Nimona is a 2023 American computer-animated science fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane from a screenplay by Robert L. Baird and Lloyd Taylor. It is based on the 2015 graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson. Set in a futuristic version of the Middle Ages, the film features the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character and Riz Ahmed as her partner and former knight, with Eugene Lee Yang and Frances Conroy voicing supporting roles.
Originally a production of Blue Sky Studios, it was originally set to be directed by Patrick Osborne, with an initial release date of 2020. Following The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Blue Sky, the production received pushback from Disney’s leadership due to the film’s LGBTQ themes, after which it was delayed multiple times before being canceled due to Blue Sky’s closure in April 2021. However, Annapurna Pictures revived the project the following year, with Bruno and Quane announced as directors, DNEG Animation providing animation, and Netflix acquiring worldwide distribution.
Nimona had its world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 14, 2023, was released in select cinemas on June 23, 2023, and made its streaming debut on June 30, 2023, by Netflix. The film received positive reviews from critics for its animation, themes, musical score, and vocal performances.
Blue Sky Studios
In June 2015, 20th Century Fox Animation acquired the rights for an animated feature film adaptation of Nimona, a webcomic by ND Stevenson. Patrick Osborne was set to direct, from a screenplay by Marc Haimes.
The film was to be produced by Fox’s former subsidiary, Blue Sky Studios, alongside Vertigo Entertainment. In June 2017, 20th Century Fox scheduled Nimona to be released on February 14, 2020.
In March 2019, The Walt Disney Company completed its acquisition of Fox, then in May 2019, the film was delayed to March 5, 2021. In November 2019, the film was delayed again to January 14, 2022. Through 2020 there was word that the film would be released in 2022, Stevenson stated in June 2020 that the film was still happening, and said the same in an August 2020 podcast. In August of that same year, Den of Geek reported that the animated film was still scheduled to be released in 2022, but gave no further details, with Deadline reporting the same in October.
Osborne would depart the film by March 2020, and after his departure, Nick Bruno and Troy Quane were brought on in to work on the story after directing Blue Sky’s previous film Spies in Disguise (2019). Production would be done remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cancellation and aftermath
On February 9, 2021, Disney announced it was shutting down Blue Sky Studios, and that production of the film was cancelled.
Following the announcement, Stevenson said it was a “sad day” and that he wished the best for everyone who worked at Blue Sky Studios, while Osborne said he was “truly heartbroken” that the studio was closing its doors. Webcomics commenter Gary Tyrrell criticized the decision, saying, “Disney could have allowed a very different kind of young heroine… I mourn for those who would have found a vision of themselves in an animated version”. Anonymous staffers at Blue Sky interviewed by Business Insider bemoaned the cancellation of the film, calling it “heartbreaking,” arguing that the film “didn’t look like anything else in the animated world,” and saying that they believe it will never “be completed and released.” The film was set to be the first use of Blue Sky’s Conduit, a system that allowed artists to “find, track, version and quality control their work.” Had it been made, it would have been Blue Sky’s first film with LGBT representation, as a few staffers confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the film had an “I love you” scene between Ballister Blackheart and Ambrosius Goldenloin.
One staffer stated that before being canceled, the film was “on track” to being finished by October 2021. A former animator at Blue Sky, Rick Fournier, stated that the studio was “very very close” to getting the film finished, but that they “found out it simply was not doable.”
In March 2021, it was reported that Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed were to have voiced Nimona and Ballister Blackheart, respectively, and that the film was being shopped around to other studios to be completed. In June 2021, Mey Rude, a writer for Out, said she still held out “hope that this film … will find its way back to life somehow.”
In March 2022, amid the controversy of Disney’s involvement in Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and lack of criticism from CEO Bob Chapek until after the bill had passed, three former Blue Sky staff members stated the film received pushback from Disney leadership, centered around the film’s LGBT themes and a same-sex kiss.
Revival by Annapurna and Netflix
On April 11, 2022, it was announced that Annapurna Pictures had picked up Nimona earlier in the year, and would be releasing it on Netflix in 2023. DNEG Animation was announced as the project’s animation partner. The voice cast was also retained, with the addition of Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius Goldenloin announced at this point. Nick Bruno and Troy Quane were announced to replace Osborne as the new directors of the film; Bruno and Quane were heavily involved in the film prior to Blue Sky’s shutdown, acting as directors, according to a Blue Sky staffer. Roy Lee, Karen Ryan, and Julie Zackary were reported as producers on the feature.
In December 2022, it emerged that the film would serve as the first release of Annapurna’s new division, Annapurna Animation. On April 24, 2023, Frances Conroy, Lorraine Toussaint, Beck Bennett, RuPaul Charles, Indya Moore, Julio Torres, and Sarah Sherman were announced as part of the cast.
- Chloë Grace Moretz as Nimona, a shapeshifter who insists on being the sidekick to Ballister Boldheart.
- Mia Collins voices Nimona’s Demon Baby disguise.
- Riz Ahmed as Ballister Boldheart, a former knight for the Institution who was kicked out when he was accused of murdering Queen Valerin.
- Zayaan Kunwar as young Ballister
- Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius Goldenloin, the champion knight of the Institution, and Ballister’s love interest.
- Frances Conroy as The Director
- Lorraine Toussaint as Queen Valerin
- Beck Bennett as Sir Thoddeus Sureblade
- RuPaul Charles as Nate Knight
- Indya Moore as Alamzapam Davis
- Julio Torres as Diego the Squire
- Sarah Sherman as Coriander Cavaverish
- Karen Ryan as Gloreth
- Charlotte Aldrich as young Gloreth
- Cindy Slattery as Syntheya – voice of the Kingdom
- Sommersill Tarabek as an Institute Analyst
- Lylianna Eugene as Patinece
June 23, 2023
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