Disney launching animation studio in Vancouver

New production facility to launch in January

Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank | Photo: Walt Disney Co.

It appears the Magic Kingdom is set to work its magic on Vancouver.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is launching a new production facility in Hollywood North this coming January with the former head of WildBrain Ltd.’s (TSX:WILD) Vancouver office taking the lead.

“I am so honoured and excited to be joining the Disney family again. I can’t wait to dive in and collaborate with the talented teams at Disney Animation on a new slate of projects for Disney+ starting with Moana,” Amir Nasrabadi, the head of Walt Disney Animation Studio, Vancouver, said in Wednesday’s announcement.

“I continue to be amazed at the high level of artistry and technical advancements coming out of the animation industry here in Vancouver and I am so proud to be a part of this community. This is really a dream come true for me.”

Representatives from Disney did not immediately respond to an inquiry from BIV.

Nasrabadi previously served for two years as WildBrain’s executive vice-president and general manager of its office in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

Prior to that, he also held roles at Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, serving as the vice-president and general manager of Pixar Canada.

The new studio in Vancouver will focus on long-form series work, such as the aforementioned Moana title, as well as other projects for the Disney+ streaming service.

But story development, storyboarding and production design for Disney’s projects will continue to be based out of California, where more than 900 of the company’s animation workers are based.

“With Burbank and Vancouver both home to some of the world’s most talented artists and technicians, we believe the storytelling and visual quality created within each location will meet the incredibly high standards we set for ourselves and audiences have come to expect from Disney Animation,” Clark Spencer, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said in a statement.

Vancouver has proven to be a popular destination for animation projects.

Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq:NFLX) tapped WildBrain earlier this year for its new Sonic the Hedgehog series.

But the B.C. industry has been subject to criticism for its working conditions in the past.

B.C.’s Employment Standards Branch ruled three years ago in favour of local animators who didn’t receive overtime pay for work on Seth Rogen’s 2016 comedy Sausage Party.

Cinesite Vancouver Inc. (formerly Nitrogen Studios Canada Inc.) was hit with a $500 fine and ordered to compensate B.C. animators for unpaid overtime work.

Last October, animators at Titmouse Inc.’s Vancouver facility became the first in Canada to unionize.

torton@biv.com

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