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Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an American
animation studio An animation studio is a company producing animated media. The broadest such companies conceive of products to produce, own the physical equipment for production, employ operators for that equipment, and hold a major stake in the sales or rentals o ...
that creates animated features and short films for
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
. The company's production logo features a scene from the first sound cartoon, ''
Steamboat Willie ''Steamboat Willie'' is a 1928 American animated short film directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It was produced in black and white by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Studios and was released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon ...
'' (1928). Founded on October 16, 1923 by brothers
Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of ...
and Roy O. Disney, it is the oldest-running animation studio in the world. It is currently organized as a division of
Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios may refer to: * Walt Disney Studio (1926–1929) the second name of The Walt Disney Company * Walt Disney Studios (division), the Walt Disney Company's Studio Entertainment unit, which includes Disney's motion picture studios, mus ...
and is headquartered at the Roy E. Disney Animation Building at the Walt Disney Studios lot in
Burbank, California Burbank is a city in the southeastern end of the San Fernando Valley The San Fernando Valley, known locally as "the Valley", is an urbanized valley A valley is an elongated low area often running between hills or mountains, which ...
. Since its foundation, the studio has produced 60 feature films, from ''
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs "Snow White" is a 19th-century German fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or ''Märchen'' is an instance of a folklore genre that takes the form of a short story A short story is a piece of prose fictio ...
'' (1937) to '' Encanto'' (2021), and hundreds of short films. Founded as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923, renamed Walt Disney Studio in 1926 and incorporated as Walt Disney Productions in 1929, the studio was dedicated to producing short films until it entered feature production in 1934, resulting in 1937's ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', one of the first full-length animated feature films and the first U.S.-based one. In 1986, during a large corporate restructuring, Walt Disney Productions, which had grown from a single animation studio into an international multimedia company, was renamed The Walt Disney Company and the animation studio Walt Disney Feature Animation in order to differentiate it from the other divisions. Its current name was adopted in 2007 after
Pixar Animation Studios Pixar Animation Studios () is an American computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as ...

Pixar Animation Studios
was acquired by Disney in the previous year. For much of its existence, the studio was recognized as the premier American animation studio; it developed many of the techniques, concepts and principles that became standard practices of
traditional animation Traditional animation (or classical animation, cel animation, hand-drawn animation, 2D animation or just 2D) is an animation technique in which each frame is drawing, drawn by hand. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema unt ...
.. The studio also pioneered the art of
storyboard A storyboard is a graphic organizer that consists of illustration An illustration is a decoration, interpretation or visual explanation of a text, concept or process, designed for integration in print and digital published media, such as pos ...

storyboard
ing, which is now a standard technique used in both animated and live-action filmmaking. The studio's catalog of animated features is among Disney's most notable assets, with the stars of its animated shorts –
Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse is a cartoon A cartoon is a type of illustration that is typically drawn, sometimes animated, in an unrealistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to ei ...
,
Minnie Mouse Minnie Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 at Walt Disney Animation Studios. As the longtime sweetheart of Mickey Mouse, she is an anthropomorphic mouse with white gloves, a bow, polka-dotted dress, and low-heeled shoes occasionally wit ...
,
Donald Duck Donald Fauntleroy Duck is a cartoon character created by The Walt Disney Company. Donald is an Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic American Pekin, white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He typically wears a sailor suit, sailor shi ...

Donald Duck
,
Daisy Duck Daisy Duck is a cartoon character created in 1940 at Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an American animation studio that creates animated features and short films fo ...
,
Goofy Goofy is a funny animal cartoon character created in 1932 at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Goofy is a tall, Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic dog who typically wears a turtle neck and vest, with pants, shoes, white gloves, and a tall hat origin ...

Goofy
, and
Pluto Pluto (minor-planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of trans-Neptunian object, bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. It was the first and the largest Kuiper belt object to be discovered. After Pluto wa ...
 – becoming recognizable figures in popular culture and mascots for The Walt Disney Company as a whole. Walt Disney Animation Studios is currently managed by Jennifer Lee (Chief Creative Officer) and
Clark Spencer Clark Spencer (born April 6, 1963) is an American film producer, businessman and studio executive best known for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an Amer ...
(President), and continues to produce films using both traditional animation and
computer-generated imagery Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is the application of computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out seque ...
(CGI). , the studio was no longer developing hand-drawn animated features and had laid off most of their hand-drawn animation division - although they still make hand-drawn animated shorts. However, a 2019 interview with Lee indicated that the company would be open to proposals from filmmakers for future hand-drawn projects.


History


1923–1929: Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio

Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City (abbreviated KC or KCMO) is the largest city in Missouri Missouri is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Stat ...
natives
Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of ...
and Roy O. Disney founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Los Angeles in 1923 and got their start producing a series of silent ''
Alice Comedies The ''Alice Comedies'' are a series of animated/live-action shorts created by Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pionee ...
'' short films featuring a live-action child actress in an animated world. The ''Alice Comedies'' were distributed by Margaret J. Winkler's
Winkler Pictures Screen Gems, Inc. is an American film production and distribution studio that is a division of Sony Pictures's Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, a subsidiary of Japanese multinational conglomerate, Sony, Sony Group Corporation. It ...
, which later also distributed a second Disney short subject series, the all-animated ''
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (also known as Oswald the Rabbit or Oswald Rabbit) is a cartoon character created in 1927 by Walt Disney for Universal Pictures. He starred in several animated short films released to theaters from 1927 to 1938. Twenty-sev ...
'', through
Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an int ...
starting in 1927. Upon relocating to California, the Disney brothers initially started working in their uncle Robert Disney's garage at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, then, in October 1923, formally launched their studio in a small office on the rear side of a real estate agency's office at 4651 Kingswell Avenue. In February 1924, the studio moved next door to office space of its own at 4649 Kingswell Avenue. In 1925, Disney put down a deposit on a new location at 2719 Hyperion Avenue in the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood, which came to be known as the Hyperion Studio to distinguish it from the studio's other locations, and, in January 1926, the studio moved there and took on the name Walt Disney Studio. Meanwhile, after the first year's worth of ''Oswald''s, Walt Disney attempted to renew his contract with Winkler Pictures, but
Charles Mintz Charles Bear Mintz (November 5, 1889 – December 30, 1939)''Social Security Death Index, 1935–2014''. Social Security Administration The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) is an Independent agencies of the United States gove ...
, who had taken over Margaret Winkler's business after marrying her, wanted to force Disney to accept a lower advance payment for each ''Oswald'' short. Disney refused and, as Universal owned the rights to ''Oswald'' rather than Disney, Mintz set up his own animation studio to produce ''Oswald'' cartoons. Most of Disney's staff was hired away by Mintz to move over once Disney's ''Oswald'' contract expired in mid-1928. Working in secret while the rest of the staff finished the remaining ''Oswalds'' on contract, Disney and his head animator
Ub Iwerks Ubbe Ert Iwwerks (March 24, 1901 – July 7, 1971), known as Ub Iwerks (), was an American animator, cartoonist, character designer, Invention, inventor, and special effects technician, who designed Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. ...
led a small handful of loyal staffers in producing cartoons starring a new character named
Mickey Mouse Mickey Mouse is a cartoon A cartoon is a type of illustration that is typically drawn, sometimes animated, in an unrealistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to ei ...
. The first two ''Mickey Mouse'' cartoons, ''
Plane Crazy ''Plane Crazy'' is a 1928 American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be ph ...
'' and '' The Galloping Gaucho'', were previewed in limited engagements during the summer of 1928. For the third ''Mickey'' cartoon, however, Disney produced a soundtrack, collaborating with musician
Carl Stalling Carl W. Stalling (November 10, 1891 – November 29, 1972) was an American composer and arranger for music in animated films. He is most closely associated with the ''Looney Tunes ''Looney Tunes'' is an American animated Animation is a meth ...
and businessman Pat Powers, who provided Disney with his bootlegged "Cinephone" sound-on-film process. Subsequently, the third ''Mickey Mouse'' cartoon, ''
Steamboat Willie ''Steamboat Willie'' is a 1928 American animated short film directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It was produced in black and white by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Studios and was released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon ...
'', became Disney's first cartoon with synchronized sound and was a major success upon its November 1928 debut at the West 57th Theatre in New York City. The ''Mickey Mouse'' series of sound cartoons, distributed by Powers through Celebrity Productions, quickly became the most popular cartoon series in the United States. A second Disney series of sound cartoons, ''
Silly Symphonies ''Silly Symphony'' was an American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be pho ...
'', debuted in 1929 with ''
The Skeleton Dance ''The Skeleton Dance'' is a 1929 ''Silly Symphony'' animated short subject produced and directed by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks. In the film, four human skeletons dance and make music around a spooky graveyard—a modern film example of ...
''.


1929–1940: Reincorporation, ''Silly Symphonies'', and ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs''

In 1929, disputes over finances between Disney and Powers led to Disney's studio, reincorporated on December 16, 1929, as Walt Disney Productions, signing a new distribution contract with
Columbia Pictures Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a Film, motion picture is #Production, produced. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages, starting wit ...
. *The Disney Touch, by Ron Grover, 1991. *Disneyana: Walt Disney Collectibles, by Cecil Munsey, 1974. p. 31. *The Disney Studio Story, by Richard Holliss & Brian Sibley, 1988. *Building a Company – Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire, by Bob Thomas, 1998. p. 137. Powers, in return, signed away Ub Iwerks, who began producing cartoons at his own studio, although he would return to Disney in 1940. Columbia distributed Disney's shorts for two years before the Disney studio entered a new distribution deal with
United Artists United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April ...
in 1932. The same year, Disney signed a two-year exclusive deal with
Technicolor Technicolor is a series of color motion picture processes, the first version dating to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades. It was the second major color process, after Britain's Kinemacolor Kinemacolor was the firs ...

Technicolor
to utilize its new 3-strip color film process, which allowed for fuller-color reproduction where previous color film processors could not. The result was the ''Silly Symphony'' ''
Flowers and Trees ''Flowers and Trees'' is a 1932 '' Silly Symphonies'' cartoon produced by Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pioneer of th ...

