Illumination Taps Former Netflix Adult Animation Chief Mike Moon to Start Moonlight Label

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Illumination, the studio behind the “Despicable Me” franchise, has tapped Mike Moon to form a new label, Moonlight. The goal is to broaden the range of films that Illumination makes beyond the kid-friendly fare that’s been its stock in trade.

Moon most recently served as the head of adult animation at Netflix, a post he stepped down from in July to “pursue other opportunities.” His exit came as the streamer, battered by a swooning stock price, was laying off animators and dialing back its ambitions in the space. In addition to his new role as president of Moonlight, the company said that Moon will serve as a senior creative advisor to Illumination. Moonlight’s films will be distributed under Illumination’s distribution partnership with Universal Pictures. Illumination said the goal is for Moonlight to “produce animated films that push beyond the family genre.”

“We have an exceptionally talented group of artists, filmmakers and producers at Illumination and believe that there is no better compliment to this team than Mike and the new company we are partnering to build,” Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, said in a statement. “He has exceptional taste, deep experience and a strong vision for the films we intend to make together. I look forward to Mike and Moonlight making a substantial contribution to Illumination’s future.”  

Moon started his career as an animation artist for 15 years. He then moved into executive roles at Sony, Disney and Cartoon Network. At those companies and at Netflix, Moon worked on such films as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.” Moon recently served as a producer on Netflix’s upcoming “Entergalactic,” a music streaming special from Kenya Barris and Kid Cudi.  

Moon stated, “I am thrilled to be joining the amazing team at Illumination. Chris has created the benchmark for character, stories and innovation in animated films and I am honored to be a part of the future of this visionary studio.”

In addition to all things “Minions,” Illumination’s films include “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing.” The company is also working on a new Super Mario Bros. movie that will open in 2023.

Moonlight will be based in Illumination’s Santa Monica headquarters, with its films produced by Illumination Studios Paris.