Fox Animation Head Leaves for Universal

Following its moderately successful dive into the feature animation biz with Curious George, Universal pictures is apparently amping up its efforts in the arena by stealing 20th Century Fox Animation CEO Chris Meledandri. According to Daily Variety. Melendandri will launch his own family entertainment shingle with Universal this spring, focusing on animated and live-action movies to be distributed by the studio.

Meledandri’s exclusive, five-year agreement with Universal is expected to yield two to three movies a year starting in 2009. Universal will fund the start-up banner while outside investors will be sought to help cover production costs.

Universal had hoped to inherit a feature animation unit when it made a bid to buy DreamWorks, which was instead sold to Paramount last year. Melendandri will have to enlist the aid of existing animation companies or build a pipeline from scratch. While he was with Fox, he oversaw the acquisition of Blue Sky Studios, which went on to make the very successful Ice Age movies and Robots. More recently, he has been overseeing work on Fox’s The Simpsons: The Movie, as well as pics in development including a feature adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, director Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox and a third Ice Age installment.