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Walt Disney Animation Studios Lets Most of Hand Drawn Team Go


So when Walt Disney Animation Studios says there will be no more hand drawn animated features, they mean it. Nine animators from the hand drawn team were let go yesterday. Sadly these are some of the most veteran animators on the team as well.



Bancroft did comment later that Kuperschmidt was not let go. However, The Animation Guild reports more may be let go in the coming days. It’s not the best market to be unemployed in, so we hope all those affected are swiftly able to find employment elsewhere.

This is the day that many Disney Animation fans long dreaded but knew was coming. We had held out hope that since some small team of hand drawn animators remained working on animated shorts or other projects there was hope that the company might once again return to its roots. At this point it seems very unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Sure, there might be some hybrid animation, like we saw in Paperman, but mostly it will be CG like Wreck-it Ralph. How does this leave you feeling about the future of Walt Disney’s animation roots?

46 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Lets Most of Hand Drawn Team Go”

  1. Hearing the news of no more hand drawn animated movies is shocking. What would Uncle Walt think of discontinuing the medium he began in? When I was a little girl I dreamed of becoming an ink-and-paint girl. I even have the thumb and index fingerless gloves for working on cells. Maybe Disney studios should retain some traditional artists for ‘retro’ or ‘classic’ films every now and then?

    1. There’s no way to know, but I’m not sure Walt would have cared, to be honest. He never hesitated leaving old stuff behind to pursue new stuff. And he probably would have loved CG.

      1. Implying that CGI is an improvement over hand drawn. It really isn’t, it’s just an alternative medium for telling the story (you know, that thing Walt cared about so much).
        The “new stuff” that Walt historically pursued was not really comparative to hand drawn vs. CGI. He didn’t simply leap between mediums of the same concept, he was more a cartoonist-turned theme park designer-turned urban planner kind of guy.
        This situation might be more comparative to Walt’s affiliation with television vs. full-length motion pictures. Walt was quick to embrace new technologies, and television was no different. He put numerous television shows into production at a time when most other movie studios refused to even touch television.
        However, he was able to do this alongside the motion pictures. Television was the new thing at the time, but Walt didn’t simply leave the “old stuff” (motion pictures) behind to pursue solely television. He still had stories which were more easily told in a 2-hour motion picture than in a television time block and vice versa. He made use of the broadcasting medium that best suited whatever particular story he wanted to tell. And as some stories are better told in a motion picture than on television, some stories are better told in hand-drawn animation than in CGI. I see no reason why both mediums cannot live harmoniously, as do television and full-length motion pictures.
        Would Walt have “loved” CGI? Probably. Would it inspire him to kill off all hand-drawn animation? I doubt it. He’d use whatever medium made the most sense in telling the story.

  2. That may look like sad news – but don´t forget that for the price of just 2 hand drawn movies, we could get a sequel to John Carter…! Or another POtC movie! Or even another Tron! Feeling better already?

  3. it is a testament to disney’s shortsightedness. they no longer know how to tell an entertaining story reliably. i really feel for these animators. they’re walking the plank while the suits will get bonuses for this, no doubt. and while i can enjoy some cgi, there’s nothing 2d about paperman. hopefully someone else will figure out how to utilize hand-drawn animation effectively again (and as byproduct make disney feel truly stupid for doing this now). and i thought pixar was putting a stop to stupid-ass sequels when they ‘bought’ disney?!

  4. Sad..truly the end of an era. Hand drawn animation is truly an art form to cherish not toss away!
    I pray those affected will be able to find a fresh start where they will be appreciated and can perpetuate the art.

  5. I agree with the statement that Walt wouldn’t have cared. I do think Walt would’ve put these guys back in school in order to learn computer animation so they could be reutilized. I think if Walt was here today, he would’ve dumped hand drawn animation long ago. He always left the old and brought in the new.

    I don’t think Disney is stupid at all. They are adjusting to the industry. They are now using new ways of telling a story. Yes, hand drawn was an art itself, but you can’t just stay in one spot while the rest of the world moves on to a more efficient way of telling stories.

    It is quite sad, but it’s interesting to take into account what would’ve happened if Walt was still around. There’s no way at knowing for sure, but based on what he did when he was alive, I think he would’ve changed techniques quite fast.

    1. Again, implying that CGI is an improvement over hand drawn. It really isn’t, it’s just an alternative medium for telling the story. See my previous comment in reply to the comment you’re replying to.

