Laika film studios announced today that it would spin off its advertising division, Laika/house, and concentrate entirely on its feature film business. The advertising division will continue to operate as Laika/house over the summer, when it will become a separate company.
This also means that the film studio would sever itself from the last remaining legacies of animator Will Vinton and his studios—including the animated M&M characters that Vinton created in the 1990s. (Laika/house also worked on those famous Cover Oregon ads featuring local musicians.)
On May 9, Priceonomics posted a long and interesting piece about Vinton's ouster from Will Vinton Studios and the creation of Laika. Specifically, the piece described how "a severely mismanaged Vinton Studios blew through more than $7 million in funding," which led to a buyout by Nike head Phil Knight and the installment of his son Travis on the board of directors in 2003. Travis Knight had moved from Vinton intern to member of the company board (and Vinton's boss) within three years. Vinton resigned from the board, and was fired from his office job six months later.
Prior to taking over Laika, Travis Knight had been a rapper named Chilly Tee in the '90s:
When Chilly showed an interest in dropping beats, his father built him a state-of-the-art recording studio in a backroom of his mansion. When Chilly found himself without a “posse,” his father hired The Bomb Squad—one of the best rap production crews in the industry—to flank his homeboy. And finally, when Chilly failed to generate an inkling of interest from record companies, his father courted a deal with MCA, using his connections in the entertainment industry.
Vinton's ouster was the subject of a lawsuit, detailed in the piece. Travis Knight became Laika's CEO in 2009, the same year that the newly rebranded Laika studio's debut Coraline hit theaters. The studio's next project, due out in September 2014, is called Boxtrolls, and features creatures who steal both cheese and children.
Read the full account of Vinton's ouster from Will Vinton Studios here.