produced, but released by Universal Animation Studios under its label.

Upcoming films

# Title Release date
24 Paradoria 2: Enchanted Realm March 22, 2019
25 Luna & Zak: Level Two February 21, 2020
26 Earth Farm February 19, 2021
27 Computeropolis 5 May 21, 2021
28 Hyper February 25, 2022
29 Untitled films February 24, 2023
30 December 20, 2023

Films in development

Title
Graffiti Dudes
Sector 7
Cooking Fever
The Sentinel
Polly and the Black Ink
Gabriel Garza 4
Lix 2
Imagimals 2
Mech-Girl
Bauhaus Gone Bonkers!

Television specials

# Title Release date
1 Computeropolis Xmas November 22, 2011
2 It's a Very Gabriel Christmas! November 20, 2013
3 Paradoria Holiday November 15, 2016

Short films

Theatrical shorts

# Title Release date
1 Computeropolis: A Technical Ride June 11, 2006
2 The Sounds of the Ocean March 13, 2009
3 Go Party! July 27, 2012
4 Virtual Madness July 3, 2013
5 Zip March 3, 2017
6 Double Date December 8, 2017
7 Neon May 4, 2018

Direct-to-video short films

# Title Release date
1 Print 3D Errors December 14, 2004
2 Peri and Nicky Get a Flu December 11, 2007
3 The Chat September 7, 2010
4 Game Boys December 6, 2011
5 Back in Time December 9, 2014
6 Camp Jamo July 7, 2015
7 Noodles
8 Getting Annoyed
9 How to Act Like a Player March 22, 2016
10 Busho's Guide to Cool Things January 10, 2017
11 Leno Finds Love June 6, 2017
12 Zola's Makeover September 4, 2018
13 Monkey Business

Franchises

Title Release date
Ama and the Mysterious Crystal 1997–2000
Paint World 1999–present
Computeropolis 2004–present
Gabriel Garza 2011–present
Paradoria 2015–present
Luna & Zak
Imagimals 2016–present
Lix 2017–present

Accolades

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1999 Paint World Best Original Score Mark Mothersbaugh Nominated
Best Original Song "What I'll Do for the World" Won
2001 Mistress Masham's Repose Best Animated Feature John Cohen and Max Howard Nominated
2002 Me & Mobo John Cohen
2003 Magina John Cohen and Chris Jenkins
2004 Computeropolis Audel LaRoque and David Silverman
Best Original Score John Debney and Heitor Pereira
2006 BJ and Wally Best Animated Feature Geo G.
2007 Computeropolis 2 Audel LaRoque
Best Adapted Screenplay Thomas Lennon, Audel LaRoque and Mike Reiss
2009 Woo La La Best Animated Feature Michael Wildshill
2011 Gabriel Garza Geo G. and Teresa Cheng
2013 Quest Audel LaRoque and Karey Kirkpatrick
2014 Gabriel Garza 2 Teresa Cheng
2015 Paradoria Steve Samono and Gary Hall
Luna & Zak Mark Dindal and Randy Fullmer
Best Original Score John Debney
2016 Imagimals Best Animated Feature Geo G. and Michael Wildshill
2017 Gabriel Garza 3 Frans Vischer
Lix Amy McNeill and John France

Golden Globe Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1997 Ama and the Mysterious Crystal Best Animated Feature Film Michael Wildshill and Ralph Zondag Nominated
1999 Paint World Best Original Score Mark Mothersbaugh
Best Original Song "What I'll Do for the World"
2001 Mistress Masham's Repose Best Animated Feature Film Frederik Du Chau
2002 Me & Mobo Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Phil Nibbelink
2003 Magina Ash Brannon
2004 Computeropolis Best Animated Feature Film Audel LaRoque and David Silverman
2005 M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Steve Samono and Ash Brannon
2007 Computeropolis 2 Audel LaRoque
2008 Swapped Larry Huber and Jess Riol
2009 Woo La La Michael Wildshill Won
2011 Gabriel Garza Geo G. Nominated
2013 Quest Audel LaRoque, Karey Kirkpatrick and John France
2014 Gabriel Garza 2 Geo G.
2015 Paradoria Steve Samono and Gary Hall
2016 Imagimals Geo G.
2017 Lix Best Animated Feature Amy McNeill
Best Original Song "I Wanna Be a Superstar"

Annie Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1997 Ama and the Mysterious Crystal Best Animated Feature John Cohen Won
1999 Galaxion John Cohen and David Kirschner Nominated
2000 Paint World John Cohen
2001 Mistress Masham's Repose John Cohen and Max Howard
2002 Me & Mobo John Cohen
2003 Magina John Cohen and Chris Jenkins
2004 Computeropolis Brandon Minez and Michael Wildshill
2006 BJ and Wally Geo G. and Michael Wildshill
2007 Computeropolis 2 Brandon Minez and Michael Wildshill
2009 Woo La La Jess Riol
2010 Computeropolis 3 Michael Wildshill
2011 Gabriel Garza Teresa Cheng
2013 Quest Daniel Ross
2014 Gabriel Garza 2 Teresa Cheng and John Cohen
2015 Paradoria Amy McNeill and Daniel Ross
2016 Imagimals Michael Wildshill
2017 Gabriel Garza 3 John Cohen and Pam Marsden
Lix Roy Kobayashi

