IndieWire broke the news on Thursday, in which a Disney spokesperson stated that “After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios.” The Glendale-based studio’s sudden shutdown resulted in the layoff of 75 animators and other staff members, though it is not known if those employees will be transferred to Pixar or Walt Disney Animation Studios.
In an age where online streaming is becoming the dominant format to watch media, DVD and Blu-ray sales have greatly suffered, which could explain the reason behind Disneytoon’s demise.
Disneytoon Studios first came into fruition as Disney MovieToons in 1990, when they released their debut film that same year with DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. They would later come into infamy with their various direct-to-video sequels to Disney’s main animated features. Starting in 1994 with The Return of Jafar, the Aladdin sequel sold over 15 million copies, which convinced Disneytoon to mass-produce more sequels, taking advantage of the then-lucrative home video market.
While many sequels like Belle’s Magical World, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, and The Fox and the Hound 2 have been deemed as inferiorly poor, some like the two Lion King followups, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time have gained a somewhat positive following. A few of them would even gain a theatrical release such as Return to Never Land, The Jungle Book 2, and three Winnie the Pooh movies. The animation of these sequels was outsourced to Disney’s overseas studios in Australia, Canada, and Japan.
Disneytoon’s “cheapquel” craze would continue until 2008 when production stopped under the demands of then-newly-appointed creative chief officer John Lasseter, with The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning being the final one released. The studio was then assigned to produce six direct-to-DVD Tinker Bell movies, and the theatrically-released Cars spinoffs Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue. These CGI movies were animated by Prana Studios.
Deep down in New Zealand, Karl "Karlamon" Smith is a Kiwi who is passionate in animation, seeing it as an artistic medium that expresses vast creativity and brings unique characters and worlds to life. Whenever an animation-related fact pops up, it will more than likely be cemented in his brain for a long time. Some of his favourite animated movies include Zootopia, Balto, Bolt, Over the Hedge, The Fox and the Hound, the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, The Iron Giant, and The Prince of Egypt.
Prior to contributing to Rotoscopers, Karl has served as a bureaucrat on Ice Age Wiki, and a moderator/site builder/news reporter on Animation Source. Karl is also a Computer Science and Digital Design graduate of AUT University. That, and with his additional fascination in aviation, he hopes someday to be both an animator and a pilot (if that is even possible).