Last week came the bad news that many animation fans and connoisseurs have been waiting for: Spies in Disguise, the 2019 Christmas movie starring Will Smith and Tom Holland, will be the latest original feature film from Blue Sky Animation. Founded in the late 1980s, the studio became the in-house animation company of 20th Century Fox – now 20th Century Studios of the Walt Disney Company. And since Disney owns both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, it seemed like Blue Sky didn’t have much of a chance of surviving there…. But people hoped against hope.

The studio behind the Ice Age and Rio franchises, Blue Sky Animation, sometimes has a hard time finding its identity. Films like Horton Hears Who and Peanuts are still very young, but Robots and Epic require an audience much larger than the average third grader can provide.

Some will likely point to its steady box office decline – its biggest box office hit came in 2009, and 2019’s Spies in Disguise was by far its least profitable film – but even then, you can point to Disney’s acquisition of Fox and its apparent desire to bury Spies in Disguise as the most likely culprit of its performance (the film did quite well with critics and audiences, and benefited from a few big stars in its promotion).

For better or worse, Blue Sky is over, and it’s the perfect time to look at the studio’s results and see how the films compare. What’s the best movie they’ve ever released? What’s the worst you can do? We looked at the Box Office and Rotten Tomatoes for a quick overview.

But as you read this, you should also remember that these guys have produced specials and short films and even contributed to live-action films like Joe’s Apartment (they did part of the dancing cockroaches) and Fight Club (the slippery penguin).

Ice age: Collision course

After five feature films, six short films and a couple of television specials, the Ice Age franchise became Blue Sky’s most critically acclaimed film in an instant.

The Ice Age: Collision Course was released in 2016 and brought in a modest $408 million, the lowest total revenue since the first Ice Age – but it was released in 2002, meaning its $383 million in revenue had more buying power… and its budget was just over half of what Blue Sky spent to produce Collision Course. The film also received a positive response of just 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Ice age: Continental drift

With a positive score of 38% for Rotten Tomatoes and a box office of $877 million, Ice Age : Continental Drift is betting on the ice age: The collision. Sure, it’s embarrassing… but that’s all. The film marked a moment in the franchise when many fans began to wonder if there was any gas left in the tank – and many of them seemed to decide not to buy tickets for the next film when the time came.

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Ice age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Three years before the continental drift, the ice age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs did slightly better at the box office ($886 million) and with critics (46%). Yet it is the first Blue Sky film to score less than 50% on the Tomatometer (which should be an exclusive of the studio suites, while the first installments have always been well received by critics and fans).

Even the somewhat damaged critics probably had a good time; Dawn of the Dinosaurs is Blue Sky’s best-selling animated film for Fox – and since its release in 2009, it’s well ahead of the other blockbuster films that came out in 2010, given inflation and rising production costs.

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Rio de Janeiro 2

In 2014, as Ice Age began to show its age, Blue Sky tried a different franchise with Rio 2, a sequel to their 2011 hit film that ended up being almost identical to its predecessor. While Rio was worth about $90 million and grossed $484 million, Rio 2 was worth just over $100 million and grossed $500 million. Even the time difference and resulting inflation don’t affect the film too much, making it – like the first – a reasonable success, but nowhere near the self-starter the studio was hoping for.

It’s also the only Blue Sky movie that got less than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes (this one got 48%), it’s not a sequel to Ice Age.

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Ice age: recast

We got him! A point where there are no more films with Rotten Tomatoes ratings below 50%, and no sequels after that. It’s probably a sign that maybe Blue Sky should have focused less on sequels and more on new concepts that would have forged a bond and built the brand, but that’s it.

Anyway, the Ice Age: Collapse was a huge success, with worldwide sales of $660 million in 2006. This was enough to make it the second most popular animated film of the year, after Cars, and the sixth most popular, after Superman Returns, at the national box office, while Rotten Tomatoes received a positive score of 57%.

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Robot

Robots was an odd film and, between the first two Ice Age films, an odd choice for a second film for a new studio. Robin Williams certainly raises everything he’s involved in, but the film only brought in about 2/3 of what Ice Age had, which lowers the bar for future Blue Sky productions at the box office, while scoring 64% at Rotten Tomatoes – certainly not bad, but also nowhere near the 77% of its predecessor.

Since the film’s release, he’s become a cult figure, and it’s hard to blame him for wearing his heart on his sleeve, but at the time he seemed a bit fake.

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Epic

After Shrek, everyone has at least one attempt at a post-modern fairy tale animated film, and this one was made by Blue Sky. With a 65% Rotten Tomatoes rating (for both critics and audiences!) and a box office of $268 million, this is not on par with Shrek or Ice Age, but certainly better than many films, some of which are considered Blue Sky hits, could have done worse. But in retrospect, many fans feel they could have done much better.

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Rio

As mentioned above, the Rio studio found modest financial success, mediocre success with critics and audiences, and the possibility of a new franchise that would help strengthen the studio’s programming, which at the time consisted primarily of Ice Age and one-of-a-kind films. The film received 72% positive reviews and $484 million on a budget of less than $100 million, which is certainly good news for the studio, even if it’s not quite the $886 million that Ice Age brought in: The Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which came out shortly before this one, settled down.

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Ferdinand

(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Ferdinand was the kind of movie that seemed destined to be a big hit – but there were several for Blue Sky in the years that followed. The 2017 film got 72% of critics with Rio, but failed to match its box office results, earning just $296 million. Financially, it can only be considered a success compared to the immediately preceding Blue Sky film, Peanuts, which brought in less than $250 million, although it is based on a much better-known intellectual property. Ferdinand, however, is another film that felt it needed to stand out more than it did, and on some level felt it was behind the times. The children’s book on which it is based became very popular after it was mentioned in Sandra Bullock’s film The Blind Side, but that was in 2009 – almost a decade before the film finally hit theaters.

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Masked Spy

(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Financially, Spies in Disguise was Blue Sky’s meeting with a lament, though one could argue – and of course critics will – that it’s the best new mark the studio has produced in years. But that 76% on Rotten Tomatoes was overshadowed by a meager commercial success of $171 million – by far the smallest in Blue Sky’s history – and by Disney’s apparent disinterest in what Blue Sky had to offer.

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Ice Age

Blue Sky’s flagship product is still the best regarded and most successful original intellectual property they’ve ever had, which wasn’t based on a legendary concept until Blue Sky got their hands on it. Of course, the 77% score isn’t much better than the 76% score for Spies in Disguise – but the many sequels and spin-offs speak for themselves, as does the $383 million box office – about seven times the film’s budget and about $557 million in today’s money.

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Horton by Dr. Seuss Hear Who!

You can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss – although of course there’s a lot to be said for feature film adaptations that aren’t unique to a popular children’s book author. This would be the only adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ book Blue Sky, but the Gorton Hear and Hear book was very well received.

The film received a positive score of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, and although its $297 box-office hardly comes close to Ice Age, it represents nearly 400% of its original budget.

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Peanut leaf

Who better than Dr. Seuss to give you sources of information? Well, very few people… but Charles Schultz could be a serious suspect. The film only brought in $246 million, significantly less than other Blue Sky films, but still managed an 86% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, surprising fans with how much they really enjoyed it.

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