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DisneyToon Studios Hit by More Layoffs as ‘Fire & Rescue’ Underperforms

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More hard times are well ahead for DisneyToon Studios as it gets hit with a wave of recent layoffs.

According to Deadline, 17 full-time employees have been handed the pink slip, with the layoffs beginning as early as last week and continuing well into next month. On August 6th, a meeting was called in to make this announcement to the staff.

This news may not come as a surprise to those who follow up on the exploits of the primarily direct-to-DVD division, since so far it’s been a really rough going for DisneyToon in general.

Late last year, its direct-to-DVD Tinker Bell franchise was effectively discontinued, putting the brakes on production for a seventh and eighth film. This will effectively make next year’s Legend of the NeverBeast the final film in that line. This can be easily attributed to declining home market sales and surprisingly disappointing merchandise sales as well.

The studio hasn’t fared much better on the big screen either, as Planes: Fire & Rescue continues to underperform in theaters. As of late, it’s only grossed little more than $52 million domestically and a staggeringly low $37 million internationally for a worldwide total of $90 million, nowhere near the $219 million worldwide total of the last film. This doesn’t sound good for the prospects of a third Planes film and was listed as one of the major reasons for the layoffs. Interestingly enough, around the same time of the Tinker Bell franchise’s discontinuation, a Disney staffer told The Animation Guild blog (who first reported on the story) that story work on Planes 3 had started back up, seemingly suggesting that they already had Planes 3 in development well before Fire & Rescue came out. Again, the outlook isn’t very bright with this one.

To make matters even worse, only an estimated 44 full-time employees remain at the company, which means that another major layoff could put DisneyToon’s future in jeopardy. “There is not a lot left to cut here now, the next round of cuts could be closing us down,” one employee told Deadline.

While the future remains uncertain, one thing is for sure: DisneyToon will most definitely have to restructure their output and rethink their current strategy if they want to stay in the business.

What are your thoughts? What can DisneyToon do to put themselves back on the right track?

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.
  • Step 1: Make more films like A Goofy Movie and less films like Planes.
    Step 2: Profit because you are making good movies.

    Frustrated cynicism aside, I do not feel good about anyone losing their jobs, especially fellow animators. I simultaneously am very happy that the terrible cash-ins that Disney has been shoveling out are not making them the money they’d like, because I don’t want to see terrible cash-ins made. As I said above, I’d much rather see really great films with story, character, and heart like A Goofy Movie (produced by DisneyToon Studios back in the day, I didn’t just pull that out of thin air.)

    • Anonymous

      Completely agreed. 🙂

    • Nathan C.

      Films like A Goofy and (my personal favorite) Lilo and Stitch 2 were like exceptions to DTS’s line of films. Those were great, while the rest were mediocre (if not terrible) direct-to-video features.

    • Great point! Ah, A Goofy Movie. Such a gem. I would be more interested if the DisneyToon Studios made films based on the Mickey Mouse & Co. characters. That would be worth watching if they did it right.

    • for the huge catalog of ideas the mouse house has, it should be able to come up with new ideas with the older characters and you are correct a goofy movie was a great movie with great animation.

    • You forgot Steps 3 and 4

      3) Find a way to make the films they do that are good (Tinkerbell, 3 Musketeers starring Mickey, Donald & Goofy) into successes. They’re doing their part and delivering great movies. Cast your eyes at marketing after that.

      4) If executives tell them to make a Planes movie, and they make one, and it fails or disappoints, then damage the exec, not the studio.

      God, I am so sick of people getting slammed for doing their job. What was the alternative here (or in any similar situation)? They were counting on them ignoring their orders and making another film in secret that would turn into a crazy, unexpected success?

  • Nathan C.

    This is actually really sad, especially considering I liked Planes 2. It was definitely a step from Cars 2 and the original Planes film. Looks like Planes 3 won’t be happening after all.

    DisneyToon wasn’t the only studio to suffer this summer. Despite making a really good movie, Dreamworks has yet to profit from How to Train Your Dragon 2.

    • Nathan C.

      So I read the article. Planes 2 apparently needs 110 million to be considered profitable. Doesn’t seem out of reach for them, but it’s still pretty sad news that the studio is still down-sizing.

