In the News


Skydance Shocker: David Ellison’s Animation Deal Moves From Apple to Netflix, ‘Spellbound’ Set for 2024

By Matt Donnelly, Angelique Jackson

October 18, 2023

David Ellison’s Skydance Animation has found a new home at Netflix, ending a lucrative distribution pact with Apple Studios.

Skydance Animation, run by John Lasseter with president Holly Edwards, will now exclusively release its animated movies directly to Netflix in an arrangement that will span multiple years, with the studio’s existing slate also moving exclusively to the streamer.

The first up will be “Spellbound,” which was previously set up at Apple. The film, starring Rachel Zegler and Tituss Burgess, is now set for release by Netflix in 2024, followed by “Pookoo” in 2025. Future films include “Ray Gunn,” directed by Brad Bird and an untitled Jack and the Beanstalk project directed by Rich Moore. Theatrical releases do not seem to be a part of the new Netflix-Skydance Animation agreement.

While the animation deal has ended, Apple and Skydance will continue its business on live-action films and series, including movies from Mark Wahlberg (“The Family Plan”) and Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Gorge”).

Both streamers have preexisting relationships with Skydance Media, so news of the shuffle isn’t unprecedented territory. Netflix has released Skydance’s “The Adam Project,” “Heart of Stone” and “The Old Guard,” along with the series “FUBAR,” “Altered Carbon” and “Grace and Frankie.” As Variety reported exclusively last week, Netflix’s own animation group is undergoing a restructure and has openly engaged in finding output deals to keep kids and family content volume high after a standout awards season run — winning its first best animated feature Oscar for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and a primetime Emmy for “Arcane,” among other awards.

Ellison’s alignment with Apple, however, has represented one of the most lucrative overall deals in the modern Hollywood ecosystem. A year after the animation deal, Apple and Skydance signed a similar agreement for live-action films. The terms set were among the most generous any producer has seen in the streaming era, Variety reported in 2022. That deal guaranteed Skydance two films per year budgeted at roughly $125 million, with a minimum guarantee of $25 million per project. The point of that agreement, of course, is to launch iconic franchises like “Mission: Impossible” or the streaming hit “The Tomorrow War” (which Skydance gave to Amazon). Apple and Skydance Animation released but one film, “Luck,” and mutually agreed that “Spellbound’ was not a fit for Apple’s expanding narrative slate, thus necessitating its move to Netflix.