'Wreck-It Ralph' Director Rich Moore Leaves Disney For Sony Animation

After 10 years at the House of Mouse, during which time he directed award-winning hits like Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia, Rich Moore is leaving Disney Animation. Moore will be heading instead to Sony Pictures Animation, where he will be developing, producing and directing original animated features as well as acting in an "advisory capacity" for ongoing projects.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of Rich Moore leaving Disney for Sony Pictures Animation, a shocking move for a director who has spent the better part of a decade helming award-winning hits for the House of Mouse.

But Moore's lateral move to develop, produce and direct original features for Sony Pictures Animation may partially explain it — the studio is currently basking in the afterglow of its Oscar win for the acclaimed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and is now gaining a reputation as a studio willing to give directors room to let their creativity roam free. The statement from Sony Pictures Animation president Kristine Belson suggests as much:

"Rich is a world-class storyteller and he brings with him a wealth of experience and a unique sensibility for story, comedy and heart. We are so excited for him to join our team of filmmakers at Sony Pictures Animation as we continue to develop a slate of animated features that are big, bold and will take audiences by surprise."

Moore was more diplomatic in his statement, saying that "Ten years is a long time — but when you're working on incredible films with people you love as I have these last ten years, that time flies by. I will always cherish my days at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and I leave with the faith that the studio is in good hands. I remain a lifelong Disney Animation fan and look forward to the films they'll create in the future."

Moore has spent the past 10 years working on original hits for Disney Animation, where he first was brought into the fold by John Lasseter, then head of Disney Animation. Moore would go on to direct 2012's Ralph Breaks the Internet, a sleeper hit that would gross $471 million and earn and Oscar nomination. He co-directed its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet last year, to even greater financial success. But it was his second film Zootopia (which he co-directed with Byron Howard and Jared Bush) that proved to be Disney's most original and envelope-pushing effort in recent years and its socially progressive message helped it earn an Oscar win.

However, as generous as Disney is to its filmmakers, it has been rather risk-averse as of late, especially as it grows into a company that now owns four different studios. Perhaps Moore is looking to move to a studio that is willing to give him more flexibility to stretch his creativity and push the envelope even further.