The other day I thought, “Wow, it’s really neat the things that Pixar Canada is doing.” The Vancouver-based extension of Pixar Animation Studios was founded a few short years ago as a means to develop “animated shorts and television specials featuring characters from Pixar’s prior films,” as quoted from the studio’s website (which is stellar and you should definitely check out). So far they’ve got two Toy Story Toons and a handful of Cars Toons under their belt, with more fun to come. These allow favorite Pixar characters to continue to have a legacy while the main Emeryville, California headquarters continues to make full-length features.
As I pondered this, a thought occurred: “Gee, that’s swell. Wouldn’t it be cool if Walt Disney Animation Studios did the same thing?” Then I remembered that it actually already does, in the form of DisneyToon Studios. But why did that not immediately come to mind? DisneyToon, which is technically a branch of Walt Disney Animation Studios, creates spinoffs to original Disney and Pixar franchise properties (like the Tinker Bell films and Planes), which is in essence the same purpose that Pixar Canada functions for. The Walt Disney Company’s careers site totes DisneyToon as “focused on creating timeless stories with Disney’s most beloved characters.” Sure, it has had its sore spots in the public eye, has gone by several names over the years, and at one point had satellite animation locations across all corners of the globe. But now DisneyToon fully operates in one building in Glendale, California, where, since 2007, it has run under the same leadership but at an intentional distance away from its parent studio. That sounds a lot like Pixar Canada to me.
But what am I getting at with all this? Well, it struck me as sort of odd that I didn’t automatically consider DisneyToon as part of Disney Animation, whereas there is no question or division in saying that Pixar Canada is part of Pixar. Maybe it’s the word “Disney” in the first place that threw me off. The vast realm that the name encompasses makes things a bit difficult to discern. Disney has theme parks, television networks, and other media within its family so that its name could refer to things other than its founding animation studio, while the name Pixar can only possibly relate to a narrow handful of items. Someone says Pixar Canada and you know it relates to Pixar Animation Studios. Someone says DisneyToon and you probably don’t automatically think of Walt Disney Animation Studios, but rather another independent endeavor of The Walt Disney Company. It doesn’t help matters that there is no official DisneyToon website to aid a confused Rotoscopers blogger in wondering if the studio still outsources their animation. (And many Google searches later, I still don’t know the answer to that one.)
DisneyToon released Secret of the Wings on Blu-ray and DVD in 2012.
So here’s my question: Do you consider DisneyToon part of Walt Disney Animation? Pixar Canada is surely part of Pixar, yet DisneyToon functions for the exact same purpose and is viewed differently. I feel the animation community (myself included) has a distinct separation in its mind between WDAS and DTS. I never considered them to be one and the same until I really sat down and thought about the logistics of things. Since Disney dubbed Tangled as its 50th animated feature, we know that it doesn’t consider DTS’s work part of WDAS’s official canon of films, yet Pixar definitely considers the work of its Canada branch among its repertoire of shorts.
Why is this? How do you view the difference among these studios? I’m anxious to hear your opinion in the comments. I’m especially curious as DisneyToon approaches the release of Planes this August (which will be its first theatrical outing since 2005’s Pooh’s Heffalump Movie and the first-ever theatrical outing since its new management in 2007). How does the public view the difference, if they even notice? How does the animation community view it? Does the difference even matter if Mickey Mouse ultimately has dibs on them all regardless? Comment away!
(And after you do, please by all means head straight to Pixar Canada’s website. It’s exquisite.)