EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri has named Natalie Fischer to be the company’s first Chief Operating Officer. The move was made as the company’s creative output continues to grow from one film every two years to one film per year. The move gives Meledandri the opportunity to focus on the creative and production side with Janet Healy, who’s based in Paris and who oversees production on all the films. Fischer had been Illumination’s Head Of Business Development after moving over in 2009 from Universal, where she had been senior vice president, Business Development and Strategy. She’d worked closely with Meledandri as the original business plan took shape before Illumination launched in 2007.
As COO, Fischer will be responsible for all key business operations of Illumination, while helping shape the overall strategic direction of a company which has grown to 35 full-time employees. She reports to Meledandri, overseeing finance, strategy, and administrative functions for the company and managing its relationship with Universal Pictures and Illumination Mac Guff, the 300-personal animation facility in Paris acquired to handle Illumination’s growing volume of family fare. Fischer, a Harvard MBA, previously held senior posts at UK’s Channel 4 and at Monitor Company.
Meledandri just set as Illumination’s fifth feature project an untitled film about The Minions, the adorable yellow creatures who served as Gru’s henchmen in Despicable Me. That film comes out in 2014, a year after the Despicable Me sequel that will be released next summer. That franchise recently hatched a 3D theme park ride which just opened at Universal Studios Orlando. Illumination most recently released Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.