Flowers and Trees
'', the first film commercially released in full Technicolor. ''Flowers and Trees'' was a major success and all ''Silly Symphonies'' were subsequently produced in Technicolor. By the early 1930s, Walt Disney had realized that the success of animated films depended upon telling emotionally gripping stories that would grab the audience and not let go, and this realization led him to create a separate "story department" with
storyboard artistA storyboard artist (sometimes called a story artist or visualizer) creates storyboards for advertising agencies and film productions. Work A storyboard artist visualizes stories and sketches frames of the story. Quick pencil drawings and mark ...
s dedicated to story development. With well-developed characters and an interesting story, the 1933 Technicolor ''Silly Symphony'' cartoon ''
Three Little Pigs "The Three Little Pigs" is a fable about three pigs who build three houses of different materials. A Big Bad Wolf blows down the first two pigs' houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig's house, ma ...
'' became a major box office and pop culture success, with its theme song "
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" is a popular song written by Frank Churchill with additional lyrics by Ann Ronell, which originally featured in the 1933 Disney cartoon ''Three Little Pigs (film), Three Little Pigs'', where it was sung by Fiddler ...
" becoming a popular chart hit. In 1934, Walt Disney gathered several key staff members and announced his plans to make his first animated feature film. Despite derision from most of the film industry, who dubbed the production "Disney's Folly," Disney proceeded undaunted into the production of ''
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs "Snow White" is a 19th-century German fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or ''Märchen'' is an instance of a folklore genre that takes the form of a short story A short story is a piece of prose fictio ...
'', which would become the first animated feature in English and Technicolor. Considerable training and development went into the production of ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'' and the studio greatly expanded, with established animators, artists from other fields and recent college graduates joining the studio to work on the film. The training classes, supervised by head animators such as
Les Clark Leslie James "Les" Clark (November 17, 1907 – September 12, 1979) was an American animator An animator is an artist who creates multiple images, known as frames, which give an illusion of movement called animation when displayed in rapid sequen ...
, Norm Ferguson and Art Babbit and taught by
Donald W. Graham Donald W. "Don" Graham (1883–1976) was a Canadian-American Canadian Americans is a term that can be applied to American citizens Citizenship is the Status (law), status of a person recognized under the law of a country (and/or local juris ...
, an art teacher from the nearby
Chouinard Art Institute The Chouinard Art Institute was a professional art school founded in 1921 by Nelbert Chouinard, Nelbert Murphy Chouinard (1879–1969) in Los Angeles, California. In 1961, Walt Disney, Walt and Roy O. Disney, Roy Disney guided the merger of the Cho ...
, had begun at the studio in 1932 and were greatly expanded into orientation training and continuing education classes. In the course of teaching the classes, Graham and the animators created or formalized many of the techniques and processes that became the key tenets and principles of traditional animation. ''Silly Symphonies'' such as '' The Goddess of Spring'' (1934) and ''
The Old Mill ''The Old Mill'' is a 1937 ''Silly Symphonies ''Silly Symphony'' is a series of 75 animated musical short films produced by Walt Disney Productions from 1929 to 1939. As their name implies, the ''Silly Symphonies'' were originally intended as ...

The Old Mill
'' (1937) served as experimentation grounds for new techniques such as the animation of realistic human figures,
special effects animation Special effects (often abbreviated as SFX, SPFX, F/X or simply FX) are illusions or visual tricks used in the theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actress ...
and the use of the
multiplane camera The multiplane camera is a motion-picture camera used in the traditional animation on the reverse side of an already inked cel. Traditional animation (or classical animation, cel animation, hand-drawn animation, 2D animation or just 2D) is a ...

multiplane camera
, an invention that split animation artwork layers into several planes, allowing the camera to appear to move dimensionally through an animated scene.Thomas, Bob. ''Walt Disney: An American Original.'' Simon & Schuster, 1976, p. 134. ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'' cost Disney a then-expensive sum of $1.4 million to complete (including $100,000 on story development alone) and was an unprecedented success when released in February 1938 by
RKO Radio Pictures RKO Pictures was an American film production and distribution company. In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * th ...
, which had assumed distribution of Disney product from United Artists in 1937. It was briefly the highest-grossing film of all time before the unprecedented success of ''
Gone with the WindGone with the Wind may refer to: * Gone with the Wind (novel), ''Gone with the Wind'' (novel), a 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell * Gone with the Wind (film), ''Gone with the Wind'' (film), 1939 adaptation of the novel * Gone with the Wind (musical), ...
'' two years later, grossing over $8 million on its initial release, the equivalent of $ in 1999 dollars. During the production of ''Snow White'', work had continued on the ''Mickey Mouse'' and ''Silly Symphonies'' series of shorts. ''Mickey Mouse'' switched to Technicolor in 1935, by which time the series had added several major supporting characters, among them Mickey's dog
Pluto Pluto (minor-planet designation: 134340 Pluto) is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of trans-Neptunian object, bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. It was the first and the largest Kuiper belt object to be discovered. After Pluto wa ...
and their friends
Donald Duck Donald Fauntleroy Duck is a cartoon character created by The Walt Disney Company. Donald is an Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic American Pekin, white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He typically wears a sailor suit, sailor shi ...

Donald Duck
and
Goofy Goofy is a funny animal cartoon character created in 1932 at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Goofy is a tall, Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic dog who typically wears a turtle neck and vest, with pants, shoes, white gloves, and a tall hat origin ...

Goofy
. Donald, Goofy and Pluto would all be appearing in series of their own by 1940, and the ''Donald Duck'' cartoons eclipsed the ''Mickey Mouse'' series in popularity. ''Silly Symphonies'', which garnered seven
Academy Awards The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking, i.e., ...
, ceased in 1939, until the shorts returned to theatres with some re-issues and re-releases.


1940–1948: New features, strike, and World War II

The success of ''Snow White'' allowed Disney to build a new, larger studio on Buena Vista Street in Burbank, where
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
remains headquartered to this day. Walt Disney Productions had its
initial public offering An initial public offering (IPO) or stock launch is a public offering A public offering is the offering of securities A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal defi ...
on April 2, 1940, with Walt Disney as president and chairman and Roy Disney as CEO. The studio launched into the production of new animated features, the first of which was ''
Pinocchio Pinocchio (, ) is an Italian fictional character and the protagonist of the children's novel ''The Adventures of Pinocchio'' (1883) by Italian writer Carlo Collodi of Florence, Tuscany. Pinocchio was carved by a woodcarver named Geppetto in a Tu ...
'', released in February 1940. ''Pinocchio'' was not initially a box office success.. The box office returns from the film's initial release were below both ''Snow White'''s unprecedented success and the studio's expectations. Of the film's $2.289 million cost – twice of ''Snow White'' – Disney only recouped $1 million by late 1940, with studio reports of the film's final original box office take varying between $1.4 million and $1.9 million.. However, ''Pinocchio'' was a critical success, winning the
Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking F ...
for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, making it the first film of the studio to win not only either Oscar, but both at the same time. '' Fantasia'', an experimental film produced to an accompanying orchestral arrangement conducted by
Leopold Stokowski Leopold Anthony Stokowski (18 April 1882 – 13 September 1977) was a British conductor of mixed Polish and Irish descent. One of the leading conductors of the early and mid-20th century, he is best known for his long association with the Ph ...

Leopold Stokowski
, was released in November 1940 by Disney itself in a series of limited-seating
roadshow A roadshow theatrical release or reserved seat engagement is the practice of opening a film in a limited number of theaters in major cities for a specific period of time before the wide release of the film. Roadshows would generally mimic a live ...
engagements. The film cost $2 million to produce and, although the film earned $1.4 million in its roadshow engagements, the high cost ($85,000 per theater) of installing Fantasound placed ''Fantasia'' at an even greater loss than ''Pinocchio''. RKO assumed distribution of ''Fantasia'' in 1941, later reissuing it in severely edited versions over the years. Despite its financial failure, ''Fantasia'' was the subject of two
Academy Honorary Award The Academy Honorary Award – instituted in 1950 for the 23rd Academy Awards The 23rd Academy Awards Ceremony awarded Oscars for the best in films in 1950. ''All About Eve ''All About Eve'' is a 1950 American Drama (film and television), dr ...
s on February 26, 1942 – one for the development of the innovative
Fantasound Fantasound was a stereophonic sound Stereophonic sound or, more commonly, stereo, is a method of sound reproduction that creates an illusion of multi-directional audible perspective. This is usually achieved by using two or more independent au ...
system used to create the film's
stereoscopic Stereoscopy (also called stereoscopics, or stereo imaging) is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by means of stereopsis Stereopsis (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything o ...
soundtrack, and the other for Stokowski and his contributions to the film. Much of the character animation on these productions and all subsequent features until the late 1970s was supervised by a brain-trust of animators Walt Disney dubbed the "
Nine Old Men Disney's Nine Old Men were Walt Disney Productions The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (), is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in ...
," many of whom also served as directors and later producers on the Disney features: Frank Thomas,
Ollie Johnston Oliver Martin Johnston Jr. (October 31, 1912 – April 14, 2008), nicknamed "Ollie", was an American motion picture animation, animator. He was one of Disney's Nine Old Men, and the last surviving at the time of his death from natural causes ...
, Woolie Reitherman, Les Clark,
Ward Kimball Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002) was an American animator An animator is an artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities invo ...
,
Eric Larson Eric Cleon Larson (September 3, 1905 – October 25, 1988) was an American animator An animator is an artist An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activ ...
,
John Lounsbery John Mitchell Lounsbery (March 9, 1911 – February 13, 1976) was an American animator who worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions. He is best known as one of Disney's Nine Old Men, of which he was the shortest lived as w ...
,
Milt Kahl Milton Erwin Kahl (March 22, 1909 – April 19, 1987) was an American animator An animator is an artist who creates multiple images, known as frames, which give an illusion of movement called animation when displayed in rapid sequence. Animators ...
, and Marc Davis. Other head animators at Disney during this period included Norm Ferguson,
Bill Tytla Vladimir (Volodymyr) Peter "Bill" Tytla (October 25, 1904 – December 30, 1968) was a Ukrainian Americans, Ukrainian-American animator known for his work in Walt Disney Animation Studios, Paramount Pictures, Paramount's Famous Studios, and Terryt ...
and Fred Moore. The development of the feature animation department created a
caste Caste is a form of social stratification Social stratification refers to a society's categorization Categorization is the ability and activity to recognize shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the ...
system at the Disney studio: lesser animators (and feature animators in-between assignments) were assigned to work on the short subjects, while animators higher in status such as the Nine Old Men worked on the features. Concern over Walt Disney accepting credit for the artists' work as well as debates over compensation led to many of the newer and lower-ranked animators seeking to
unionize A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standard ...
the Disney studio. A bitter union strike began in May 1941, which was resolved without the angered Walt Disney's involvement in July and August of that year. As Walt Disney Productions was being set up as a union shop, Walt Disney and several studio employees were sent by the U.S. government on a Good Neighbor policy trip to
Central Central is an adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign languag ...