      • Athanasius Michael Meade

        I do agree with you but a just because 1 movie underperformance doesn’t mean it’s all over for them but to be at just 60 full time employees left is very sad for how long they have been making movies.

    • brandon

      Not exactly true. While How To Train Your Dragon 2 isn’t a major hit domestically, international numbers have picked it up exactly as predicted (the worldwide total now stands at $487 million worldwide).

      A final August 16th push from Italy and China could possibly put the film well over $500 million, which is more than HTTYD1’s worldwide gross of $494 million.

      So yes, DWA will profit from HTTYD2, even though the earnings will be on the uneven side.

      • Nathan C.

        I didn’t say HTTYD2 wouldn’t be profitable. I just said it isn’t profitable yet. It’s the same story with Planes 2. Both films failed to make a difference this year, as thus they have both cut back this year.

  • tt

    I don’t understand why they don’t release the Tinker Bell films in theaters. first, girls love them. second, they have everything better than the Planes franchise. third, THEY COULD ACTUALLY MAKE THEM MONEY??!!!
    since DisneyToon is now only making spinoff and original films, how about a Wreck-It Ralph spinoff series? Wreck-It Ralph has been demanded with sequels already, but sequels r unnecessary. How about make Wreck-It Ralph films with different characters, like how Tinker Bell and Planes do?

    • Ella

      UH YES. I need more Vanellope :3

    • brandon

      No. Knowing DisneyToon, I’d rather Disney’s main company take the WIR franchise wherever they want instead of delegating it to their ‘lets’s make this on the cheap and for merchandise purposes only’ division.

    • Alex

      You know, the Tinker Bell movies actually come out in theaters on many countries. I’m from México, for example, and each of them have recieved a theatrical 3D release. As for I know, some other countries like Argentina, Germany, and Italy also have them released on theaters

      • tt

        yes I know that, but why not the countries that rake in tons of money? US and China for example?

  • Haley TheRadiant

    Well first, NEVER MAKE ANOTHER PLANES MOVIE!!! and second, I think maybe it could go tv like it sorta does I think and see how far it can go

  • I have no interest in the output of Disneytoon Studios, I don’t want to see subpar sequels or spin-offs. As a kid I loved the Goofy Movie and would definitely be interested in more original content like that (though if course Goofy wasn’t a new character).

    If Disneytoon focussed their efforts on original features and maybe tv show spin-off like what Dreamworks does I would be much more interested. I would watch a Wreck-it Ralph or Meet the Robinsons or what have you TV show. If you’re going to do something with minimum impact to the Disney canon at least a weekly show would keep the properties more relevant and give a place where Disneytoons could market orginal features.

  • Marier Villarreal

    Have better stories could make more profit to avoid any more layoffs. I think it’s more of the story and the humor what’s making DisneyToon Studios not make money.

    • Iftekhar Ahmed

      DisneyToon Studios have been beating the Peter Pan and Cars franchise to death. That’s their punishment for having a limited vision for the sake of “profit”.

      • Marier Villarreal

        I think that this year’s Legend of the Neverbeast is the last one of the franchise. There were going to be more, but there were problems with the stories. From what I read, this one is not that bad compared to the Planes movies.

        • Iftekhar Ahmed

          That’s exactly the problem. All DisneyToons studio ever does is Tinkerbell and Planes movies. Another spin-off project wouldn’t have hurt them…

          • Marier Villarreal

            True. At least Tinkerbell is ending and Planes will probably not have any more sequels. I wonder how DisneyToons is doing right now…

          • Iftekhar Ahmed

            I hope that they still have new movies in the pipeline. The benefit of a smaller studio is that they have more money to invest into the project itself, and, the project has less human resources hassle. However, D23 2015 had no mention of DisneyToon Studios yet which is very concerning… 🙁

  • tt

    DisneyToon and DreamWorks faces layoffs, Pixar reshuffles, Ghibli temporarily stops…..-___- animation crisis.

  • They should start making some Disney Afternoon movies, I would love to see a Darkwing Duck Movie, or even something with the Mickey mouse crew. Is the Mickey Mouse Roger Rabbit movie still in the works?

    Cars was good and Cars 2 was ok, but then they had to push their limits with Planes. By the time Planes 2 came out I think the general public was sick of talking vehicle movies and just ignored it.

