Walt Disney Animation Studios

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Division of Walt Disney Studios
IndustryAnimated motion pictures
FoundedOctober 16, 1923 (1923-10-16) (as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio)
FounderWalt Disney and Roy O. Disney
Headquarters2100 W Riverside Dr
Burbank, California U.S.[1]
Key people
Ed Catmull, President
John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer
Andrew Millstein, General Manager
ProductsAnimated films
OwnerThe Walt Disney Company
ParentThe Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Animation Studios, headquartered in Burbank, California, is an American animation studio which creates animated feature films and animated short films for The Walt Disney Company. Founded on October 16, 1923 as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, the studio has produced 52 feature films, beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and most recently with Wreck-It Ralph (2012).

Walt Disney Animation Studios is noted for creating a number of now-standard innovations in the animation industry, like the multiplane camera. Among its significant achievements are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the first full-length animated feature; Beauty and the Beast (1991), the first animated feature to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the only nominee for Best Picture to be traditionally-animated; The Lion King (1994), the highest grossing traditionally-animated film of all time; Tangled (2010), the most expensive animated film ever made costing $260 million; and Wreck-It Ralph (2012), the most recent animated film with the highest number of original characters ever created.

In 2006, Pixar executives Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter assumed Walt Disney Animation Studios as president and Chief Creative Officer, respectively. Since the release of Meet the Robinsons the following year, the studio has had a new logo to make themselves separate from Pixar. The logo features Mickey Mouse in the classic short, Steamboat Willie. Their 53rd feature, Frozen, is currently in production and set for release on November 27, 2013. Their 54th, currently untitled, is set for release on November 7, 2014.


Walt Disney Productions (1929–85)

Walt Disney introduces each of the Seven Dwarfs in a scene from the original 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theatrical trailer.

Although the animation studio was first established on October 16, 1923 as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and re-established as Walt Disney Productions in 1929, Walt Disney began the move into features in 1934, pulling selected animators away from the short subjects division that had previously been the whole studio. The result was the first full-length animated feature in English and Technicolor, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film became an unprecedented success when it was released to theatres in February 1938, and it and many of the subsequent feature productions became film classics. These first features were presented as being made in multiplane technicolor, since both the multiplane camera and the full-color Technicolor process were still something new in the area of animation. The early high-water mark came with Fantasia, an experimental film produced to an accompanying orchestral arrangement conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

Production of features was temporarily suspended due to World War II, between the releases of Bambi and Cinderella. This was partly because many of the animators got drafted, partly because the European market was cut off by the war, and partly because a huge amount of what the studio produced was for the army, especially propaganda films. From 1942 to 1943, 95 percent of the studio's animation was for the military.[2] The next several features consisted of package films composed of short subjects, some already pre-existing. Two, Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart, were a combination of animated and live-action footage. Production of original features resumed after World War II, leading to the 1950 release of Cinderella, proving the viability of the animated feature. Several hits followed throughout the 1950s.

Sleeping Beauty provided a stylistic shift for the studio, leading to renewed interest through the 1960s. However, all these features were very expensive undertakings. Some of these films sustained losses and did not recoup their costs until decades after their original releases. In 1962, Walt Disney shut down the corporation's short subject department, focusing its attention mainly on television and feature film production, with the occasional short subject.

The expansion into television coincided with a decline in both revenue and quality of the department's output. The 1970s saw a decline in popularity that would spread to the 1980s. In 1979, Don Bluth left Disney Animation and created his own studio, producing works that arguably surpassed Disney quality and, for a time, challenged Disney's economic dominance in the field. The proverbial "rock bottom" for Disney came in 1985 when The Black Cauldron (the first animated Disney film to be PG-rated by the MPAA) failed to break even. It was so poorly received that it would not be released for home viewing more than a decade following its initial theatrical release.

Walt Disney Feature Animation (1985–2006)

File:Walt Disney Feature Animation.svg
Walt Disney Feature Animation logo from 1997 to 2006.