Central
and South America. The Disney strike and its aftermath led to an exodus of several animation professionals from the studio, from top-level animators such as
Art Babbitt Arthur Harold Babitsky (October 8, 1907 – March 4, 1992), better known as Art Babbitt, was an American animator An animator is an artist who creates multiple images, known as frames, which give an illusion of movement called animation when di ...
and Bill Tytla to artists better known for their work outside the Disney studio such as
Frank Tashlin Frank Tashlin (born Francis Fredrick von Taschlein, February 19, 1913 – May 5, 1972), also known as Tish Tash and Frank Tash,https://www.lambiek.net/artists/t/tashlin_frank.htm was an American animator An animator is an artist who creates multip ...
,
Maurice Noble Maurice James Noble (May 1, 1911 – May 18, 2001) was an American animation Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent ...
,
Walt Kelly Walter Crawford Kelly Jr. (August 25, 1913 – October 18, 1973), commonly known as Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip ''Pogo (comic strip), Pogo''. He began his animation career in 1936 at The Walt D ...
,
Bill Melendez José Cuauhtémoc "Bill" Meléndez (November 15, 1916 – September 2, 2008) was a Mexican–American character animator, voice actor, film director and producer. He is best known for his work on the Peanuts animated specials, ''Peanuts'' animate ...
, and
John Hubley John Hubley (May 21, 1914 – February 21, 1977) was an American animation directorAn animation director is the director in charge of all aspects of the animation Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as m ...
. Hubley, along with several other Disney strikers, went on to found the
United Productions of America United Productions of America, better known as UPA, was an United States, American animation studio active from the 1940s through the 1970s. Beginning with industrial and World War II training films, UPA eventually produced theatrical shorts for Col ...
studio, Disney's key animation rival in the 1950s. ''
Dumbo ''Dumbo'' is a 1941 American animated Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), distinguished from musi ...

Dumbo
'', in production during the midst of the animators' strike, premiered in October 1941 and proved to be a financial success. The simple film only cost $950,000 to produce, half the cost of ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', less than a third of the cost of ''Pinocchio'', and two-fifths of the cost of ''Fantasia''. ''Dumbo'' eventually grossed $1.6 million during its original release. In August 1942, ''
Bambi ''Bambi'' is a 1942 American animated Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), distinguished from music ...

Bambi
'' was released and, as with ''Pinocchio'' and ''Fantasia'', did not perform well at the box office. Out of its $1.7 million budget, it only grossed $1.64 million. Production of full-length animated features was temporarily suspended after the release of ''Bambi''. Given the financial failures of some of the recent features and
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
cutting off much of the overseas cinema market, the studio's financiers at the
Bank of America The Bank of America Corporation (simply referred to as Bank of America, often abbreviated as BofA or BoA) is an American multinational investment bank Investment is the dedication of an asset to attain an increase in value over a period o ...

Bank of America
would only loan the studio working capital if it temporarily restricted itself to shorts production. Features then in production such as ''Peter Pan'', ''Alice in Wonderland'' and ''Lady and the Tramp'' were therefore put on hold until after the war. Following the United States' entry into World War II after the
attack on Pearl Harbor The Attack on Pearl HarborAlso known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike In the United States Armed Forces, military of the United States, strikes and raids are a group of military operations that, alongside quite ...

attack on Pearl Harbor
, the studio housed over 500
U.S. Army The United States Army (USA) is the land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable over geologic time frames) and consists ma ...
soldiers who were responsible for protecting nearby aircraft factories from enemy bombers. In addition, several Disney animators were drafted to fight in the war and the studio was contracted on producing wartime content for every branch of the
U.S. military The United States Armed Forces are the military forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between ...

U.S. military
, particularly military training, and civilian propaganda films. From 1942 to 1943, 95 percent of the studio's animation output was for the military. During the war, Disney produced the live-action/animated military propaganda feature '' Victory Through Air Power'' (1943), and a series of Latin culture-themed shorts resulting from the 1941 Good Neighbor trip were compiled into two features, ''
Saludos Amigos ''Saludos Amigos'' (Spanish for "Greetings, Friends") is a 1942 American live-action animated package featurette produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the sixth Disney animated feature film and the first of the s ...
'' (1942) and ''
The Three Caballeros ''The Three Caballeros'' is a 1944 American live-action animated musicalMusicAL was a 24-hour Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast ...
'' (1944). ''Saludos'' and ''Caballeros'' set the template for several other 1940s Disney releases of "package films": low-budgeted films composed of animated short subjects with animated or live-action bridging material.Leonard Maltin, ''Référence:The Disney Films (Leonard Maltin)#3rd Edition The Disney Films: 3rd Edition'', Robin Allan, ''Walt Disney and Europe'', . These films were ''
Make Mine Music ''Make Mine Music'' is a 1946 American animated musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General ...
'' (1946), ''
Fun and Fancy Free ''Fun and Fancy Free'' is a 1947 American animation, animated musical film, musical fantasy film, fantasy anthology film, package film produced by Walt Disney and released on September 27, 1947 by RKO Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures. It is the ninth L ...
'' (1947), ''
Melody Time ''Melody Time'' is a 1948 American Live-action animated film, hybrid Musical film, anthology musical film and the List of Walt Disney Animation Studios films, 10th theatrically released animated feature produced by Walt Disney. It was released to ...
'' (1948) and '' The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad'' (1949). The studio also produced two features, ''
Song of the South ''Song of the South'' is a 1946 American Live-action animated film, live-action/animated musical film, musical drama film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures. It is based on the collection of Uncle Remus ...
'' (1946) and ''
So Dear to My Heart ''So Dear to My Heart'' is a 1948 American Live-action animated film, live-action animated feature film produced by Walt Disney, released by RKO Radio Pictures. Its world premiere was in Chicago, Illinois, on November 29, 1948. Like 1946's ''Son ...
'' (1948), which used more expansive live-action stories which still included animated sequences and sequences combining live-action and animated characters. Shorts production continued during this period as well, with ''Donald Duck'', ''Goofy'', and ''Pluto'' cartoons being the main output accompanied by cartoons starring Mickey Mouse, Figaro and, in the 1950s,
Chip 'n' Dale Chip and Dale (also spelled Chip 'n' Dale or Chip an' Dale) are a duo of cartoon characters created in 1943 by The Walt Disney Company. As anthropomorphic chipmunk brothers, their names are a pun on the name of the 18th-century cabinet maker an ...
and
Humphrey the Bear Humphrey the Bear is a cartoon character created in 1950 at Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an American animation studio that creates animated features and short f ...
. In addition, Disney began reissuing the previous features, beginning with re-releases of ''Snow White'' in 1944, ''Pinocchio'' in 1945, and ''Fantasia'' in 1946. This led to a tradition of reissuing the Disney films every seven years, which lasted into the 1990s before being translated into the studio's handling of
home video Home video is prerecorded media sold or Video rental shop, rented for home viewing. The term originates from the VHS and Betamax era, when the predominant medium was videotapes, but has carried over to optical disc formats such as DVD and Blu-ra ...
releases.


1948–1966: Return of features, Buena Vista, end of shorts, layoffs, and Walt’s final years

In 1948, Disney returned to the production of full-length features with ''
Cinderella "Cinderella", or "The Little Glass Slipper", is a Folklore, folk tale with thousands of variants throughout the world.Dundes, Alan. Cinderella, a Casebook. Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. The protagonist is a young woman livi ...
'', a feature film based on by
Charles Perrault Charles Perrault ( , also , ; 12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703) was an iconic French author and member of the Académie Française An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary educ ...

Charles Perrault
. At a cost of nearly $3 million, the future of the studio depended upon the success of this film. Upon its release in 1950, ''Cinderella'' proved to be a box-office success, with the profits from the film's release allowing Disney to carry on producing animated features throughout the 1950s. Following its success, production on the in-limbo features ''
Alice in Wonderland ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' (commonly shortened to ''Alice in Wonderland'') is an 1865 novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for ...
'', ''
Peter Pan Peter Pan is a fictional character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A free-spirited and mischievous young boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the mythi ...
'', and ''
Lady and the Tramp ''Lady and the Tramp'' is a 1955 American animated musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. Gen ...
'' was resumed. In addition, an ambitious new project, an adaptation of the
Brothers Grimm The Brothers Grimm ( or ), Jacob Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب '' Yaʿqūb'', gr, Ἰακώβ, ''Iakṓb''), later given the name Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל; ar, إِسْرَائِيل), officially known as the ...
fairy tale "
Sleeping Beauty "Sleeping Beauty" (french: La Belle au bois dormant), or "Little Briar Rose" (german: Dornröschen), also titled in English as "The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods", is a classic fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy ...

Sleeping Beauty
" set to
Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( ; rus, Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский,Петръ Ильичъ Чайковскій in Russian pre-revolutionary script. ; 7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893Russia was still using Old style and new style da ...

Tchaikovsky
's classic score, was begun but took much of the rest of the decade to complete. ''Alice in Wonderland'', released in 1951, met with a lukewarm response at the box office and was a sharp critical disappointment in its initial release. ''Peter Pan'', released in 1953, on the other hand, was a commercial success and the sixth highest-grossing film of the year. In 1955, ''Lady and the Tramp'' was released to higher box office success than any other Disney animated feature since ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', earning an estimated $6.5 million in rentals at the North American box office in 1955. ''Lady and the Tramp'' is significant as Disney's first
widescreen Widescreen images are images that are displayed within a set of aspect ratios The aspect ratio of a geometric Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; '' geo-'' "earth", '' -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic Arithmetic ...
animated feature, produced in the
CinemaScope CinemaScope is an anamorphic format, anamorphic lens series used, from 1953 to 1967, and less often later, for shooting widescreen films that, crucially, could be screened in theatres using existing equipment, albeit with a lens adapter. Its cre ...
process, and was the first Disney animated feature to be released by Disney's own distribution company,
Buena Vista Distribution Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. until 2007) is an American film distribution studio within the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution Disney Media and Entertainment Distribu ...
. By the mid-1950s, with Walt Disney's attention primarily set on new endeavours such as live-action films, television and the
Disneyland The Disneyland Park, originally Disneyland, is the first of two theme parks Wonder Mountain at Canada's Wonderland An amusement park is a park that features various attractions, such as rides and games, as well as other events for ...

