Disney Currently Has No Plans to Develop Hand-Drawn Animated Features

     March 6, 2013


We may have seen the last days of hand-drawn animation.  It’s not going to come from DreamWorks Animation (all of their 2D endeavors flopped), BlueSky, or Sony Pictures Animation.  The last refuge was Disney, who had released the hand-drawn Winnie the Pooh in 2011.  But that looks like the end of Disney’s 2D animation for the foreseeable future.  According to /Film, at “Walt Disney Company shareholder’s meeting, CEO Bob Iger revealed none of Disney’s animation companies, which includes Disney Animation, Pixar and Disney Toons, are currently developing, or have plans to develop, any 2D, hand drawn animation for the big screen. He’s not ruling it out, but the current slate—which probably stretches 3-4 years—has none of it.”

Hit the jump for my thoughts on this sad state of affairs.

walt-disney-animation-buildingThere’s a quote from either Disneywar or The Men Who Would Be King, and I believe it’s from Jeffrey Katzenberg (of all people).  The quote is (and I may be paraphrasing), “Hand-drawn animation is like writing a letter; CGI animation is like writing an e-mail.” (Obviously, he said this when DreamWorks Animation was still pursuing hand-drawn animation)  Both get the message across, but CGI animation has rarely achieved an intimacy that hand-drawn animation has achieved.  That’s not to dismiss the hard work of CGI animators, but there’s a human factor that feels increasingly lost among today’s animated films.  The technology may be limitless, but the way it approaches art styles feels limited.

Part of the problem is that so many CGI films have the edges rounded off to appeal to the widest family audience available.  There’s hardly anything dark or threatening about them.  Pixar used to push the emotional boundaries, but they’ve considerably softened over their last two pictures (and I don’t know if Monsters University will break that unfortunate trend).  There’s nothing inherently wrong with CGI movies, and I wish 9 had a better story because it’s a good looking flick.  But even that movie doesn’t have the charm of hand-drawn animation.

Of course, I’m old-fashioned.  Kids today are being conditioned to appreciate the shiny, CGI-animated, 3D films that are being put in front of them.  All I can do is encourage parents to show the classic 2D films that Disney used to bring us, and it’s a shame the studio is leaving that tradition behind.  I understand the move from a business perspective.  Their last 2D films, The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh, flopped.  The studio isn’t in the art business, so it’s up to parents to broaden their kids’ horizons.  I wish there were room at the multiplex for 2D and 3D films, but the audiences aren’t turning out for the hand-drawn stuff.  Disney Animation Studios may want to get rid of Steamboat Willie in their banner before it starts confusing kids.


  • duuuuuuuh

    Dayum, I guess that means we’re just stuck with these colored talkies too!

  • yurine


  • Matt (Not Goldberg)

    “Duuuuuuuh” – dude I think you’re missing the point. There’s value in the presentation of hand drawn animation. I’m all for CGI too, but there is something fun about watching something knowing its from hand to screen. I’m sure that may simply be for specific fans but I’m still hopeful hand drawn animation can keep its place.

    Unfortunately, the costs of such endeavors must actually be higher today than a CGI film. As such, only studies with money to back these movies will get them done. I don’t expect we’ve seen the end of hand drawn animation though. Just like the return of records and other things, the market will return for hand drawn animation if not at the heights we saw in the past.

    • duuuuuuuh

      I’m sure people said the same thing when they heard an actors voice for the first time or saw what color dress a chick was wearing It’s probably too costly and just old school. Being sarcastic to matt goldberg doesn’t mean that i don’t agree with him, it just means that i’m an asshole, lol. Believe me, I love hand drawn cartoons as much as the next guy, it just means that we are getting old

  • GunsOfNavarone

    Matt – That was one of your better articles. I whole heartedly agree with the points you have raised and I thought 9 was really unique. It’s just that darker toned films aren’t as popular with the audiences the studios want to push them out to. But I agree… cgi, while limitless, often loses a lot of the magic of hand drawn animation. I’m all for a mixture of the two and in fact Disney’s Paperman has shown this can work beautifully. But flat out cgi can get repetitive after a while. Faces tend to look the same, the colour palette is always garish and the plastic’y feel to the features just aren’t as memorable to me. But each to his own I suppose.

  • Chachi

    I like them both, but rely on the story rather than the style of animation to enjoy the flick. That said, my favorite type of animation is stop-motion. Coraline, Paranorman, Frankenweenie and of course The Nightmare Before Christmas are some of my favorite flicks of all time. Not just animated flicks.

  • ethomson92

    Isn’t a theatrical Phineas and Verb movie being made?

  • Anon

    “We may have seen the last days of hand-drawn animation” Well let’s not forget Studio Ghibli. They’ve been cranking out some of the most beautiful hand drawn animation for decades so at least there’s that.

    • Great white hype

      Hear, hear.

    • aaronsullivan

      Immediately what came to my mind as well. If Studio Ghibli ever begins relying on 3D modeled CGI I hope I can’t tell the difference. :P

  • Tobias

    I would just like to say that the Goldberg hate is completely unjustified. Sure, I don’t agree with Goldberg a lot of the time, but he is offering his opinion, and he gives good reasons to back it up. He gives intelligent reviews. Any movie critic is going to have a different opinion than yours at some point. Why does everyone hate someone just for having a different opinion? It’s very childish. You’re probably the same people that make death threats on Rotten Tomatoes because the critics don’t share your opinion. It’s quite embarrassing.

    As for hand drawn v. CGI: I really cannot understand why people would rather watch CGI animation over hand drawn. CGI animation is rarely inspiring. Most of the CGI movies all look the same, and Pixar is even putting out mediocre work now.

  • scottishpunk

    Matt, I don’t like you very much, but I have to give credit where credit is due. For every buttnugget you throw at us from across the stream, every once in a while you’ll throw a shiny gem. This is one of them. A very good piece, and I am in full agreement. The idea that Disney is trying to do away with what made their empire to begin with, as well as captured the imaginations of billions, is a disheartening idea to absorb.

  • Dequan

    Looks like Wreck-It Ralph let eat it’s pussy and bam!!!! this happens

  • Dood

    2D will find it’s way into animation in some form. As long people have the skill, it’ll be used.

    The fact is, 2d movies haven’t proved to make a lot of money recently, and for the amount of time and energy and money put into them, studios, even Disney, don’t see its worth.

    We’ll see the boundaries of 2d and 3d merge. 2d is a loved and nostalgic medium, it’s not dead.

  • As long as there are copies of Golden Era Simpsons

    Love for 2D animation will live on: “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”

  • Tim

    I hope Studio Ghibli continue to do some hand drawn animation. There is just that special something in hand drawn animation, that i really enjoy

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  • Jolein

    GAH maybe if they realised that its not because of the technique they made winnie the pooh or the princess and the frog in, its because the fucking story sucks!!! WAKE UP DISNEYYYYY You’re losing your originality and magic!!! that’s what’s wrong these days. I always went to go and see every single movie. But it’s getting so bland now! Always the same way of story telling, always the same sort of faces and always the goody two shoes approach. Liven it up a little! You used to be so amazing. I;m grieving

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