UPDATED with Universal confirmation, adds info: Chris deFaria, the president of Animation and Innovative Technology at Warner Bros Pictures, has been named president of Universal’s DreamWorks Feature Animation Group, the film side of DreamWorks Animation in its new incarnation as a part of NBCUniversal.
Deadline earlier today confirmed that deFaria is making the move to DreamWorks Animation, with Universal confirming later in the afternoon. We’re hearing deFaria is working on Ready Player One at Warner Bros and is expected to move over in the next few months.
In the newly created position, deFaria will be charged with overseeing all aspects of DWA’s feature animation business, including slate strategy, development and production, innovation and technology, and business affairs. He will report to Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley and work with Universal Pictures president Jimmy Horowitz.
Illumination boss Chris Meledandri also will continue in a senior adviser role, Universal said.
“Chris deFaria is ideally suited for this role,” Langley said. “He has excellent creative instincts, a strong business sense, deep relationships and most importantly, a proven ability to harness technology to push the boundaries of animation and innovative, hybrid filmmaking. We are grateful to have Chris Meledandri as Senior Advisor so that we can benefit from his unparalleled expertise while he continues to build the Illumination brand.”
Bonnie Arnold, president of DreamWorks Feature Animation, will continue in her executive role for the studio, reporting to deFaria. Last month, Mireille Soria stepped down as co-president after just four months. She was named to the gig alongside Arnold in August, replacing Ann Daly right after the August merger. Soria is returning to producing.
NBCUniversal acquired the animation studio for $3.8 billion in August, making it part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group that includes Universal Pictures, Fandango and NBCUniversal Brand Development.
DeFaria held his current position at Warner Bros for four years, and it included co-oversight of the studio’s Warner Animation Group think tank formed in 2013 — its credits of course include The Lego Movie and its offshoots, and Storks. Courtenay Valenti, who co-ran the group with deFaria and the now-departed Greg Silverman, will remain. A search is underway for a new exec who will need the approval of Warner Bros Pictures Group president and chief content officer Toby Emmerich.
While at Warners, deFaria’s credits included Man of Steel, Pacific Rim and the final Harry Potter films. Other notable projects in which he played a key role include The Great Gatsby, 300, Edge of Tomorrow and The Matrix trilogy. He had joined Warners in 1996 as VP Physical Production.
“Having the opportunity to shape the future of DreamWorks Animation and build on its storied legacy is an unbelievable honor,” deFaria said. “I can’t wait to get started with Donna and Chris, as well as Bonnie and the incredibly talented artists at DWA, on bringing more iconic stories and characters to audiences around the globe. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and while I will miss the many great people at Warner Bros and the terrific projects with which I was involved, I couldn’t be more excited about everything that lies ahead.”