Disneyland
theme park, production of the animated films was left primarily in the hands of the "Nine Old Men" trust of head animators and directors. This led to several delays in approvals during the production of ''
Sleeping Beauty "Sleeping Beauty" (french: La Belle au bois dormant), or "Little Briar Rose" (german: Dornröschen), also titled in English as "The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods", is a classic fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy ...
'', which was finally released in 1959. At $6 million, it was Disney's most expensive film to date, produced in a heavily-stylised art style devised by artist Eyvind Earle and presented in large-format
Super Technirama 70 Super Technirama 70 was the marketing name for a special type of deluxe film exhibition that was most popular in the 1960s. It was the 70mm version of the Technirama exhibition format. Unlike Super Panavision 70 and Ultra Panavision 70, Super Tech ...
with six-track stereophonic sound. However, despite being the studio's highest-grossing animated feature since ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', the film's large production costs and the box office underperformance of Disney's other 1959 output resulted in the studio posting its first annual loss in a decade for fiscal year 1960, leading to massive layoffs throughout the studio. By the end of the decade, the Disney short subjects were no longer being produced on a regular basis, with many of the shorts divisions' personnel either leaving the company or being reassigned to work on Disney television programmes such as ''
The Mickey Mouse Club ''The Mickey Mouse Club'' is an American variety show, variety television show that aired intermittently from 1955 to 1996 and returned to social media in 2017. Created by the late Walt Disney and produced by The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney ...
'' and ''
Disneyland The Disneyland Park, originally Disneyland, is the first of two theme parks Wonder Mountain at Canada's Wonderland An amusement park is a park that features various attractions, such as rides and games, as well as other events for ...
''. While the ''
Silly Symphonies ''Silly Symphony'' was an American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be pho ...
'' shorts had dominated the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) during the 1930s, its reign over the most awards had been ended by
MGM Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...

MGM
's ''
Tom and Jerry ''Tom and Jerry'' is an American animated Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), distinguished from mu ...
'' cartoons, Warner Bros' ''
Looney Tunes ''Looney Tunes'' is an American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be photo ...
'' and ''
Merrie Melodies ''Merrie Melodies'' is an American animation, animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. starting in 1931, during the golden age of American animation, and ending in 1969. As with its partner series, ''Looney Tunes'', it featu ...
'', and the works of United Productions of America (UPA), whose flat art style and stylized animation techniques were lauded as more modern alternatives to the older Disney style.. During the 1950s, only one Disney short, the stylized ''
Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom ''Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom'' is a 1953 American animated Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), dis ...
'', won the Best Short Subject (Cartoons) Oscar. The ''Mickey Mouse'', ''Pluto'' and ''Goofy'' shorts had all ceased regular production by 1953, with ''Donald Duck'' and ''Humphrey'' continuing and converting to widescreen CinemaScope before the shorts division was shut down in 1956. After that, all future shorts were produced by the feature films division until 1969. The last Disney short of the golden age of animation was ''
It's Tough to Be a Bird ''It's Tough to Be a Bird'' is a 1969 educational animated short made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions. It was directed and produced by Ward Kimball. The short won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Academy Awa ...
''. Disney shorts would only be produced on a sporadic basis from this point on, with notable later shorts including '' Runaway Brain'' (1995, starring Mickey Mouse) and '' Paperman'' (2012). Despite the 1959 layoffs and competition for Walt Disney's attention from the company's expanded live-action film, TV and theme park departments, production continued on feature animation productions at a reduced level.Shostak, Stu (03-28-2012).
Interview with Floyd Norman
. ''Stu's Show.'' Retrieved June 22, 2014.
In 1961, the studio released ''
One Hundred and One Dalmatians ''One Hundred and One Dalmatians'' is a 1961 American animated Animation is a method in which figures Figure may refer to: General *A shape, drawing, depiction, or geometric configuration *Figure (wood), wood appearance *Figure (music), di ...
'', an animated feature that popularized the use of
xerography Xerography is a dry photocopying A photocopier (also known as a copier or copy machine, and formerly a Xerox Machine) is a machine that makes copies of documents and other visual images onto paper Paper is a thin sheet material produc ...
during the process of inking and painting traditional animation cels. Using xerography, animation drawings could be photochemically transferred rather than traced from paper drawings to the clear acetate sheets ("
cel A cel, short for celluloid Celluloids are a class of materials produced by mixing nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose (also known as cellulose nitrate, flash paper, flash cotton, guncotton, pyroxylin and flash string, depending on form) is a high ...

cel
s") used in final animation production. The resulting art style – a scratchier line which revealed the construction lines in the animators' drawings – typified Disney films into the 1980s. The film was a success, being the tenth highest-grossing film of 1961 with rentals of $6.4 million.Gebert, Michael. ''The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards'' (listing of "Box Office (Domestic Rentals)" for 1961, taken from ''Variety'' magazine), St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1996. . "Rentals" refers to the distributor/studio's share of the box office gross, which, according to Gebert, is roughly half of the money generated by ticket sales. The Disney animation training program started at the studio in 1932 before the development of ''Snow White'' eventually led to Walt Disney helping found the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). This university formed via the merger of Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. It included a Disney-developed animation program of study among its degree offerings. CalArts became the alma mater of many of the animators who would work at Disney and other animation studios from the 1970s to the present. '' The Sword in the Stone'' was released in 1963 and was the sixth highest-grossing film of the year in North America with estimated rentals of $4.75 million. A featurette adaptation of one of A. A. Milne's ''
Winnie-the-Pooh Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear and Pooh, is a fictional anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human ps ...
'' stories, ''
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree ''Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree'' is a 1966 animation, animated featurette based on the first two chapters of ''Winnie-the-Pooh (book), Winnie-the-Pooh'' by A. A. Milne. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, produced by Walt Disney An ...
'', was released in 1966, to be followed by several other ''Pooh'' featurettes over the years and a full-length compilation feature, ''
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ''The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh'' is a 1977 American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, ...

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
'', which was released in 1977. Walt Disney died in December 1966, ten months before the studio's next film ''
The Jungle Book ''The Jungle Book'' (1894) is a collection of stories by the English author Rudyard Kipling Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( ; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)''The Times'', (London) 18 January 1936, p. 12. was an English journalist, shor ...
'', was completed and released.Maltin, Leonard: "Chapter 2," section: "The Jungle Book", pages 253–256. ''The Disney Films'', 2000 The film was a success,Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 7: The Post-War Films," section: "Walt Disney's Last Films", pages 106–107. ''Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules'', 1997 finishing 1967 as the fourth highest-grossing film of the year.


1966–1984: Decline in popularity, Don Bluth's entrance and departure, "rock bottom"

Following Walt Disney's death, Wolfgang Reitherman continued as both producer and director of the features. The studio began the 1970s with the release of ''The Aristocats'', the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney. In 1971, Roy O. Disney, the studio co-founder, died and Walt Disney Productions was left in the hands of Donn Tatum and Card Walker, who alternated as chairman and CEO in overlapping terms until 1978. The next feature, ''Robin Hood (1973 film), Robin Hood'' (1973), was produced with a significantly reduced budget and animation repurposed from previous features. Both ''The Aristocats'' and ''Robin Hood'' were minor box office and critical successes. ''The Rescuers'', released in 1977, was a success exceeding the achievements of the previous two Disney features. Receiving positive reviews, high commercial returns, and an Academy Award nomination, it ended up being the 1977 in film, third highest-grossing film of the year and the most successful and best reviewed Disney animated film since ''The Jungle Book''. The film was reissued in 1983, accompanied by a new Disney featurette, ''Mickey's Christmas Carol''. The production of ''The Rescuers'' signaled the beginning of a changing of the guard process in the personnel at the Disney animation studio: as veterans such as Milt Kahl and Les Clark retired, they were gradually replaced by new talents such as Don Bluth, Ron Clements, John Musker and Glen Keane. The new animators, culled from the animation program at CalArts and trained by Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Woolie Reitherman, got their first chance to prove themselves as a group with the animated sequences in Disney's live-action/animated hybrid feature ''Pete's Dragon (1977 film), Pete's Dragon'' (1977), the animation for which was directed by Bluth. In September 1979, dissatisfied with what they felt was a stagnation in the development of the art of animation at Disney, Bluth and several of the other new guard animators quit to start their own studio, Sullivan Bluth Studios, Don Bluth Productions, which became Disney's chief competitor in the animation field during the 1980s. Delayed half a year by the defection of the Bluth group, ''The Fox and the Hound'' was released in 1981 after four years in production. The film was considered a financial success by the studio, and development continued on ''The Black Cauldron (film), The Black Cauldron'', a long-gestating adaptation of the ''The Chronicles of Prydain, Chronicles of Prydain'' series of novels by Lloyd Alexander produced in Super Technirama 70. ''The Black Cauldron'' was intended to expand the appeal of Disney animated films to older audiences and to showcase the talents of the new generation of Disney animators from CalArts. Besides Keane, Musker and Clements, this new group of artists included other promising animators such as Andreas Deja, Mike Gabriel, John Lasseter, Brad Bird and Tim Burton. Lasseter was fired from Disney in 1983 for pushing the studio to explore computer animation production, but went on to become the creative head of Pixar, a pioneering computer animation studio that would begin a close association with Disney in the late 1980s. Similarly, Burton was fired in 1984 after producing a live-action short shelved by the studio, ''Frankenweenie (1984 film), Frankenweenie'', then went on to become a high-profile producer and director of live-action and stop motion, stop-motion features for Disney and other studios. Some of Burton's high-profile projects for Disney would include the stop-motion ''The Nightmare Before Christmas'' (1993), a live-action adaptation of ''Alice in Wonderland (2010 film), Alice in Wonderland'' (2010), and a stop-motion feature remake of ''Frankenweenie (2012 film), Frankenweenie'' (2012). Bird was also fired after a few years working at the company for criticizing Disney's upper management for playing it safe and not taking risks on animation. He subsequently became an animation director at other studios, including Warner Bros. Animation and Pixar. Ron W. Miller, Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law, became president of Walt Disney Productions in 1980 and CEO in 1983. That year, he expanded the company's film and television production divisions, creating the Walt Disney Pictures banner under which future films from the feature animation department would be released.


