Post-Pixar Disney Unveils Ani Plans

Against the backdrop of swirling rumors that Pixar might come back to the Disney fold now that Michael Eisner is retiring, Walt Disney Feature Animation publicly unveiled its next five animated projects yesterday. A lot is at stake for the company that has made so much money and garnered so much critical acclaim with films conceived and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. ‘

When Disney releases Chicken Little this November, the public and critics will see first-hand whether the Mouse House has fulfilled its promise that it can produce successful 3-D animated films without Pixar’s collective creative genius

Last year, Disney’s feature animation branch seemingly abandoned traditional 2D animation, the medium that founder Walt Disney made so legendary with Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, The Jungle Book and others.  

Part of yesterday’s presentation at the ArcLight cinema in Hollywood included a demonstration of the company’s new 3D animation tools. Execs also screened 10 minutes of scenes of Chicken Little to show what kind of work the new team is producing. With the 3D revolution that Pixar’s RenderMan software wrought, the pressure is on Disney to come up with the goods. Any inferiority of image will be likely be pounced on by critics as an indication that Disney can’t do it without John Lasseter.

Moving forward, Disney has built a new animation building in Glendale, outfitted with all the latest bells and whistles. Animation execs says they’re building a team of 700 computer artists and technicians to staff productions. First up will be Toy Story III, which the studio can produce under its contract with Pixar.

Also in the Disney pipeline: the tentatively titled A Day With Wilbur Robinson, based on the book by William Joyce; the also tentatively titled American Dog from director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch), and Rapunzel Unbraided, to be directed by longtime Disney animator Glenn Keane (Beauty and the Beast).

Walt Disney Feature Animation plans to actively recruit artists at the upcoming Siggraph, July 31st through August 4th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. So polish your resumes and update your reels.