    2. The trouble with CGI is that it all looks the same–shiny. It also doesn’t allow for holds that give the animation that extra spring. I think CGI is amazing for effects animation, but for character animation 2D will always be the king. Take a look at “Paperman” again. I love this little film, but it does not have the charm of 2D animation at all. Every character moves as if they’ve taken a ballet class. That is the result of computer inbetweening instead of a person. Compare that to a 2D film like “Beauty and the Beast”. Belle is graceful, Gaston and Beast have wight, but Beast also has a way of moving that showcases his animalistic quality. In CGI you do not get the squash and stretch, or exaggeration of 2D, because it looks silly. The more “realistic” something is, the more your eye will look for flaws. In 2D animation you eye is not bothere by the “flaws”, because it knows it is not real. You cannot tell me that the travesty that is CGI Mickey, Donald and the rest of the gang are an improvement over the classic Ward Kimble design. In conclusion, Walt was a storyteller and an artist, not a suite. He would have recognised that some stories are better told in CGI (Toy Story, Incredibles), while others would have been better off as 2D/CGI effects combos (Tangled, Mickey Mouse). However, only artists and animators can tell this difference. The general public public just wonders why the movies are not as good as they remember them to be.

  6. It’s sad to see it go. Hand drawing is an art we don’t want to just toss aside. It’s what the entire genre is based upon…and it’s short sighted to let it go the way it seems it is headed. Not to mention the fact that it simply breaks my heart to see such talented artists told that their skills aren’t lucrative any longer. We value fast and slick when it was slow, painstaking and visually rich that got us to love animation in the first place!

  7. Wooooooooow…. Isn’t this nice? Isn’t this just DANDY? Isn’t Disney the BEST animation studio ever?! :D No. This is why I’m more on Dreamworks side now, especially since they still use traditional animation. Jeez, my prayers go to those talented animators. May God find them new jobs soon… Hopefully Dreamworks.


  8. So sad… so so sad. I think what they are doing it a disgrace to the companies history. You should never forget where you came from.

  9. The idea of letting go of hand drawn animation is incredibly stupid. It’s a huge factor of what the company is known for. The hand drawn animation has so much detail and heart than any other hand drawn companies.
    True, the animation in the Paperman is amazing. But they should keep the hand drawn animation area and release a feature every once in a while.

  10. I thought Princess and the Frog brought back the best of animation with it’s hand drawn style. The myriad of sequals (yes I’m talking to you Pixar) since Lassiter took over combined with this news makes for a sad Eeyore

    1. The silly suits at Disney think that “Princess and the Frog” didn’t do as well as “Tangled” because it was a 2D film. It didn’t do as well, because the story, and especially the love story (which is the core of any princess film), wasn’t there. Can anyone tell me when the two main characters fall in love? Anyone?

  11. It all starts with a pencil.

    There’s not an animated feature on the planet that begins life without one. And I think that Disney is forgetting that. Computers are great – I use one every day – for drawing and animation. But I still start my art using a pencil, no matter where I’m going with it.

    This situation is analogous to what’s happened in the world of music. Back in Walt’s day, it was easy to put together an orchestra to play a soundtrack. Today? Not so much. Film studios go to London or Prague to record. Why? Because sampling, synthesizers, and electronic toys have made it impossible for working musicians to earn a viable living from their craft. The end result is that fewer people keep their chops up to play, and fewer talented people develop their skills and enter the workforce. So where you used to have symphonic orchestras in every medium-to-large city across the USA, now even cities like Chicago and Dallas struggle to keep theirs afloat. Why practice bassoon or bass clarinet, when you can’t make a buck doing it? For your love of music? That takes a LOT of dedication.

    The problem here isn’t what we lose by Disney shutting down their traditional, hand-drawn animation NOW. It’s the effects of that decision in the next decade. If history repeats itself (and it will) we will see two things happen. First, whatever soul computer animation has will slowly drain from the medium – it’s the hand-drawn foundations that give it that flair. Second, when people rediscover 2D animation and stage a “retro revival” of the medium, we won’t have the first-rate talent to pull it off. The old guys will be dead, and there won’t be enough young guys who benefitted from the wisdom of the old guys as mentors, to be able to carry all that knowledge forward.

    This is both sad and short-sighted. Synthesizers and samplers are a great tool, but they are NO substitute for real musicians. Ditto for computers versus real artists.

    I hope each one of those artists find employment elsewhere. And I hope that they are able to pass on their knowledge to people who will keep the flame alive, much like monks in monasteries kept the art of writing alive through the Dark Ages. But isn’t it sad that it’s come to this?