1984–1989: Michael Eisner takeover, restructuring, and return to prominence

After a series of corporate takeover attempts in 1984, Roy E. Disney, son of Roy O. and nephew of Walt, resigned from the company's board of directors and launched a campaign called "SaveDisney," successfully convincing the board to fire Miller. Roy E. Disney brought in Michael Eisner as Disney's new CEO and Frank Wells as president. Eisner in turn named Jeffrey Katzenberg chairman of the film division, Walt Disney Studios (division), The Walt Disney Studios. Near completion when the Eisner regime took over Disney, ''The Black Cauldron'' (1985) came to represent what would later be referred to as the "rock bottom" point for Disney animation. The studio's most expensive feature to that point at $44 million, ''The Black Cauldron'' was a critical and commercial failure. The film's $21 million box office gross led to a loss for the studio, putting the future of the animation division in jeopardy. Between the 1950s and 1980s, the significance of animation to Disney's bottom line was significantly reduced as the company expanded into further live-action production, television and theme parks. As new CEO, Michael Eisner strongly considered shuttering the feature animation studio and outsourcing future animation. Roy E. Disney intervened, offering to head the feature animation division and turn its fortunes around, while Eisner established the Disney Television Animation, Walt Disney Pictures Television Animation Group to produce lower-cost animation for television. Named Chairman of feature animation by Eisner, Roy E. Disney appointed Peter Schneider (film executive), Peter Schneider president of animation to run the day-to-day operations in 1985. On February 6, 1986, Disney executives moved the animation division from the Disney studio lot in Burbank to a variety of warehouses, hangars and trailers located about two miles east (3.2 kilometers) at 1420 Flower Street in nearby Glendale, California. About a year later, the growing computer graphics (CG) group would move there too. The animation division's first feature animation at its new location was ''The Great Mouse Detective'' (1986), begun by John Musker and Ron Clements as ''Basil of Baker Street'' after both left production of ''The Black Cauldron''. The film was enough of a critical and commercial success to instill executive confidence in the animation studio. Later the same year, however,
Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an int ...
and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment released Don Bluth's ''An American Tail'', which outgrossed ''The Great Mouse Detective'' at the box office and became the highest-grossing first-issue animated film to that point. Katzenberg, Schneider, and Roy Disney set about changing the culture of the studio, increasing staffing and production so that a new animated feature would be released every year instead of every two to four. The first of the releases on the accelerated production schedule was ''Oliver & Company'' (1988), which featured an all-star cast including Billy Joel and Bette Midler and an emphasis on a modern pop soundtrack. ''Oliver & Company'' opened in the theaters on the same day as another Bluth/Amblin/Universal animated film, ''The Land Before Time (film), The Land Before Time''; however, ''Oliver'' outgrossed ''Time'' in the US and went on to become the most successful animated feature in the US to that date, though the latter's worldwide box office gross was higher than the former. At the same time in 1988, Disney started entering into Australia's long-standing animation industry by purchasing Hanna-Barbera's Australian studio to start Walt Disney Animation Australia, Disney Animation Australia. While ''Oliver & Company'' and the next feature ''The Little Mermaid (1989 film), The Little Mermaid'' were in production, Disney collaborated with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and master animator Richard Williams (animator), Richard Williams to produce ''Who Framed Roger Rabbit'', a groundbreaking live-action/animation hybrid directed by Robert Zemeckis which featured licensed animated characters from other animation studios.Robert Zemeckis, Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, Ken Ralston, Frank Marshall (film producer), Frank Marshall, Steve Starkey, DVD audio commentary, 2003, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Disney set up a new animation studio under Williams' supervision in London to create the cartoon characters for ''Roger Rabbit'', with many of the artists from the California studio traveling to England to work on the film. A significant critical and commercial success, ''Roger Rabbit'' won three Academy Awards for technical achievements. The film won for Best Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing, and was key in renewing mainstream interest in American animation. Other than the film itself, the studio also produced Roger Rabbit short films, three ''Roger Rabbit'' shorts during the late 1980s and early 1990s.


1989–1994: Beginning of the Disney Renaissance, successful releases, and impact on the animation industry

A second satellite studio, Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, opened in 1989 with 40 employees. Its offices were located within the Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney-MGM Studios theme park at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida, and visitors were allowed to tour the studio and observe animators at work. That same year, the studio released ''The Little Mermaid'', which became a keystone achievement in Disney's history as its largest critical and commercial success in decades. Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, who'd been co-directors on ''The Great Mouse Detective'', ''The Little Mermaid'' earned $84 million at the North American box office, a record for the studio. The film was built around a score from Broadway songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who was also a co-producer and story consultant on the film. ''The Little Mermaid'' won two Academy Awards, for Best Original Song and Academy Award for Best Original Score, Best Original Score. ''The Little Mermaid'' vigorously relaunched a profound new interest in the animation and musical film genres. The film was also the first to feature the use of Disney's Computer Animation Production System (CAPS). Developed for Disney by Pixar, which had grown into a commercial computer animation and technology development company, CAPS/ink-and-paint would become significant in allowing future Disney films to more seamlessly integrate
computer-generated imagery Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is the application of computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out seque ...
and achieve higher production values with digital ink and paint and compositing techniques. ''The Little Mermaid'' was the first of a series of blockbusters that would be released over the next decade by Walt Disney Feature Animation, a period later designated by the term Disney Renaissance. Accompanied in theaters by the Mickey Mouse featurette ''The Prince and the Pauper (1990 film), The Prince and the Pauper'', ''The Rescuers Down Under'' (1990) was Disney's first animated feature sequel and the studio's first film to be fully colored and composited via computer using the CAPS/ink-and-paint system. However, the film did not duplicate the success of ''The Little Mermaid''. The next Disney animated feature, ''Beauty and the Beast (1991 film), Beauty and the Beast'', had begun production in London but was moved back to Burbank after Disney decided to shutter the London satellite office and retool the film into a musical-comedy format similar to ''The Little Mermaid''. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were retained to write the songs and score, though Ashman died before production was completed. Debuting first in a work-in-progress version at the 1991 New York Film Festival before its November 1991 wide release, ''Beauty and the Beast'', directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, was an unprecedented critical and commercial success and would later be regarded as one of the studio's best films. The film earned six Academy Award nominations, including one for Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Picture, a first for an animated work, winning for Best Song and Best Original Score. Its $145 million box office gross set new records, and merchandising for the film, including toys, cross-promotions, and soundtrack sales, was also lucrative. The successes of ''The Little Mermaid'' and ''Beauty and the Beast'' established the template for future Disney releases during the 1990s: a musical-comedy format with Broadway-styled songs and tentpole action sequences, buoyed by cross-promotional marketing and merchandising, all carefully designed to pull audiences of all ages and types into theatres. In addition to John Musker, Ron Clements, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, the new guard of Disney artists creating these films included story artists/directors Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, Chris Sanders (director), Chris Sanders and Brenda Chapman, and lead animators Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg (film director), Eric Goldberg, Nik Ranieri, Will Finn and many others. ''Aladdin (1992 Disney film), Aladdin'', released in November 1992, continued the upward trend in Disney's animation success, earning $504 million worldwide at the box office, and two more Oscars for Best Song and Best Score. Featuring songs by Menken, Ashman and Tim Rice (who replaced Ashman after his death) and starring the voice of Robin Williams, ''Aladdin'' also established the trend of hiring celebrity actors and actresses to provide the voices of Disney characters, which had been explored to some degree with ''The Jungle Book'' and ''Oliver & Company'' but now became standard practice. In June 1994, Disney released ''The Lion King'', directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. An all-animal story set in Africa, ''The Lion King'' featured an all-star voice cast which included James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick and Jeremy Irons, with songs written by Tim Rice and pop star Elton John. ''The Lion King'' earned $768 million at the worldwide box office, to this date a record for a traditionally-animated film, earning millions more in merchandising, promotions and record sales for its soundtrack. ''Aladdin'' and ''The Lion King'' had been the highest-grossing films worldwide in each of their respective release years. Between these in-house productions, Disney diversified in animation methods and produced ''The Nightmare Before Christmas'' with former Disney animator Tim Burton. With animation becoming again an increasingly important and lucrative part of Disney's business, the company began to expand its operations. The flagship California studio was split into two units and expanded, and ground was broken on a new Disney Feature Animation building adjacent to the main Disney lot in Burbank, which was dedicated in 1995. The Florida satellite, officially incorporated in 1992, was expanded as well, and one of Disney's television animation studios in the Paris, France suburb of Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, Montreuil – the former Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi, Brizzi Brothers studio – became Walt Disney Feature Animation Paris, where ''A Goofy Movie'' (1995) and significant parts of later Disney films were produced. Disney also began producing lower cost direct-to-video sequels for its successful animated films using the services of its television animation studios under the name DisneyToon Studios, Disney MovieToons. ''The Return of Jafar'' (1994), a sequel to ''Aladdin'' and a pilot for the Aladdin (animated TV series), ''Aladdin'' television show spin-off, was the first of these productions. Walt Disney Feature Animation was also heavily involved in the adaptations of both ''Beauty and the Beast (musical), Beauty and the Beast'' in 1994 and ''The Lion King (musical), The Lion King'' in 1997 into Broadway musicals. Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Disney story team were heavily involved in the development and production of ''Toy Story'', the first fully computer-animated feature ever produced. ''Toy Story'' was produced for Disney by Pixar and directed by former Disney animator John Lasseter, whom Peter Schneider had unsuccessfully tried to hire back after his success with Pixar shorts such as ''Tin Toy'' (1988). Released in 1995, ''Toy Story'' opened to critical acclaim and commercial success, leading to Pixar signing a five-film deal with Disney, which bore critically and financially successful computer animated films such as ''A Bug's Life'' (1998), ''Toy Story 2'' (1999), ''Monsters, Inc.'' (2001), and ''Finding Nemo'' (2003). In addition, the successes of ''Aladdin'' and ''The Lion King'' spurred a significant increase in the number of American-produced animated features throughout the rest of the decade, with the major film studios establishing new animation divisions such as Fox Animation Studios, Sullivan Bluth Studios, Amblimation, Rich Animation Studios, Turner Feature Animation, and Warner Bros. Animation being formed to produce films in a Disney-esque musical-comedy format such as ''We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (film), We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story'' (1993), ''Thumbelina (1994 film), Thumbelina'' (1994), ''The Swan Princess'' (1994), ''A Troll in Central Park'' (1994), ''The Pebble and the Penguin'' (1995), ''Cats Don't Dance'' (1997), ''Anastasia (1997 film), Anastasia'' (1997), ''Quest for Camelot'' (1998) and ''The King and I (1999 film), The King and I'' (1999). Out of these non-Disney animated features, only ''Anastasia'' was a box-office success.


