Bloomberg News

Disney to Return to Making Hand-Drawn Animated Films (Update3)

February 08, 2007

Walt Disney Co., which bought (DIS:US) the Pixar computer-animation studio for $8.06 billion last May, will return to making films with hand-drawn art at its Disney Animation studio.

``At Disney, we will be making 3-D films, but we will also be bringing back hand-drawn 2-D films,'' Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Feature Animation, said today at an investor meeting in Orlando, Florida. ``We'll talk more about this in the future but it will be brought back.''

The decision focuses Disney's animation unit, started by company founder Walt Disney in 1923, on its original mission to create hand-drawn art while relying on Pixar for computer-made movies. Disney, which dominated animated films from 1937's ``Snow White'' to ``The Lion King'' 57 years later, said in December it planned to begin making some hand-drawn animated shorts.

The first full-length hand-drawn film will be ``The Frog Princess,'' a fairy tale set in New Orleans, Animation Guild Business Representative Steve Hulett, who represents unionized animators at Disney Animation, said in an interview. Production will start by the end of this year, he said.

``If `Frog Princess' is a fairly comfortable hit, then I think they will do more hand-drawn animation,'' Hulett said. ``If they don't have the hit they desire they will do something else.''

Disney spokeswoman Heidi Trotta had no immediate comment.

Shares of Burbank, California-based Disney, the world's second-largest media company, fell 19 cents to $35.29 at 4:03 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They have gained 31 percent in the past year.

Job Cuts

Disney said on Dec. 1 it planned to eliminate 160 jobs, or 20 percent of the staff, at Burbank-based Disney Animation. The cuts coincide with the unit's planned release of ``Meet the Robinsons'' in March and a shift to an 18-month production cycle from one movie every 12 months, Hulett said then.

No jobs were eliminated at Pixar, which maintains a separate campus in Emeryville, California.

``We are not merging the two animation studios together,'' Catmull said today. ``That goes hand in hand with our principle that there is local ownership and people feel pride in what they are doing.''

`American Dog'

Disney Animation's next movie will be ``American Dog,'' Disney's creative chief for animation, John Lasseter, said at today's meeting.

Pixar is rewriting the technology it uses to make films and will share it with Disney Animation, Catmull said.

Disney handed production of the third ``Toy Story'' movie to Pixar, its partner for the first two films when Pixar was an independent company.

Actors Tim Allen and Tom Hanks will return for ``Toy Story 3,'' Lasseter, 50, said.

Disney Animation's previous hand-drawn feature was ``Home on the Range.'' The 2004 film cost $110 million to make and took in $50 million at the domestic box office, according to Internet Movie Data Base Inc.

The studio's first computer-animated film was 2000's ``Dinosaur,'' which cost $128 million and made $348 million at the worldwide box office, according to IMBD.

Disney agreed on Feb. 5 to make computer-animated films with producer-director Robert Zemeckis and the creators of ``The Polar Express.'' The team will make movies using motion-capture technology that bases animation on actors' movements.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Emma Moody at emoody@bloomberg.net.


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    (Walt Disney Co/The)
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