  12. A part of myself just died hearing this news. Honestly, with Disney owning Alliance and a million other things, you would think they wouldn’t have to rip the heart and soul out of their company.

    There are things you can do with 2D animation that you simply cannot do with 3D animation. Sometimes the beauty of a moving painting is far more compelling than the realism of 3D. There are so many emotions in a painting because it’s not confined by the laws of a 3D world.

    Not just speaking about Disney’s movies, but I remember when there were a ton of 2D cartoons on television, such as Goof Troop and Aladdin. And they were being pumped out like crazy! If you pump out a 3D series like that, most of the animation looks unfinished and blocky. I find it hard to connect to something like that. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse makes me want to bang my head against a wall, honestly.

    The Japanese are an icon to us in North America because of what?? ANIME. In 2D. Beautiful, full of heart animations that compel us to get more and more of it. So congratulations America, you have disappointed me and many people wholeheartedly.

    I had thought that to take the drawing and painting from animation was something completely unheard of. Since Princess and the Frog came out, I was waiting impatiently for the next 2D film to hit theatres like so many others. I’m heartbroken because I will never show my future children a new Disney 2D animated movie like the ones I’d grown up with.

  13. What gave Disney Studios the edge over other animation studios in the world was the quality of their 2D animation, which was slipping even in Princess and the Frog (the transformation scene was atrocious). Now they are just one of the animation studios. However, I am not worried. Those animators will band together and produce beautiful artwork films–what classical animation was all about–and will show the suits that is not the technology, but the skill in storytelling and art that makes the difference.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Studio Ghibli is one example of how there’s still a huge market for hand-drawn animation. And if those animators do make their own studio, I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

  14. i always wanted to be a 2d animator but after what disney did to their 2d animators know i want to be a 2d animator even mooooore!!!.disney is stupid for killing 2d animation from their studio. i mean, who doesn’t want to see a 2d animated feature by walt disney studios cause seriously no one does it better than they do and not realising that makes them dang right stupid!!!

    1. They can’t keep doing 2D features like back in the 90’s because that style has run it’s course.If they really wanted or could explore a groundbreaking new 2D style,which Disney is best equipped financially to do,they could but it might take a lot of hit and misses,hiring and firing of various designers,painters(Salvador Dali,,ect…)and a lot of time,and then it might not succeed.On top of that,the public anxiously waiting for the studio to release might not like the result and lament a Little Mermaid or Lion King type movie of the past and cry out ”That’s not a Disney movie!”The studio is not financially prepared to do this because it’s too risky for a pubicly traded company.Better to keep an eye on european animation that is more groundbreaking style wise and see what catches on and draw from that down the line…

  15. Who know what Walt would have done. He was an innovator and always looking to the future. It is sad and a new door opening for animators who were fortunate to work for Disney. Now dust yourselves off ~ band together and KICKSTARTER your selves. Take a page from the Disney book and be your own innovators. Best of luck in your new challenges.

  16. I don’t know if anyone can clarify a few points, but…

    What exactly does Hand Drawn mean? Does hand drawn only mean cel animation (where artists draw, with pencil and ink, one frame and then flip to another page and draw the next frame)? Or does it just mean drawing by hand (via tablet or other medium) in general? And while we’re at it, I’m not quite sure how 3d animation works (whether you can draw with a tablet, or you input vectors and numbers to get the shape that you want, or something else entirely different).

    I don’t see Disney letting go of their “Hand Drawn Team” as the end of 2d animation, I thought Mulan actually incorporated the use of computers at one point in the film, and that was definitely a 2d viewing. Hercules did as well, but it was a bit more obvious with the Hydra. I’m not sure how the computer part of Mulan was animated, but if you can draw (like on a tablet) 2d pictures on the computer, I would think you could animate those 2d objects as well. Paperman was clearly a mix of both 3d animation and 2d images/animation, but if someone really wanted to I’m sure they could use computers to emulate a 2d animation feel. And if what I’m hypothesizing is correct, then yes it makes sense to let go of the Hand Drawn Team, especially if these animators are only versed in traditional cel animation (and don’t know how to use a computer to animate) and you can save time and resources (animating every cell vs using a computer to animate your 2d image).