But the administration of Michael Eisner would see a shift in quality and style in Walt Disney Productions. Now renamed Walt Disney Feature Animation, the studio's features soon became bombastic animated musicals, using music as well as high-quality animation to attract audiences. This coincided with the introduction of computer-aided animation techniques, the first of which was CAPS in the late 1980s. Also playing a role was Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a non-canon Disney-produced film with both live action and animated element that helped respark interest in Disney animation.

Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida opened in 1989 with 40 employees. Its offices were in the Disney-MGM Studios complex of theme parks and visitors were allowed to tour the studio to observe animators at work.[3]

Beginning with Oliver & Company (1988), Disney released a string of profitable and enduring blockbusters. The next five films — The Little Mermaid (1989) (Disney's first animated film as a fairy tale in 30 years), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), and Pocahontas (1995) — would each win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture of 1991. The Lion King still stands as the highest-grossing traditionally-animated feature ever made, being the top money-maker among all films in North America in 1994.

Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida moved to a new $70 million facility on April 22, 1998 at the Disney-MGM Studios.[4][3]

Competition from other studios drove animator salaries to a high level, making traditional animated features even more costly to produce. Beginning in 2000, massive layoffs brought staff numbers down to 600. Following a string of dismal performances, and the rise of studios that relied on computer animation like Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky Studios, Disney converted Walt Disney Feature Animation into a CGI studio, performing more layoffs and selling off its traditional animation equipment. The strategy to transition from traditional, hand-drawn cell animation to CGI was developed by Disney technological executive, Bob Lambert.[5]

The company's Paris animation studio was shut down in 2003, and the Florida studio followed suit on January 12, 2004.[3] The Orlando studio was partially turned into a walk-through attraction. The rest of the studio was converted into theme park management offices. What was purported to be the final traditionally-animated feature by Disney was Home on the Range (2004). The first 3D film in the Disney Animation Canon was Chicken Little (2005), followed by Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Bolt (2008).

Walt Disney Animation Studios (2006–)

The transition to CGI was not enough to renew interest in Disney animation as Disney's features were routinely outperformed by those of corporate partner Pixar, whom Disney had originally contracted to create CGI films. In response to this, Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.[6] Walt Disney Feature Animation was renamed to Walt Disney Animation Studios, and as part of the acquisition, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios continue to maintain separate studios and release their films under separate banners, with former Pixar executives Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter serving as both studios' president and Chief Creative Officer, respectively.

In a change of strategy, Lasseter re-opened Walt Disney Animation Studios as a traditional animation house. With CAPS dismantled and obsolete, hand-drawn animation moved to the Toon Boom Harmony software suite used by DisneyToon Studios. The Princess and the Frog, the first traditionally-animated film, was released in late 2009, and succeeded in renewing interest in the medium. Also in 2009, Walt Disney Animation Studios produced their first animated TV special, the CGI Prep & Landing for the self-owned over-the-air television entity, ABC.

Walt Disney Animation Studios' 50th animated motion picture, Tangled, its first CGI animated fairy tale, was released in late 2010. Shortly after the film's release, the Los Angeles Times reported that Ed Catmull said the "princess" genre of films was taking a hiatus until, "someone has a fresh take on it ... but we don't have any other musicals or fairytales lined up." He explained that they were looking to get away from the princess era due to the changes in audience composition and preference.[7] However in the Facebook page, Ed Catmull stated that this was just a rumor.[8] Frozen, Disney's second CGI animated fairy tale, will be released in late 2013, further justifying that statement as only a rumor.



John Lasseter, Walt Disney Animation Studios' Chief Creative Officer, with George Lucas in 2009.

From 1985 until his resignation in November 2003, Walt Disney Feature Animation was officially headed by Chairman Roy E. Disney, who exercised much influence within the division. Most decisions, however, were made by the Walt Disney Feature Animation President, who officially reported to Disney but who in practice also reported to the Disney's studio chairman as well as its corporate chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner. The former presidents of Walt Disney Feature Animation were Peter Schneider (1985 – December 1999), Thomas Schumacher (January 2000 – December 2002), and David Stainton (January 2003 – January 2006).[9]

As of May 2006, Ed Catmull serves as president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, and John Lasseter serves as the studios' Chief Creative Officer.[6] Catmull reports to Walt Disney Company's President & CEO Bob Iger as well as Walt Disney Studios' chairman Alan Horn. Lasseter, who has greenlight authority, reports directly to Disney's President & CEO Bob Iger.

