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Disney to Close Japan Animation Division

In further belt-tightening, the Walt Disney Co. plans to shut down Walt Disney Animation (Japan) in Tokyo. Part of DisneyToon Studios that specializes in DVD-premieres (101 DALMATIANS II: PATCH'S LONDON ADVENTURE) and smaller-budgeted theatrical releases (PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE, THE TIGGER MOVIE), the Japanese facility employs about 100 animators and will cease operations after completing the WINNIE THE POOH spin-off, THE HEFFALUMP MOVIE. Work for 2004 and beyond will quickly segue over to Walt Disney Animation (Australia), which recently made JUNGLE BOOK II.

According to a Disney statement: "Our experience working in Japan for the past 14 years has been outstanding, primarily because of the world-class artists and executives who have produced exceptional animation. However, after reviewing our business plans and production requirements, we determined we no longer can support this additional production capacity."

However, this does not affect such operations as Tokyo Disneyland Resort, the Disney Stores Japan and Buena Vista International. Meanwhile, Disney Channel Japan launches in November.

The move comes on the heels of closing Disney Studio France (DESTINO) last summer, and the 50 layoffs from Disney's Orlando animation studio after completing BROTHER BEAR, one of the last 2D-animated features that opens in limited release Oct. 24 before a much wider run in November.