    1. Obviously you are not an animation artist but your comment is refrreshing because it sort of reflects reality and the whole public perception of movies as ”Trickfilm” From the beginning,film is meant to amaze and entertain us like the way magicians did.We are not really supposed to know how it’s done and it was,in my opinion,better that way.Drawn animation was a part of that mysterious trickfilm method.Not too much information was available on how it was done decades ago.I remember an article in one of my dad’s Popular Mechanics magazines and that was pretty much it until I went to college and discovered a few books on the subject,of which the highlight was the apropiately titled ”The Illusion of Life” by animators Thomas and Johnston.The history of Hollywood is primarily the history of the advancement of ”Trickfilm” in all aspects and handrawn animation is a part of that advancement the way I see it.Now…as a method of trickfilm it sure lasted a hell of a long time,80 years plus which is pretty good for an everchanging industry like the movie business.The coming of computers,like the coming of the automobile,pretty much changed everything,no difference…

  17. I cry a tear, a legacy I feel is DEAD. With the millions of changes made, Disney is now killing it’s original FAN BASE (which believe it or NOT are adults)…….I saw them from the hey day (Mermaid till Lion) and inspired me to become a collector of Feature Animated Released films……..I feel they have lost my dollar……Wreck it Ralp will be my last Disney purchase…..

  18. Why can’t the laid off artists band together with other 2D artists and form their own studio and make their own movies?

    1. The breed of the Disney animator is unique as it is the closest thing to having a real 9 to 5 job while being a creative person.Families are started,houses with mortgages are bought,golf clubs are joined,ect….It’s hard after years of steady employment to just make your own movie,Some will of course and start their own studios,some will retire or semi retire,some will pursue other things,one went to Colorado and became a really great sculptor for example.A few others are doing children’s books.And others will go to other employee jobs art other studios.This is the usual pattern,even back in the 30’s,40’s,50’s,ect…as layoffs happened back then as well…

  19. This is obviously a sad news. As addict fans to animations movies, I considered this as a terrible news to those who love 2D animations especially hand drawn animations. Well at least there are still animation studio out there that still preferred hand drawn animations over the computer generated animations. And I have feeling all you know what is the name of this studio :)

    1. Disney has made plenty of wonderful films to keep generations entertained for years to come.Remember that for many years,the studio rereleased movies to each new generations every 7 years or so and it was like a whole new film.Now it has an incredible library to do the same thing for many years.The last couple of new 2d movies were not that great,so why alienate the public further? While the studio rereleases the classics and the money rolls in it could slowly germinate a new breakthrough artistically for 2D , hybrid or whatever.but this takes time.I think this is the wise thing to do and I suspect that this is actually what they are doing

  20. Actually Walt Disney would have cared! He would embrace the new, but he firmly believed in staying true to your roots. Hand drawn animation is the root of Disney. He would have appreciated 3D but NEVER would he have scrapped his most beloved art form of 2D. Walt Disney always believed in bridging the gap between the past and the future, not abandoning on for the other. So YES, Walt Disney MOST CERTAINLY would care that his company has been blinded by greed.

    “I don’t make pictures to make money, I make money to make pictures.” -paraphrased from Walt Disney

  21. Though Animation is a commercial art for Feature Studios, it is truly a High Art when such talents as those Disney Features had as a team are brought together. Their films educate, archive knowledge and help to design the future of our society. Animation is an art form that requires pooling together the talents of every High Art in society to create the singular High Art of the Animated Feature Film (2D and/or 3D). It is hard to hold any studio responsible for such high ideals as the High Arts, being it is business and a commercial art, Disney did achieve High Art during it’s renaissance. Disney did this because of the choices made by the collaboration of incredible talent brought together at the time. We, the artists, felt responsibility for our creations and a love for the art and those people who enjoy it. I and my amazing wife, Norma, had the incredible privilege of being part of the legend. The legend was the team, the amazing pool of creators we belonged too. To us, they are family. Whether we got along or not doesn’t matter because we all wanted the same thing. We wanted to achieve greatness in our art. We loved the same things and decades later we still love the same things. We are family. The journey of Beauty and the Beast, Alladdin, Lion King, etc. etc. was historic to our art form but what was most amazing was the legendary team we were. The amazing talent working and struggling through the trenches of production, accomplishing the seemingly impossible, “Building Dreams”.

    I met my wife at Disney. We were married during the production of Beauty and the Beast. I was an artist on The Beast and she was an artist being used by The Bell team at the time. While she was drawing Bell and I was drawing The Beast, we worked in a building called The Heart Building. Teams, Dreams …Disney… made our future.

