Disney Preps New Pic, Shutters Orlando

Walt Disney Feature Animation will bring William Joyce’s best-selling children’s book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, to the big screen in 2006. The CG feature will be produced at Disney’s Burbank-based animation studio by Disney animation veteran Dorothy McKim. Steve Anderson, who served as head of story on The Emperor’s New Groove and Brother Bear, is attached to direct. Lilo & Stitch producer Clark Spencer will exec. produce. Animation will begin in June 2004.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson is a comedy/adventure tale about a boy-genius who creates a mysterious machine that can recover the lost memory of the past. The device also turns out to be a time machine that allows Wilbur to visit the future, where he meets a family and a world whose survival depends upon him.

Joyce previously collaborated with Disney on the Emmy Award-winning Disney Channel series Rolie Polie Olie and the Nelvana/PBS series George Shrinks. Other titles he has written and illustrated include Dinosaur Bob, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, Santa Calls, Bentley & Egg and Nicholas Cricket.

The news comes as Disney today officially closed its feature animation facility in Orlando, Florida. The studio, where the recent hits Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear were made, was home to nearly 260 animators.

Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida was following up Brother Bear with a 2D/3D hybrid titled A Few Good Ghosts, but that project was canned late last year. The closure of the studio is a casualty of Disney’s deep cost cutting and its focus on producing only CG-animated pics.

Some of the Florida artists may end up at Legacy Animation, a new 2D animation company just launched by former Disney animators in Winter Garden, Florida, near Orlando. As its name suggests, the new toon factory will operate under the mission of keeping Walt Disney’s legacy of traditional animation alive while the company that bares his name banks on modern technology for the creation of feature films.

The Mouse House’s delightful, feature-length spin-off of the popular TV series Teacher’s Pet opens in theaters this Friday. Home on the Range, Disney’s last traditionally animated theatrical release for the foreseeable future, is slated to hit screens on April 2nd of this year.