Mike Fleming

UPDATE, 10:47 AM: Paramount Pictures has confirmed that David Stainton is its new head of animation. The press release is below Deadline’s original break.

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 10:23 AM: Paramount Pictures is hiring David Stainton to be head of Paramount Animation, the division it launched during the summer to generate one toon a year starting in 2014. Paramount’s launch coincided with speculation that Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount would have a parting of the ways when the DreamWorks Animation distribution deal ends December 31, 2012. Stainton is a good get. He spent 17 years at Disney, rose to president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and oversaw the studio’s animation facilities in Paris. Most recently, he had been CEO of Henry’s World Media, a family film producer. I’m told that Stainton will report to Paramount Motion Picture Group president Adam Goodman. The studio’s goal is to build a family film/CG animation unit from scratch, the way that Chris Meledandri did with Fox Animation and most recently for Universal with Illumination Entertainment. Paramount’s first homegrown foray into CG animation came with the Gore Verbinski-directed Rango with Johnny Depp. That was a pricey film, but it is looking good in the Best Animated Film category at the upcoming Oscars. Building an animation unit takes time and an executive with vision, and clearly Paramount brass thinks it has found that person in Stainton. Expect an announcement perhaps today.

Stainton joins Paramount after a 17-year run at Disney, where he served as president of Walt Disney Feature Animation. During his studio tenure, he oversaw several dozen releases across various platforms that brought in $3.5 billion in worldwide revenue. He spearheaded Disney’s transition from its hand-drawn roots to fully digital animation production, led the successful Disney Video Premieres division, and oversaw the studio’s 150-person animation facility in Paris. More recently, Stainton served as CEO of family entertainment producer Henry’s World Media, which he founded in 2007.

(Los Angeles, CA – Oct. 10, 2011) — Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. (NYSE:VIA and VIA.B), has appointed veteran animation executive David Stainton as President of its new in-house animation division.

Stainton joins Paramount after a 17-year run at Disney, where he served as President of Walt Disney Feature Animation. During his studio tenure, he oversaw several dozen releases across various platforms that brought in $3.5 billion in worldwide revenue. He spearheaded Disney’s transition from its hand-drawn roots to fully digital animation production, led the successful Disney Video Premieres division, and oversaw the studio’s 150-person animation facility in Paris. More recently, Stainton served as Chief Executive Officer of family entertainment producer Henry’s World Media, which he founded in 2007.

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

Paramount Animation aims to focus on high-quality animation with budgets per picture of up to $100 million, with an initial target of one release per year. The division’s mandate will be the development of the broadest range of family CGI animated films, with a key piece being titles under the label of Viacom’s Nickelodeon, the No. 1 entertainment brand for kids worldwide. Paramount will also build on Viacom’s already thriving global consumer products business by seeking to capitalize on merchandising opportunities tied to all Paramount Animation releases.

“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 & CEO 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.”

“David’s accomplishments speak for themselves, and I am glad to welcome him to the lot as we start this exciting new chapter,” Adam Goodman added. “With David’s leadership, we will look to build on what has been a very strong year for our studio in animation, with Rango and the upcoming Adventures of Tintin pointing to the kind of artist-driven, broad-appeal films we intend to make at Paramount Animation.”

“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. “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. I look forward to helping usher in this new era.”

While Paramount has released an array of successful animated films in its history, the company’s first fully owned CGI animated property was Rango, released to great acclaim in March 2011. The Western, directed by Gore Verbinski and featuring the voice of Johnny Depp in the title role, has grossed more than $240 million worldwide and is the best reviewed animated movie so far this year. Due for release in December by Paramount is The Aventures of Tintin, an animated film from director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson.

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