The studio that helped pioneer 2D, hand drawn, theatrical animation is currently at a crossroads with the process. At Wednesday’s Walt Disney Company shareholder’s meeting, CEO Bob Iger revealed none of Disney’s animation companies, which includes Disney Animation, Pixar and Disney Toons, are currently developing, or have plans to develop, any 2D, hand drawn animation for the big screen. He’s not ruling it out, but the current slate – which probably stretches 3-4 years – has none of it.
The only place the company is currently continuing the tradition is on some of their animated television shows.
With 3D theatrical animation becoming so lucrative for studios these days, this doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. The target audience, young kids, have come to expect a certain aesthetic in their movies. The Pixar aesthetic. Even the other animation studios, such as Blue Sky or DreamWorks, have been emulating that for a while. Not to mention a younger generation of animators currently working in features are likely much more proficient on a Mac rather than with a pencil and paper.
It makes an animation fan wonder, is hand drawn animation dead?
Disney’s last hand-drawn theatrical feature was 2011′s Winnie the Pooh, which grossed a paltry $33 million worldwide. Iger, almost expectedly, forgot that when addressing the question and incorrectly stated that 2009′s The Princess and the Frog was their last hand-drawn film. That film was a success, grossing $267 million worldwide. However, juxtapose it to the Disney animation films that came before and after that. Bolt, which grossed $310 million and Tangled, which grossed $590 million. Obviously, that could have something to do with the quality of those films, but the bottom line surely isn’t lost on the company. (Winnie the Pooh even bolsters the point further. It was critically adored, but publicly forgotten.)
I’d imagine, somewhere down the road, a Disney fan who works their way up in the company will come to the executives with an original, hand-drawn animated idea and it’ll be sold as Disney’s return to their roots. But according to the CEO, that isn’t happening anytime soon, especially not on the big screen. Hand drawn animation isn’t dead, but it’s certainly on life support.