Disney to increase computer animation

Laura Sturza

Word that Disney’s animation studio plans to move further away from

hand-drawn features and produce more computer- generated movies under

new director David Stainton, has industry pros bracing for the



“Personally, I think it’s an irresponsible decision,” said Charles

Zembillas, founder and president of Burbank’s Animation Academy. “I

think the greatest traditional hand- drawn ... animation talent is


here in Burbank, and all he’s doing is making that available for

somebody else.”

Stainton, who announced plans to expand the use of

computer-generated work at a staff meeting this week, could not be

reached for comment. But in a prepared statement issued Thursday, he

said the studio is not abandoning “any of our tools, including the

pencil and paper ... we are just adding to our toolbox.”

Studio officials could not say what percentage of Disney’s


animation operation will become digital, but added they plan to

retrain animators to work on computers.

Animators are already reeling from the effects of runaway

production to mostly Asian countries, where work is produced more


The Animation Guild, a local industry union, has been providing

retraining, but the changes at Disney will mean some people will be

displaced, said Burbank resident Steve Hulett, the guild’s business



“There’s a lot of mourning going on, because a lot of people love

the art form [of traditional animation] and the art form is at least

going away temporarily,” Hulett said.

The move to expanded computer work can be attributed to the strong

response Disney has had to it’s Pixar computer generated releases,

including “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story,” though hand-drawn work

like “Lilo and Stitch” continues to perform well, Hulett said.

While audiences are likely to see less traditionally animated

films from Disney, studios including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network

are resisting the change to computer generated work, Zembillas said.

In addition, Zembillas predicts many artists will turn to

independently releasing hand-drawn animated features because “there

is something fascinating about things that are created by virtue of

the human hand. There is a marvel to that as much as there is a

marvel to technology.”