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
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."