Daily Variety reports that the Walt Disney Feature Animation is laying off approximately 20% of its staff. The toon unit was spared during the summer belt-tightening axe drop, but now nearly 160 employees will be getting pink slips in the next couple of weeks, even as Disney prepares to go into production on the animated feature American Dog. Currently slated to bow in 2008, the pic will follow Meet The Robinsons, which comes to theaters this March.
While this round of job cuts won’t affect the Pixar unit, it is reportedly a side effect of John Lasseter’s and Ed Catmull’s commandeering of Walt Disney Feature Animation. They apparently felt that they had more personnel than production of American Dog requires.
Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stich) is attached to direct American Dog, a comedy about a famous canine TV star who, after leading an extremely sheltered on-set life, finds himself stranded in the Nevada desert with an over-sized rabbit and a testy cat.
Walt Disney Feature Animation plans to release one feature film a year to complement the one movie being produced by Pixar each year. While Pixar readies Ratatouille for a June release and looks forward to the third installment in the Toy Story franchise, WDFA is developing Rapunzel with Glen Keane and The Frog Princess, which is currently being planned as a 2D production.