1994–1999: End of the Disney Renaissance, declining returns

Concerns arose internally at the Disney studio, particularly from Roy E. Disney, about studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg taking too much credit for the success of Disney's early 1990s releases. Disney Company president Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter accident in 1994, and Katzenberg lobbied CEO Michael Eisner for the vacant president position. Instead, tensions between Katzenberg, Eisner and Disney resulted in Katzenberg being forced to resign from the company on August 24 of that year, with Joe Roth taking his place. On October 12, 1994, Katzenberg went on to become one of the founders of DreamWorks SKG, whose DreamWorks Animation, animation division became Disney's key rival in feature animation, with both computer animated films such as ''Antz'' (1998) and traditionally-animated films such as ''The Prince of Egypt'' (1998). In December 1994, the #Locations, Animation Building in Burbank was completed for the animation division. In contrast to the early 1990s productions, not all the films in the second half of the renaissance were successful. ''Pocahontas (1995 film), Pocahontas'', released in summer of 1995, was the first film of the renaissance to receive mixed reviews from critics but was still popular with audiences and commercially successful, earning $346 million worldwide, and won two Academy Awards for its music by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz (composer), Stephen Schwartz.. ''Pocahontas'' won two 1996 Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The next film, ''The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996 film), The Hunchback of Notre Dame'' (1996) was partially produced at the Walt Disney Animation France, Paris studio and, although it is considered Disney's darkest film, ''The Hunchback of Notre Dame'' performed better critically than ''Pocahontas'' and grossed $325 million worldwide. The following summer, ''Hercules (1997 film), Hercules'' (1997) did well at the box office, grossing $252 million worldwide, but underperformed in comparison to Disney's previous films. It received positive reviews for its acting but the animation and music were criticized. ''Hercules'' was responsible for beginning the decline of traditionally-animated films. The declining box office success became doubly concerning inside the studio as wage competition from DreamWorks had significantly increased the studio's overhead, with production costs increasing from $79 million in total costs (production, marketing, and overhead) for ''The Lion King'' in 1994 to $179 million for ''Hercules'' three years later. Moreover, Disney depended upon the popularity of its new features in order to develop merchandising, theme park attractions, direct-to-video sequels and television programming in its other divisions. The production schedule was scaled back and a larger number of creative executives were hired to more closely supervise production, a move that was not popular among the animation staff. ''Mulan (1998 film), Mulan'' (1998), the first film produced primarily at the Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, Florida studio, opened to positive reviews from audiences and critics and earned a successful $305 million at the worldwide box office, restoring both the critical and commercial success of the studio. The next film, ''Tarzan (1999 film), Tarzan'' (1999), directed by Kevin Lima and Chris Buck, had a high production cost of $130 million, again received positive reviews and earned $448 million at the box office. The ''Tarzan'' soundtrack by pop star Phil Collins resulted in significant record sales and an Academy Award for Best Song.


1999–2005: Slump, downsizing, and conversion to computer animation, corporate issues

''Fantasia 2000'', a sequel to the 1940 film that had been a pet project of Roy E. Disney's since 1990, premiered on December 17, 1999 at Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of a concert tour that also visited London, Paris, Tokyo and Pasadena, California. The film was then released in 75 IMAX theaters worldwide from January 1 to April 30, 2000, making it the first animated feature-length film to be released in the format; a standard theatrical release followed on June 15, 2000. Produced in pieces when artists were available between productions, ''Fantasia 2000'' was the first animated feature produced for and released in IMAX format. The film's $90 million worldwide box office total against its $90 million production cost resulted in it losing $100 million for the studio. Peter Schneider left his post as president of Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1999 to become president of The Walt Disney Studios under Joe Roth. Thomas Schumacher, who had been Schneider's vice president of animation for several years, became the new president of Walt Disney Feature Animation. By this time, competition from other studios had driven animators' incomes to all-time highs, making traditionally-animated features even more costly to produce. Schumacher was tasked with cutting costs, and massive layoffs began to cut salaries and bring the studio's staff – which peaked at 2,200 people in 1999 – down to approximately 1,200 employees. In October 1999, Dream Quest Images, a special effects studio previously purchased by The Walt Disney Company in April 1996 to replace Buena Vista Visual Effects, was merged with the computer-graphics operation of Walt Disney Feature Animation to form a division called The Secret Lab. The Secret Lab produced one feature film, ''Dinosaur (film), Dinosaur'', which was released in May 2000 and featured CGI prehistoric creatures against filmed live-action backgrounds. The $128 million production earned $349 million worldwide, below studio expectations, and The Secret Lab was closed in 2001. In December 2000, ''The Emperor's New Groove'' was released. It had been a musical epic called ''Kingdom of the Sun'' before being revised mid-production into a smaller comedy.Jim Hill, "The Long Story Behind the Emperor's New Groove". Part 1, page 3

/ref> The film earned $169 million worldwide on release, though it was well-reviewed and performed better on video; ''Atlantis: The Lost Empire'' (2001), an attempt to break the Disney formula by moving into action-adventure, received mixed reviews and earned $186 million worldwide against production costs of $120 million. By 2001, the notable successes of computer-animated films from Pixar and DreamWorks such as ''Monsters, Inc.'' and ''Shrek'', respectively, against Disney's lesser returns for ''The Emperor's New Groove'' and ''Atlantis: The Lost Empire'' led to a growing perception that hand-drawn animation was becoming outdated and falling out of fashion. In March 2002, just after the successful release of Blue Sky Studios' computer-animated feature ''Ice Age (2002 film), Ice Age'', Disney laid off most of the employees at the Feature Animation studio in Burbank, downsizing it to one unit and beginning plans to move into fully computer animated films.Lund, Dan (2005). "The 'Meeting' Sequence: Super Sized". Bonus features for ''Dream On Silly Dreamer'' (Documentary film) DVD release. Orlando, Florida: WestLund Productions. Extended interviews with former Disney Feature Animation artists about the WDFA staff meetings during the week of March 19–25, 2002 with Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher and producer Alice Dewey where the layoffs and move of the Burbank studio to CGI are discussed at length. A handful of employees were offered positions doing computer animation. Morale plunged to a low not seen since the start of the studio's ten-year exile to Glendale in 1985. The Paris studio was also closed in 2003. The Burbank studio's remaining hand-drawn productions, ''Treasure Planet'' and ''Home on the Range (2004 film), Home on the Range'', continued production. ''Treasure Planet'', an outer space retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's ''Treasure Island'', was a pet project of writer-directors Ron Clements and John Musker. It received an IMAX release and generally positive reviews but was financially unsuccessful upon its November 2002 release, resulting in a $74 million write-down for The Walt Disney Company in fiscal year 2003. The Burbank studio's 2D departments closed at the end of 2002 following completion of ''Home on the Range'', a long-in-production feature that had previously been known as ''Sweating Bullets''. Meanwhile, hand-drawn feature animation production continued at the Feature Animation Florida studio, where the films could be produced at lower costs. ''Lilo & Stitch'', an offbeat comedy-drama written and directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, became the studio's first bonafide hit since ''Tarzan'' upon its summer 2002 release, earning $273 million worldwide against an $80 million production budget. By this time, most of the Disney features from the 1990s had been spun off into direct-to-video sequels, television series or both, produced by the Disney Television Animation unit. Beginning with the February 2002 release of ''Return to Never Land'', a sequel to ''Peter Pan'' (1953), Disney began releasing lower-budgeted sequels to earlier films, which had been intended for video premieres, in theaters, a process derided by some of the Disney animation staff and fans of the Disney films. In 2003, Tom Schumacher was appointed president of Disney Theatrical Group, Buena Vista Theatrical Group, Disney's stageplay and musical theater arm, and David Stainton, then president of Walt Disney Television Animation, was appointed as his replacement. Stainton continued to oversee Disney's direct-to-video division, Disneytoon Studios, which had been part of the television animation department, though transferred at this time to Walt Disney Feature Animation management. Under Stainton, the Florida studio completed ''Brother Bear'', which did not perform as well as ''Lilo & Stitch'' critically or financially. Disney closed the Florida studio on January 12, 2004, with the then in-progress feature ''My Peoples'' left unfinished when the studio closed two months later.Lund, Dan (2005). "The 'Story Department' Sequence: Super Sized". Bonus features for ''Dream On Silly Dreamer'' (Documentary film) DVD release. Orlando, Florida: WestLund Productions. Extended interviews with several former Disney Feature Animation employees discussing changes to the studio's story development processes between 1999 and 2004. ''Mulan'' and ''My Peoples'' (also known as ''A Few Good Ghosts'') are discussed at length by director Barry Cook. Upon the unsuccessful April 2004 release of ''Home on the Range'', Disney, led by executive Bob Lambert (executive), Bob Lambert, officially announced its conversion of Walt Disney Feature Animation into a fully CGI studio – a process begun two years prior – now with a staff of 600 people and began selling off all of its traditional animation equipment. Just after ''Brother Bear''s November 2003 release, Feature Animation chairman Roy E. Disney had resigned from The Walt Disney Company, launching with business partner Stanley Gold a second external "SaveDisney" campaign similar to the one that had forced Ron Miller out in 1984, this time to force out Michael Eisner. Two of their arguing points against Eisner included his handling of Feature Animation and the souring of the studio's relationship with Pixar. The same year, the studio collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering on the 4D film attraction ''Mickey's Philharmagic'', which centers on
Donald Duck Donald Fauntleroy Duck is a cartoon character created by The Walt Disney Company. Donald is an Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic American Pekin, white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He typically wears a sailor suit, sailor shi ...

