June 19, 2024

Netflix’s animation unit and the film slate in controls will undergo a restructure, resulting in job cuts and the shutdown of two films currently in pre-production. As a result of the reorg, the streamer is looking to recruit outside producers to keep its animated content volume consistent.

Final headcounts on pink slips were not immediately clear but are expected to be handed down in the coming weeks. A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the plans but did not provide further comment on the matter.

After she was named animation vice president in February 2022, executive Karen Toliver has been tweaking the long-term strategy for the group that is still committed to a robust slate, per insiders. To that end, the division is exploring output deal offers to third-party producers to air their animated works on the service. Specific companies or producers being courted were not immediately known.

Two slate projects have put into turnaround, the first being a previously unannounced film titled “Escape From Beverly Hills,” which will now go back on the open market.  The second is “Tunga,” a film won by Netflix at auction in 2019 from Zimbabwe-Born creator Godwin Jabangwe. That film is rooted in the mythology of the Shona culture and follows a young girl who must find a mythical city where elder spirits can teach her how to summon rain, in order to rescue her community from a deadly drought. The film will remain at Netflix and has been sent back into development. 

Despite grappling with internal strategy and larger external market factors (last week, competitor DreamWorks Animation announced it would cut 70 jobs and outsource production), Netflix Animation had its biggest year in 2023. The division took the Academy Award for best animated feature for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” after a long awards run, boasting a voice cast that included Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton.

Upcoming releases from the unit include “Leo,” featuring the voice of Adam Sandler as a lizard who has lived for decades as a class pet in a Florida school, and “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.”

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