Paramount hires David Stainton to run animation unit

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Viacom Inc.-owned Paramount Pictures has tapped veteran animation executive David Stainton to head its fledgling animation unit.

Stainton spent 17 years at Disney, where he most recently served as president of feature animation until early 2006, when Disney acquired Pixar Animation Studios and put its co-founder Ed Catmull and his creative partner John Lasseter in charge of the Burbank studio’s storied but struggling feature animation division.

Now he will take over Paramount’s new animation unit, which the studio launched this year after the release of ‘Rango,’ the critically well-received and moderately successful movie starring Johnny Depp.

Paramount has been distributing movies from DreamWorks Animation for several years, but that relationship is expected to end when the studios’ seven-year deal expires at the end of 2012. The two sides are at odds over how much DreamWorks should pay Paramount to distribute its movies.


Beginning in the 2014, Paramount aims to release one animated feature film a year with budgets of up to $100 million, developing projects including those from Viacom’s children’s cable TV network Nickelodeon. The studio has released several movies based on Nickelodeon shows such as ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’

Paramount’s upcoming animated releases include Steven Spielberg’s motion-capture film ‘The Adventures of Tintin,’ which will be released in the U.S. in December, and another ‘SpongeBob’ picture.

In his new role, which takes effect this week, Stainton will report to Paramount Motion Picture Group president Adam Goodman.

Stainton also will be charged with building Paramount’s consumer product business by identifying merchandise opportunities around its animation releases, the studio said.

“The success of Rango this year helped us recognize our potential and ability to create wonderfully imaginative animated pictures with global appeal,” said Brad Grey, chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures. “David is a proven leader with a broad portfolio of experience in animation and family entertainment. He will be a welcome addition to Adam’s highly talented team.”

Still, Stainton’s job won’t be easy. Paramount will have to compete an increasingly crowded market with more established players such as Pixar and DreamWorks.

‘Today’s marketplace affords terrific flexibility as we set out to create fresh, new and different films and seek to attract great talent to Paramount,’' Stainton said in a statement. ‘It is a great honor to be joining a company as storied and successful as Paramount and to be able to shape its future in animation.’

During his tenure at Disney, Stainton oversaw several dozen releases and led the studio’s often difficult transition from its roots in hand-drawn animation to fully digital production. After leaving Disney, Stainton launched a family entertainment production company, Henry’s World Media.


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-- Richard Verrier