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Blue Sky Studios, Inc. was founded in February 1987 by American film director John Christopher Wedge (Chris Wedge), Carl Lawrence Ludwig, and a small group of artists and technicians who worked with Wedge on the Oscar Nominated and Saturn Award-wining Disney film Tron. The company moved into a space above a dentist’s office in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., and quickly landed its first major client—Dulcolax. From 1987-1997, Blue Sky worked on television commercials and visual effects for film productions. The company produced more than 200 commercials for clients such as the U.S. Marines, M&M, and Chrysler, and special effects for films such as MTV Films’ dark comedy Joe’s Apartment, with Jerry O’Connell and Megan Ward, and A Simple Wish with Martin Short and Mara Wilson.
In August 1997 a 20th Century Fox special effects company called VIFX acquired Blue Sky Studios. The new company, Blue Sky/VIFX went on to produce visual effects for Armageddon, The X-Files, Titanic, and Blade. In 1999, the company produced the animated short Bunny, which earned Blue Sky and Wedge their first Oscar.
Another big thing happened for the company in 1999. VIFX was sold to Rhythm & Hues Studios, leading to Blue Sky’s decision to focus solely on animation.
Ice Age was Blue Sky’s next big production. It was released on March 15, 2002 and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. Ice Age was the company’s first computer-animated feature. It cost $59 million to make and went on to gross $383 million worldwide.
Today, Blue Sky Studios is a wholly owned unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment (a subsidiary of News Corporation). The company produces computer-generated character animation for the feature film, television and entertainment industries. Blue Sky Studios is located in Greenwich, CT and it has more than 400 employees.
Blue Sky Studios Jobs
Blue Sky Studios, like many firms, seeks fresh talent. In 2010, the company hired around 40 new employees and as of August 1, 2011, the company website (www.blueskystudios.com) listed 10 new job openings. According to the website, the company also accepts screenplays, story ideas, treatments, and other literary and artistic materials through authorized literary agents who are also signatories with the Writer’s Guild of America and known to a recipient at Fox.
Individuals seeking a salaried position with the company can submit an application through the official Blue Sky Studios website. The virtual employment center requires applicants to create a user name and password, along with a profile, in order to apply for a position. Past and present job postings include animator, camera & staging artist, designer, effects technical director, and temporary animator.
According to the company website, there are a number of qualifications that Blue Sky Studios looks for in a potential candidate for an animation, technical director, and modeler positions. Applicants for animator positions, should have a degree in fine art with coursework in fine arts, animation, or life drawings. Film classes such as film making, storyboarding, video editing, special effects, or anything around making and understanding films are also preferred, as well as acting classes to help understand movement. You should also be proficient in Maya, Softimage, 3D Studio or similar software program.
Applicants for technical director positions should have a degree in fine arts or computer science. Coursework should include computer science, computer graphics, theatre, fine arts, studio, photography, industrial design, architecture and any other courses that help to explain the effects of lighting.
Applicants should also be proficient in Maya, Houdini, Renderman/Mental Ray and Realflow. Although a fine arts degree or computer science degree are preferred, according to Blue Sky, technical directors generally have the widest range including degrees in forestry and classics.
Modelers should have a degree in fine arts as well, with coursework in figurative sculpting, painting and computer modeling. They should also be proficient in Maya and Studio Paint.
On its website, Blue Sky Studios mentions that certain schools have a good record of success in the animation field. These schools include:
- Arizona State
- California Institute of the Arts
- Carnegie-Mellon University
- Clemson University
- Cornell University
- Full Sail
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- New York University
- NYU (New York University)
- Ohio State University
- Parsons School of Design
- Pratt Institute
- Rhode Island School of Design
- Ringling School of Art and Design
- Sheridan College
- Skidmore College
- SVA (School of Visual Arts)
- Texas A&M
- University of Illinois
If you have not attended any of the schools listed above, don’t be discouraged. You can still apply to Blue Sky Studios. Talent and the right type of degree/coursework can go far.
Blue Sky Studios Salaries
Salaries for Blue Sky Studios employees vary depending on specialization and position, but they are competitive within the industry. Here are some examples of salaries, provided by Glassdoor.com, for various positions within the company:
- Technical Animator: $79,986
- Digital Artist: $96,972
- Digital Artist/Modeler: $81,466
- 3D Modeler: $89,477
- Technical Director: $89,908
- Lead Technical Director: $115,154
- Visual Development Artist: $116,333
- Lighting Technical Director: $91,000
- Programmer Analyst: $80,653
Across the nation, salaried animators earn a mean annual salary of $63,440. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that Connecticut’s 310 salaried animators average around $62,410 per year (mean). In 2004, the state’s 210 animator’s averaged $50,150 per year. Greenwich, CT animators average around $77,000 per year.