In September 2008, Andrew Millstein was named general manager of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Millstein is in charge of the day-to-day running of the studio facilities and products.[10]


Walt Disney Animation Studios is headquartered in the Roy E. Disney Animation building in Burbank, California, across the street from The Walt Disney Studios, where its original animated studio was located. Satellite studios were located around the world in Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; and even at Disney's Hollywood Studios, one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World, Florida, before being shut down in 2003 and 2004 as a result of the continuing struggles of Disney's animated films at the box office. The Hollywood Studios location survives as a show and tour called The Magic of Disney Animation, which highlights the different stages in animating a feature-length film.


Feature films

Walt Disney Animation Studios has released 52 feature films in what is known as the Disney Animation Canon. Each film is assigned a number that denotes the chronological order that each film was released in. Films in the canon include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Recent films released by Disney Animation include Tangled and Winnie the Pooh. The studio's recent feature is Wreck-It Ralph, a film about the world inside arcade games, released in November 2012. The studio's next project is Frozen, a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Snow Queen, scheduled for November 2013.

Short films

From the beginning with the Alice Comedies in the 1920's, Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced animated shorts throughout its existence. Shorts often would be part a series that revolved around a character like Mickey Mouse, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Donald Duck or Goofy and in the case of the Silly Symphonies, a theme like music. Shorts also provided a medium for the studio to experiment with new technologies that they would use in their filmmaking process like the multiplane camera in The Old Mill, xerography in Goliath II, and traditional/CGI hybrid animation in Paperman.


Walt Disney Animation Studios has occasionally joined forces with Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Animation France, Walt Disney Animation Japan, and DisneyToon Studios to create attractions for various Disney theme parks around the world that requires the expertise of Disney animators. Among this select number of attractions are:

Walt Disney Feature Animation did the Sprites and backgrounds for the Sega Genesis, Commodore, Amiga and PC versions of the video game for Disney's Aladdin, and the Super Nintendo, PC, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga versions of the video game adaptation of The Lion King.

Walt Disney Feature Animation also provided second-layering traditional animation for the Disney-produced film, The Nightmare Before Christmas.[11] In 1995, Walt Disney Feature Animation co-produced A Goofy Movie with DisneyToon Studios.


Walt Disney Animation Studios is noted for creating a number of now-standard innovations in the animation industry, including:

Among its significant achievements are:

See also

Documentary films about Disney animation


  1. ^ http://www.disneyanimation.com/aboutus/contact.html
  2. ^ Wartoons
  3. ^ a b c Drees, Rich. "Disney Closes Florida Animation Studio". filmbuffonline.com. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  4. ^ Polsson, Ken. "1998". Chronology of the Walt Disney Company. Ken Polsson. Retrieved 6 December 2012. source: Eyes & Ears, April 30, 1998, Volume 28, Number 18. Page 3.
  5. ^ Verrier, Richard (2012-09-11). "Digital media trailblazer and ex-Disney exec Bob Lambert dies". Los Angeles Times Company Town. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
  6. ^ a b "Disney to acquire Pixar" (Press release). The Walt Disney Company. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  7. ^ C. Chmielewski, Dawn; Eller, Claudia (2010-11-21). "Disney Animation is closing the book on fairy tales". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  8. ^ Catmull, Ed (2010-11-21). "A headline in today's LA Times erroneously reported..." The Walt Disney Company via Facebook. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  9. ^ Amidi, Amid (January 24, 2006). "David Stainton Out!". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  10. ^ Graser, Marc (2008-09-10). "Millstein to head Disney Animation". Variety. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
  11. ^ Mark Salisbury, Tim Burton (2006). Burton on Burton. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 115–120. ISBN 0-571-22926-3.

External links

Template:Animation studios