Committing to the genre after years of fits and starts, Warner Bros. on Monday said it will produce one animated movie per year beginning in 2014.
Every other major studio in Hollywood has established an animation strategy in the past few years, with some such as 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Studios making the movies in-house and others like Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures relying on outside companies with which it makes deals.
While animated franchises like "Toy Story," "Ice Age" and "Despicable Me" have been among the industry's most profitable, Warner's approach has been more cautious. Its last two animated films, 2011's "Happy Feet Two" and 2010's "Legend of the Guardians," were both box-office flops. Prior to that, the studio hadn't released an animated movie since 2007's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
Already in the works for 2014 is an animated film based on the "Lego" toys, to be made by "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "21 Jump Street" co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
The studio announced it already has movies in development. "Storks," written by "Muppets" director Nicholas Stoller and directed by Pixar veteran Doug Sweetland, is a planned 2015 release. "Smallfoot," written by "Crazy Stupid Love" screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra and directed by Sergio Pablos, a producer on "Despicable Me," is planned for 2016.
Warner film group President Jeff Robinov said those filmmakers, along with "Mr. Popper's Penguins" writer Jared Stern, would be part of an animation "think tank" for the studio.
Warner Bros. was once second only to Disney as a player in animation, thanks to its library of Looney Tunes characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Wile E. Coyote.
The studio appears to be developing new properties with its latest attempt rather than building on that legacy. It will work with outside companies to handle production work on its animated films.