    • brandon

      DisneyToon isn’t normally the type to dig up/revamp older properties. If we did get a Micky Mouse Roger Rabbit movie, we would have gotten it long before the Tinker Bell and Planes.

  • Matt

    One gem of a film from disney toons is Ducktales:Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Many of you might not like this one, but I watched it almost every morning when I was 6 years old and I still regard it as a favorite along with A Goofy Movie (I also enjoy the sequel).

  • Aliscen Khaw

    why do they keep developing on planes! when tinker bell or another original film could have more potential?!==

  • I can’t say I know much about running a company, but I wonder how Disney can be doing so well in other areas (like with their Marvel movies) and yet they keep downsizing and making bad decisions with their animation department. It just seems like if they’re going to cut costs, the animator’s jobs should be the last thing to go. They’re the heart of the company. Makes me sad because I’m almost done being an animation student & it seems like this has just been such a bad news year for jobs. I hope things around next year. ._.

  • Frozen fan

    I think they should stop making stupid sequels to classics. Ex: Little Mermaid,Lady and the Tramp,Lion King Etc. If they are responsible for making a Frozen film I think I will just go crazy of fury

  • kaijukiller

    Why can’t they do at least a good PG dtd. Like what Justice League War and Planet Hulk did, and maybe put a shared universe with all 53 films and it kinda revolved on big hero 6 ?

    • brandon

      Uh, both Justice League War and Planet Hulk were PG-13.

      Also, I don’t think it’s in DisneyToon’s heart to do anything beyond a G.

      Lastly, whether Big Hero 6 marks the start of a shared ‘animated’ cinematic universe will be the decision of the main Disney department.

      • kaijukiller

        Okay, i mean in terms of animation and Story, and you have a point about the shared animated universe, maybe start something small like a continuation of gargoyles or goofy movie.

  • Andrew C Eden-Balfour

    I think there are quite a few factors in play on why DisneyToon is going through such difficulty.

    1. They stopped making sequels to the main Walt Disney animated features: I am not saying that they are actually good or anything (Though admittedly I did enjoy a couple of them), but I suspect that a large portion of DisneyToon’s revenues were linked to these sequels, and when Lasseter decided to cancel all projects, start over from scratch and deciding that the company will no longer do these sorts of films, they likely gotten rid of a whole of future profits.

    2. The films they are currently making are essentially based on two franchises; Tinkerbell and Cars because of the fact Lasseter wanted the studio to make movies connected to a Disney Consumer Products franchise (according to Disney wikia). Look people; having a company spend most of their time making sequel after sequel to only two franchises (and not very good at ones at that) is not only a dumb decision because they are beating the horse to death with a stick, but they are relying on fans who will group and realize that these films are not as entertaining as they remember.

    3. The studio’s management under Ed Catmull and John Lasseter has really been nothing short of a screw up. I know Lasseter is also the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney animation studios, but it doesn’t excuse the fact he took the studio in a completely bad direction.

    I think if the company wants to be successful again, they really need to make films like A Goofy Movie, films based on the Mickey Mouse & Co. characters, and sequels to Walt Disney Animation studios films. Would this piss off a lot of people? (Especially the sequels thing), most likely yes, but there is no denying that the sequels made a good fortune for the studio.

    • Iftekhar Ahmed

      If Disney Animation is revived and back in action and Pixar maintains its creative fire at the expense of DisneyToon Studios then I am all for it!

  • Michael Meade

    The plot of the planes and planes fire and rescue are different that is why DTS didn’t do so good .

  • Michael Meade

    You wouldn’t have to make another goofy movie you would just need a better plot line for planes 3 which I’ve been waiting 1-2 years for. And if you don’t believe me just think about the plot or theme differences between planes 1 and 2.

  • Athanasius Michael Meade

    And don’t tell me I’m wrong about the plot I’ve watched planes 1and 2 at least maybe 25-30 times over but more of the first planes movie I watched.

  • Athanasius Michael Meade

    Maybe even more times I’ve lost count at about 20-25 but I still love the movies the first planes more than planes fire and rescue their only problem is that they can’t stick to one thing and just go with it that is their problem.