Critics' Choice Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1997 Ama and the Mysterious Crystal Best Animated Feature Michael Wildshill and Ralph Zondag Won
1999 Paint World Best Composer Mark Mothersbaugh
2001 Mistress Masham's Repose Best Animated Feature Frederik Du Chau Nominated
2002 Me & Mobo Phil Nibbelink
2003 Magina Ash Brannon
2004 Computeropolis Audel LaRoque and David Silverman
2007 Computeropolis 2 Audel LaRoque
2011 Gabriel Garza Geo G.
2014 Gabriel Garza 2
2015 Paradoria Steve Samono and Gary Hall Won
2016 Imagimals Geo G. and Charles Zembillas Nominated
2017 Gabriel Garza 3 Frans Vischer
Lix Amy McNeill and John France

Kids' Choice Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
1999 Galaxion Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Michael J. Fox Nominated
2001 Mistress Masham's Repose Emma Watson
Robin Williams
2002 Me & Mobo Bruce Willis
2003 Magina Elijah Wood Won
2004 Computeropolis Jesse McCartney Nominated
2005 M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Favorite Animated Movie
2006 BJ and Wally
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Zach Braff Won
2007 Computeropolis 2 Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Jesse McCartney
David Spade Nominated
2008 Swapped Freddie Highmore
2009 Woo La La Favorite Animated Movie Won
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Matt Damon
2010 Computeropolis 3 Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
2011 Gabriel Garza
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Zachary Gordon Won
2012 Plucky Chicken Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Ryan Reynolds
2013 Quest Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Justin Long
Simon Pegg
2014 Gabriel Garza 2 Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Elijah Wood
Isla Fisher Won
2015 Paradoria Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie AnnaSophia Robb Nominated
Luna & Zak Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Anne Hathaway
Favorite Buttkicker Josh Gad
2016 Imagimals Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie John Goodman
Most Wanted Pet
2017 Gabriel Garza 3 Favorite Animated Movie
Lix

Gallery

Coming soon!

Trivia

  • 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, almost every one of Universal Animation's feature films so far features a younger (human) protagonist (mostly a young boy or a teenage boy).
  • Starting with Computeropolis: The Deep Web in 2018, the "STUDIOS" is removed, thus naming the company as just Universal Animation.

See also


v - e - d
Universal Animation Studios logo
Theatrical films
Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (1997) • Galaxion (1999) • Paint World (1999) • Mistress Masham's Repose (2001) • Me & Mobo (2002) • Magina (2003) • Computeropolis (2004) • M.I.S.S.I.O.N. (2005) • BJ and Wally (2006) • Computeropolis 2 (2007) • Swapped (2008) • Woo La La (2009) • Computeropolis 3 (2010) • Gabriel Garza (2011) • Plucky Chicken (2012) • Quest (2013) • Gabriel Garza 2 (2014) • Paradoria (2015) • Luna & Zak (2015) • Imagimals (2016) • Gabriel Garza 3 (2017) • Lix (2017) • Computeropolis: The Deep Web (2018)
Upcoming films
Paradoria 2: Enchanted Realm (2019) • Luna & Zak: Level Two (2020) • Earth Farm (2021) • Computeropolis 5 (2021) • Hyper (2022)
Short films
Print 3D Errors (2004) • Computeropolis: A Technical Ride (2006) • Peri and Nicky Get a Flu (2007) • The Sounds of the Ocean (2009) • The Chat (2010) • Game Boys (2011) • Go Party! (2012) • Virtual Madness (2013) • Back in Time (2014) • Camp Jamo (2015) • Noodles (2015) • Getting Annoyed (2015) • How to Act Like a Player (2016) • Busho's Guide to Cool Things (2017) • Zip (2017) • Leno Finds Love (2017) • Double Date (2017) • Neon (2018) • Zola's Makeover (2018) • Monkey Business (2018)
Franchises
Ama and the Mysterious Crystal (1997–2000) • Paint World (1999–present) • Computeropolis (2004–present) • Gabriel Garza (2011–present) • Paradoria (2015–present) • Luna & Zak (2015–present) • Imagimals (2016–present) • Lix (2017–present)
Directors
Michael WildshillAudel LaRoqueAsh BrannonSteve SamonoGeo G.Mike MoonGary HallKarey KirkpatrickJohn FranceMark DindalFrans VischerAmy McNeill
Producers
John CohenBrandon MinezJim AndersonMichael WildshillTeresa ChengAmy McNeillRandy FullmerRoy KobayashiMary Parent
Writers
Len BlumThomas LennonIrene MecchiKarey KirkpatrickJoe StillmanMike ReissBrian LynchDan FogelmanErica RivinojaJohn HamburgDavid ReynoldsDarren Lemke
Associated Figures
Michael WildshillJohn CohenDavid Stainton
Signature Voice Actors
Jodi BensonHarland WilliamsElijah WoodRob CorddryDan FoglerJim CummingsJohn DiMaggioMichael WildshillGary HallAmy McNeillChris ParnellPatrick StewartKari WahlgrenFrank WelkerDee Bradley BakerBill FarmerTara Strong
Signature Musicians
Mark MancinaMark MothersbaughJohn DebneyJohn Powell
Visual Development & Storyboard Artists
Craig KellmanJohn FranceCarter GoodrichShane PrigmoreYarrow CheneyShannon Tindle


v - e - d
NBCUNI Logo
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
Universal PicturesUniversal Pictures Home EntertainmentUniversal Animation StudiosIlluminationIllumination Mac GuffDreamWorks AnimationFocus FeaturesGramercy PicturesWorking Title FilmsNBCUniversal Entertainment Japan
Television Production
NBCUniversal Television DistributionUniversal TelevisionUniversal Television AnimationDreamWorks Animation Television
Former Studios
MCA Inc.Pacific Data ImagesUniversal Interactive
Universal Parks & Resorts
Universal Studios HollywoodUniversal Orlando Resort (Universal Studios FloridaIslands of AdventureCityWalk) • Universal Studios JapanUniversal Studios SingaporeUniversal Studios Beijing