Donald Duck
as he is transported through several Disney musical sequences. One of the studio's first attempts at CG animation, the studio brought back several animators from the Renaissance period to work on the film; each animator worked on a sequence that they had previously worked on, such as Glen Keane animating Ariel (Disney), Ariel for the "Part of Your World" sequence. Talks between Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs over renewal terms for the highly lucrative Pixar-Disney distribution deal broke down in January 2004. Jobs, in particular, disagreed with Eisner's insistence that sequels such as the then in-development ''Toy Story 3'' (2010) would not count against the number of films required in the studio's new deal. To that end, Disney announced the launching of Circle 7 Animation, a division of Feature Animation which would have produced sequels to the Pixar films, while Pixar began shopping for a new distribution deal. In 2005, Disney released its first fully computer-animated feature, ''Chicken Little (2005 film), Chicken Little''. The film was a moderate success at the box office, earning $315 million worldwide, but was not well-received critically. Later that year, after two years of Roy E. Disney's "SaveDisney" campaign, Eisner announced that he would resign and named Bob Iger, then president of The Walt Disney Company, his successor as chairman and CEO.


2005–2010: Rebound, Disney's acquisition of Pixar and renaming

Iger later said, "I didn’t yet have a complete sense of just how broken Disney Animation was." He described its history since the early 1990s as "dotted by a slew of expensive failures" like ''Hercules'' and ''Chicken Little''; the "modest successes" like ''Mulan'' and ''Lilo & Stitch'' were still critically and commercially unsuccessful compared to the earlier films of the Disney Renaissance. After Iger became CEO, Jobs resumed negotiations for Pixar with Disney. On January 24, 2006, Disney announced that it would acquire Pixar for $7.4 billion in an all-stock deal, with the deal closing that May, and the Circle 7 studio launched to produce ''Toy Story 3'' was shut down, with most of its employees returning to Feature Animation and ''Toy Story 3'' returning to Pixar's control. Iger later said that it was "a deal I wanted badly, and [Disney] needed badly". He believed that Disney Animation needed new leadership and, as part of the acquisition, Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter were named president and Chief Creative Officer, respectively, of Feature Animation as well as Pixar. While Disney executives had discussed closing Feature Animation as redundant, Catmull and Lasseter refused and instead resolved to try to turn things around at the studio. Lasseter said, "We weren't going to let that [closure] happen on our watch. We were determined to save the legacy of Walt Disney's amazing studio and bring it back up to the creative level it had to be. Saving this heritage was squarely on our shoulders." Lasseter and Catmull set about rebuilding the morale of the Feature Animation staff, and rehired a number of its 1980s "new guard" generation of star animators who had left the studio, including Ron Clements, John Musker, Eric Goldberg (animator), Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, Andreas Deja, Bruce W. Smith and Chris Buck. To maintain the separation of Walt Disney Feature Animation and Pixar despite their now common ownership and management, Catmull and Lasseter "drew a hard line" that each studio was solely responsible for its own projects and would not be allowed to borrow personnel from or lend tasks out to the other. Catmull said that he and Lasseter would "make sure the studios are quite distinct from each other. We don’t want them to merge; that would definitely be the wrong approach. Each should have its own personality". Catmull and Lasseter also brought to Disney Feature Animation the Pixar model of a "filmmaker-driven studio" as opposed to an "executive-driven studio"; they abolished Disney's prior system of requiring directors to respond to "mandatory" constructive criticism, notes from development executives ranking above the producers in favor of a system roughly analogous to peer review, in which non-mandatory notes come primarily from fellow producers, directors and writers. Most of the layers of "gatekeepers" (midlevel executives) were stripped away, and Lasseter established a routine of personally meeting weekly with filmmakers on all projects in the last year of production and delivering feedback on the spot. The studio's team of top creatives who work together closely on the development of its films is known as the Disney Story Trust; it is somewhat similar to the Pixar Braintrust, but its meetings are reportedly "more polite" than those of its Pixar counterpart. In 2007, Lasseter renamed Walt Disney Feature Animation Walt Disney Animation Studios, and re-positioned the studio as an animation house that produced both traditional and computer-animated projects. In order to keep costs down on hand-drawn productions, animation, design and layout were done in-house at Disney while clean-up animation and digital ink-and-paint were farmed out to vendors and freelancers. The studio released ''Meet the Robinsons'' in 2007, its second all-CGI film, earning $169.3 million worldwide. That same year, Disneytoon Studios was also restructured and began to operate as a separate unit under Lasseter and Catmull's control. Lasseter's direct intervention with the studio's next film, ''American Dog'', resulted in the departure of director Chris Sanders (director), Chris Sanders, who went on to become a director at DreamWorks Animation. The film was retooled by new directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams (director), Chris Williams as ''Bolt (2008 film), Bolt'', which was released in 2008 and had the best critical reception of any Disney animated feature since ''Lilo & Stitch'' and became a moderate financial success, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Film. ''The Princess and the Frog'', loosely based on the fairy tale ''the Frog Prince'' and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, was the studio's first hand-drawn animated film in five years. A return to the musical-comedy format of the 1990s with songs by Randy Newman, the film was released in 2009 to a positive critical reception and was also nominated for three Academy Awards, including two for Best Song. The box office performance of ''The Princess and the Frog'' – a total of $267 million earned worldwide against a $105 million production budget – was seen as an underperformance due to competition with ''Avatar (2009 film), Avatar''. In addition, the "Princess" aspect of the title was blamed, resulting in future Disney films then in production about princesses being given gender neutral, symbolic titles: ''Rapunzel'' became ''Tangled'' and ''The Snow Queen'' became ''Frozen''. In 2014, Disney animator Tom Sito compared the film's box office performance to that of ''The Great Mouse Detective'' (1986), which was a step-up from the theatrical run of the 1985 film ''The Black Cauldron''. In 2009, the studio also produced the computer-animated ''Prep & Landing'' holiday special for the American Broadcasting Company, ABC television network.


2010–2019: Continued resurgence and John Lasseter and Ed Catmull's departure

After ''The Princess and the Frog'', the studio released ''Tangled'', a musical CGI adaptation of the
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fairy tale "Rapunzel" with songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. In active development since 2002 under Glen Keane, ''Tangled'', directed by Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, was released in 2010 and became a significant critical and commercial success and was nominated for several accolades. The film earned $592 million in worldwide box office revenue, becoming the studio's third most successful release to date. The hand-drawn feature ''Winnie the Pooh (2011 film), Winnie the Pooh'', a new feature film based on the Winnie the Pooh (book), eponymous stories by A.A. Milne, followed in 2011 to positive reviews but underperformed at the box office; it remains the studio's most recent hand-drawn feature. The film was released in theaters alongside the hand-drawn short ''The Ballad of Nessie''. ''Wreck-It Ralph'', directed by Rich Moore, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim and commercial success. A comedy-adventure about a video-game villain who redeems himself as a hero, it won numerous awards, including the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, Annie, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Animated Feature, Critics' Choice and 2013 Kids' Choice Awards, Kids' Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature Film, and received Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Academy Award nominations. The film earned $471 million in worldwide box office revenue. In addition, the studio won its first Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, Academy Award for a short film in forty-four years with '' Paperman'', which was released in theaters with ''Wreck-It Ralph''. Directed by John Kahrs, ''Paperman'' utilized new software developed in-house at the studio called Meander, which merges hand-drawn and computer animation techniques within the same character to create a unique "hybrid". According to Producer Kristina Reed, the studio is continuing to develop the technique for future projects, including an animated feature. In 2013, the studio laid off nine of its hand-drawn animators, including Nik Ranieri and Ruben A. Aquino, leading to speculation on animation weblog, blogs that the studio was abandoning traditional animation, an idea that the studio dismissed. That same year, ''Frozen (2013 film), Frozen'', a CGI musical film inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen", was released to widespread acclaim and became a blockbuster hit. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee with songs by the Broadway team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, it was the first Disney animated film to earn over $1 billion in worldwide box office revenue. ''Frozen'' also became the first film from Walt Disney Animation Studios to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (a category started in 2001), as well as the first feature-length motion picture from the studio to win an Academy Award since ''Tarzan'' and the first to win multiple Academy Awards since ''Pocahontas''. It was released in theaters with ''Get a Horse!'', a new ''Mickey Mouse'' cartoon combining black-and-white hand-drawn animation and full-color CGI animation. The studio's next feature, ''Big Hero 6 (film), Big Hero 6'', a CGI comedy-adventure film inspired by the Marvel Comics Big Hero 6 (comics), series of the same name, was released in November 2014. For the film, the studio developed new light rendering software called Hyperion, which the studio continued to use on all subsequent films. ''Big Hero 6'' received critical acclaim and was the highest-grossing animated film of 2014, also winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The film was accompanied in theaters by the animated short ''Feast (2014 film), Feast'', which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In that same month, it was announced that General Manager, Andrew Millstein has been promoted as President of Walt Disney Animation Studios. In March 2016, the studio released ''Zootopia'', a CGI buddy-comedy film set in a modern world inhabited by Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic animals. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $1 billion worldwide, and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. ''Moana (2016 film), Moana'', a CGI fantasy-adventure film, was released in November 2016. The film was shown in theaters with the animated short ''Inner Workings''. ''Moana'' was another commercial and critical success for the studio, grossing over $600 million worldwide and receiving two Academy Award nominations. In November 2017, John Lasseter announced that he was taking a six-month leave of absence after acknowledging what he called "missteps" in his behavior with employees in a memo to staff. According to various news outlets, Lasseter had a history of alleged sexual misconduct towards employees. On June 8, 2018, it was announced that Lasseter would leave Disney and Pixar at the end of the year after the company decided not to renew his contract, but he would take on a consulting role until it expired. Jennifer Lee was announced as Lasseter's replacement as chief creative officer of Disney Animation on June 19, 2018. On June 28, 2018, the studio's division Disneytoon Studios was shut down, resulting in the layoffs of 75 animators and staff. On October 23, 2018, it was announced that Ed Catmull would be retiring at the end of the year, and would stay in an adviser role until July 2019. In November 2018, the studio released a sequel to ''Wreck-It Ralph'', titled ''Ralph Breaks the Internet''. The film grossed over $500 million worldwide and received nominations for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, both for Best Animated Feature.


