When Disney announced the dissolution of its hand-drawn
animation studio back in 2004, many saw it for the bullshit it was: A
short-sighted knee-jerk reaction to the explosive success of Pixar, Blue Sky
Studios and Dreamworks Animations CG features.
In the aftermath of the 2004 2D studio culling, Disney tried
to play catch-up, releasing The Wild and Chicken Little, with a third CG
outing, Meet the Robinsons, set to debut in 2007. While bearing the Disney
name, neither The Wild nor Chicken Little were well received critically or
commercially. When compared to one of Disney’s final and successful 2-D films, Lilo and Stitch, given hot buttery love by critics and everyman alike, the CGI outings have
been, at minimum, disappointing.
Nothing like two quick monkey-strikes at the low-hanging fruit of the groin to cause an about face. Now, almost 3
years to the day later, helped in no small part by Disney’s reconciliatory
coupling with Pixar and John Lasseter’s jump to the top of Disney animation, hand-drawn
animation is making a return. To Lasseter’s credit, he’s keenly aware of what was quickly
forgotten in the CG craze— it’s not the animation style (or special effects, etc.) that sells a movie, it’s the story and characters.
Devin astutely points out in his editorial “That’s Entertainment” (click here to read), we seem to be
sitting on the vista of a renaissance in entertainment quality across the filmic spectrum.
We’re on the cusp of something, this year anyway, that’s bright, invigorating
and incredibly refreshing. Animation included.
The down side to Disney’s change-up is that its fourth and most likely redemptive CG
feature, American Dog (headed by Lilo and Stitch creator/animator Chris
Sanders) is reportedly being scrapped. Whether it will end up as the first 2D
feature post-animation apocalypse remains to be seen. Judging from the screen
captures below, I hope it sees some iteration. Sanders’ animation style is a personal favorite.
While the rumors have been sifting in and out of
credibility for the last few months, CG will now be completely handled by
Pixar, with Disney refocusing on what its empire was built upon- cartoons.