Animation Chief Champions 3D at Disney

David Stainton, Disney’s recently appointed head of feature animation, told The L.A. Times that his plans for the future of Mouse House movies involve more 3D and less 2D. The former TV animation head reportedly informed 525 animation employees of his desire to produce classic fairy tales completely in CG.

Stainton has put the planned features Chicken Little and My Peoples on hold and is hoping to reinvigorate feature animation with the talents of visionary live-action directors like Baz Luhrmann, who revived the Hollywood musical with Moulin Rouge.

The box office failure of the $140 million Treasure Planet was a “wakeup call,” according to Stainton, who is under a mandate to produce most features for less than $100 million. “I really want to shake it up,” he told the Times.

Stainton’s idea of shaking things up is bad news for Disney’s traditionally-trained artists, who have seen brutal layoffs and have long been fearing the death of the studio’s 2D animation division.

Disney’s fourth and perhaps final Pixar collaboration, Finding Nemo, is set to hit theaters on May 30. The 3D, underwater adventure debuted at Show West and is getting positive early buzz. Big box office numbers will only strengthen the studio’s resolve to focus on computer-generated projects. Likewise, good returns on DreamWorks’ upcoming 2D swashbuckler Sinbad could give traditional animation a much-needed shot in the arm.