2019–present: Continued success and expansion to television

In August 2019, it was announced that Andrew Millstein would be stepping down from his role as president, before moving on to become co-president of Blue Sky Studios alongside Robert Baird, while
Clark Spencer Clark Spencer (born April 6, 1963) is an American film producer, businessman and studio executive best known for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an Amer ...
was named president of Disney Animation, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman and working alongside chief creative officer Jennifer Lee. The studio's next feature film was the sequel ''Frozen II'', released in November 2019. The film grossed over $1 billion worldwide and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. According to Disney (which does not consіder the 2019 The Lion King (2019 film), ''The Lion King'' remake to be an anіmated fіlm), ''Frozen II'' is the hіghest-grossing anіmated fіlm of all tіme. In December 2020, the studio announced that it was expanding into producing television series - a business usually handled by the Disney Television Animation division. Most of the projects in development are for the Disney+ streaming service. Among the CG series being produced include ''Baymax!'' (a spinoff of ''Big Hero 6 (film), Big Hero 6''), a TV anthology called ''Zootopia+'' (set in the ''Zootopia'' universe), and a TV adaptation of ''Moana (2016 film), Moana''. A hand-drawn series called ''Tiana'', featuring the lead character from ''The Princess and the Frog'', is also in development. They also announced they would be teaming up with British-based Pan-African entertainment company Kugali Media on a science fiction anthology named ''Iwájú''. In addition, employees from Disney Animation are involved on the Disney Television Animation series ''Monsters at Work'', based on Pixar's ''Monsters, Inc.''. ''Raya and the Last Dragon'', a CGI fantasy-adventure film, was released in March 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Disney+ Premier Access, Premier Access. The film was accompanied in theaters with the animated short ''Us Again (film), Us Again''. Starting in 2020, Disney Animation created a series of experimental shorts called ''Short Circuit (short series), Short Circuit'' for Disney+. The first pack of shorts was released in 2020, and a second pack was released in August 2021. During that period, Disney Animation returned to work on hand-drawn animation, having released the hand-drawn "At Home with Olaf (Frozen), Olaf" web short "Ice", as well as three hand-drawn animated
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Goofy
shorts for Disney+, and a hand-drawn animated "Short Circuit" titled "Dinosaur Barbarian". On August 4, 2021, it was reported that Disney Animation was opening a new animation studio in Vancouver. Operations at the Vancouver studio will start in 2022, with former Disney Animation finance lead Amir Nasrabadi serving as head for the studio. The Vancouver studio will work on the animation for the Disney+-exclusive long-form series and future Disney+ specials, while the short-form series will be animated at the Burbank studio. Pre-production and storyboarding for the long-form series and specials will also take place at the Burbank studio. In November 2021, the studio released '' Encanto'', a CGI musical-fantasy film. It was released in theaters with the 2D/CG hybrid short ''Far From the Tree''.


Studio


Management

Walt Disney Animation Studios is currently managed by Jennifer Lee (Chief Creative Officer, 2018–present) and
Clark Spencer Clark Spencer (born April 6, 1963) is an American film producer, businessman and studio executive best known for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS), sometimes shortened to Disney Animation, is an Amer ...
(President, 2019–present). Former presidents of the studio include Andrew Millstein (November 2014–July 2019), Edwin Catmull (June 2007–July 2019), David Stainton (January 2003–January 2006), Thomas Schumacher (January 1999–December 2002) and Peter Schneider (film executive), Peter Schneider (1985–January 1999). Other Disney executives who also exercised much influence within the studio were John Lasseter (2006–2018, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Animation Studios), Roy E. Disney (1972–2009, CEO and Chairman, Walt Disney Animation Studios), Jeffrey Katzenberg (1984–94, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios), Michael Eisner (1984–2005, CEO, The Walt Disney Company), and Frank Wells (1984–94, President and COO, The Walt Disney Company). Following Roy Disney's death in 2009, the WDAS headquarters in Burbank was re-dedicated as The Roy E. Disney Animation Building in May 2010.


Locations

Since 1995, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been headquartered in the Roy E. Disney Animation Building in
Burbank, California Burbank is a city in the southeastern end of the San Fernando Valley The San Fernando Valley, known locally as "the Valley", is an urbanized valley A valley is an elongated low area often running between hills or mountains, which ...
, across Riverside Drive (Los Angeles), Riverside Drive from Walt Disney Studios (Burbank), The Walt Disney Studios, where the original Animation building (now housing corporate offices) is located. The Disney Animation Building's lobby is capped by a large version of the famous hat from the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of '' Fantasia'' (1940), and the building is informally called the "hat building" for that reason. Disney Animation shares its site with ABC Studios, whose building is located immediately to the west. Until the mid-1990s, Disney Animation previously operated out of the Air Way complex, a cluster of old hangars, office buildings, and trailers in the Grand Central Business Centre, an industrial park on the site of the former Grand Central Airport (United States), Grand Central Airport about two miles (3.2 km) east in the city of Glendale. The Disneytoon Studios unit was based in Glendale. Disney Animation's archive, formerly known as "the morgue" (based on an analogy to a morgue file) and today known as the Animation Research Library, is also located in Glendale. Unlike the Burbank buildings, the ARL is located in a nondescript office building near Disney's Grand Central Creative Campus. The 12,000-square-foot ARL is home to over 64 million items of animation artwork dating back to 1924; because of its importance to the company, visitors are required to non-disclosure agreement, agree not to disclose its exact location within Glendale. Previously, List of animation studios owned by The Walt Disney Company, feature animation satellite studios were located around the world in Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, France (a suburb of Paris), and in Bay Lake, Florida (near Orlando, Florida, Orlando, at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park). The Paris studio was shut down in 2002, while the Florida studio was shut down in 2004. The Florida animation building survives as an office building, while the former The Magic of Disney Animation, Magic of Disney Animation section of the building is home to Star Wars Launch Bay, ''Star Wars'' Launch Bay. In November 2014, Disney Animation commenced a 16-month upgrade of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, in order to fix what then-studio president Edwin Catmull had called its "dungeon-like" interior. For example, the interior was so cramped that it could not easily accommodate "town hall" meetings with all employees in attendance. Due to the renovation, the studio's employees were temporarily moved from Burbank into the closest available Disney-controlled studio space – the Disneytoon Studios building in the industrial park in Glendale and the old Walt Disney Imagineering, Imagineering warehouse in North Hollywood under the western approach to Bob Hope Airport (the Tujunga Building). The renovation was completed in October 2016.


Productions


Feature films

Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced animated features in a series of animation techniques, including
traditional animation Traditional animation (or classical animation, cel animation, hand-drawn animation, 2D animation or just 2D) is an animation technique in which each frame is drawing, drawn by hand. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema unt ...
, computer animation, combination of both and Films with live action and animation, animation combined with live-action scenes. The studio's first film, ''
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs "Snow White" is a 19th-century German fairy tale A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or ''Märchen'' is an instance of a folklore genre that takes the form of a short story A short story is a piece of prose fictio ...
'', was released on December 21, 1937, and their most recent film, '' Encanto'', was released on November 24, 2021.


Short films

Since ''
Alice Comedies The ''Alice Comedies'' are a series of animated/live-action shorts created by Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pionee ...
'' in the 1920s, Walt Disney Animation Studios has produced a series of prominent short films, including the List of Mickey Mouse films and appearances, ''Mickey Mouse'' cartoons and the ''
Silly Symphonies ''Silly Symphony'' was an American animated Animation is a method in which Image, figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent cel, celluloid sheets to be pho ...
'' series. Many of these shorts provided a medium for the studio to experiment with new technologies that they would use in their filmmaking process, such as the synchronization of sound in ''
Steamboat Willie ''Steamboat Willie'' is a 1928 American animated short film directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It was produced in black and white by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Studios and was released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon ...
'' (1928), the integration of the three-strip Technicolor process in ''
Flowers and Trees ''Flowers and Trees'' is a 1932 '' Silly Symphonies'' cartoon produced by Walt Disney Walter Elias Disney (; December 5, 1901December 15, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, writer, voice actor, and film producer. A pioneer of th ...

Flowers and Trees
'' (1932), the multiplane camera in ''
The Old Mill ''The Old Mill'' is a 1937 ''Silly Symphonies ''Silly Symphony'' is a series of 75 animated musical short films produced by Walt Disney Productions from 1929 to 1939. As their name implies, the ''Silly Symphonies'' were originally intended as ...

The Old Mill
'' (1937), the xerography process in ''Goliath II'' (1960), and the hand-drawn/CGI hybrid animation in ''Off His Rockers'' (1992), '' Paperman'' (2012), and ''Get a Horse!'' (2013). From 2001 to 2008, Disney released the Walt Disney Treasures, a limited collector DVD series, celebrating what would have been Walt Disney's 100th birthday. On August 18, 2015, Disney released twelve short animation films entitled: ''Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection'' which includes among others ''Tick Tock Tale'' (2010) directed by Dean Wellins and ''Prep & Landing – Operation: Secret Santa'' (2010) written and directed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton. On March 22, 2017, the shorts included were released on Netflix.


Television programming

Walt Disney Animation Studios announced its expansion into television programming in 2020, and is currently producing 5 original shows for Disney+. The shows include ''Baymax!'', ''Zootopia+'' and ''Iwájú'' (for 2022) and ''Tiana'' and ''Moana: The Series'' (for 2023).


Franchises

This does not include Disney's direct-to-video or television follow-up films produced by either Disney Television Animation or DisneyToon Studios.


See also

*
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, ...
*Disney's Nine Old Men *12 basic principles of animation *''Walt Disney Treasures'' *''Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life'' *Modern animation in the United States#Disney, Modern animation in the United States: Disney *Animation studios owned by The Walt Disney Company *DisneyToon Studios *
Pixar Animation Studios Pixar Animation Studios () is an American computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as ...

Pixar Animation Studios
*Blue Sky Studios *20th Century Animation *List of Disney theatrical animated feature films


Documentary films about Disney animation

*''A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios'' (1937, short) *''The Reluctant Dragon (1941 film), The Reluctant Dragon'' (1941, a staged "mockumentary") *''Frank and Ollie'' (1995) *''Dream On Silly Dreamer'' (2005) *''Waking Sleeping Beauty'' (2009)


References


Sources

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Further reading

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External links

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Walt Disney Animation Studios
on YouTube {{DEFAULTSORT:Walt Disney Animation Studios Film studios Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney animation Disney production studios, Animation American animation studios, Disney Cinema of Southern California Entertainment companies based in California Entertainment companies established in 1923 American companies established in 1923 Postmodern architecture in California 1923 establishments in California Companies based in Burbank, California The Walt Disney Studios Walt Disney Pictures