    It is sad to see the Traditional Animation team broken up and some may consider it the loss of a legend. I don’t see it quite that way. You see our art form is a fine balance of funding/budget, quality and time. Most think of it as just an issue of quality. Recognizing that the team we were at Disney was a pool of some of the best talent in the world, I also realize how important it is to seed the world with the best to, in fact, raise the art form of animation as a whole. This is actually what is happening now as a result of Disney releasing so much of their talent. We are now seeing a great thing happen though it may feel, to some, like the rose flowers have been cut off the plant. Disney has always been masterful in bringing the most incredible talents together to create, as a business and commercial art, some of the most lasting High Art Animations in world history. It is very likely they will continue to do so no matter what path animation as an art form takes in the future. They will build legendary teams and those individuals will spread the knowledge and art throughout the world. As they do so, new legendary teams will form in other places as funding is raised. This is the miracle of our business and the wonder of animation. To continue having gorgeous flowers, the rose must be trimmed, nurtured, and cared for, and you must even dump some manure on them otherwise it’s just a thorn bush. The world of animation is a multitude of colors and tones when it grows everywhere. 2D animation will never die but rather take root in different forms. If the world truly wants the old art style of 2D animation, funding will come together for it at some amazing studio and audiences will flock to the films again. The art must evolve with the audience though just as the audience evolves with the art.

    The artists of Disney are legends because the art form is legendary. Having been granted the privilege of being part of the team during those legendary times has been an honor, a wonder, an incredible journey and one of the most amazing parts of my life so far. My best wishes to every artist and creative talent of Disney who are part of molding our world. You are the Legend. The artists of all Feature Studios like those I’ve worked for; Sullivan Bluth, Kroyer, Amblimation, etc. ect. are the true legends. We build the dreams that build the world. Hope grows in the heart of art.

    Johan Klingler

  22. Pingback: Wreck-it Ralph as if it were Hand Drawn Animation | The Disney Blog

  23. Walt Disney is rolling in his Liquid Nitrogen grave. It’s sad that an ELEVEN YEAR OLD GIRL with no expensive software or animation team can animate with 2D better than Disney and Dreamworks can with 3d.

  24. I’m crying right now. I recently suffered through the very popular CGI film Despicable Me, and found it extremely hard to maintain my attention, which is saying a lot since I don’t have any form of HDHD, but this movie made me feel as if I was one of those poor victims. Not all of it was bad of course, but for the most part, I couldn’t understand why there were so many long winded and pointless action sequences that were stunning, but led no where. Also, why must every character look so grossly deformed and swish and sway like a sick ocean? I didn’t get much emotion or feeling from that film as beautiful as it looked because the depth of the story was not there for me. I then decided to watch Pocahontas, and the difference amazed me. It was stunningly beautiful and I felt more emotion and inspiration and heart than I have felt in a very long time. The music, the animation, the beautiful characters(even the villain was beautiful) just sent me on a wonderful, catharsis of depth and feeling. While watching something so beautiful that I cried, it was because I know that the age of these masterpieces is gone, to be replaced by bouncy, noisy, hyper and emotionless CGI films that have very little if any heart in them. The few exceptions to that would be Toy Story, and I did enjoy Brave, but it was different than any movie I’ve ever seen. The spectacle that is CGI is nowhere near what I want to experience in a film. I am never going to stop mourning traditional films like Pocahontas and Land Before Time which will be with me forever, whereas a couple of cutesy minions will be around for a bit, and quickly forgotten. I’m very saddened.

  25. Oh, I can DEFINATELY tell the difference and I’m not an animatior or computer artist. These new cartoons don’t hold a candle to the oldies. These new ones look so…..FAKE. Their movements look so…robotic, whereas the old hand drawn ones actually look like they are moving naturally. It’s good to put all these super duper special effects into these newer action animated flicks, and especially movies. But just plain old Saturday morning type or after school type toons, they should’ve been left fully hand drawn. My son is 2 and watches the old ones n loves them. Thank you eBay!!! Of course he watches the new ones too, but he will know the good ones. I can’t even look forward to taking him to disneyworld now. I went for the first time 2 years ago n was VERY disappointed. It’s NOT what u expected. Disney is all teeny bopper Hannah Montanna crap now. It’s like they say screw the kiddies. I don’t reccomend it. I miss those days.

  26. It’s sad to hear that Dan and his fellow employee’s have been laid off. But the history of their most excellent animation live’s on in are memory.

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