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Disney Feature Animation Cuts More Than 250 Jobs

Disney Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher confirmed that more cuts are scheduled in the Mouse House Feature Animation division. According to the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Disney plans to lay off up to 265 employees at its Burbank facility over the next year. The cuts will reduce the staff to about 1,000 by May 2003 and are part of Walt Disney's ongoing restructuring of its animation division. When the company-wide cuts were announced in April 2001, approximately 200 animation employees were laid off from the Burbank facility and animation salaries were reportedly cut by 30% to 50%. At the end of 2001 Disney closed the doors on its Secret Lab visual-effects division, losing another 300 employees. According to the studio, the job cuts are not effective immediately. Instead, once certain animation contracts have ended they will not be renewed. Last weekend's record-setting debut of 20th Century Fox's ICE AGE following on the heels of 2001's CG hits Disney/Pixar's MONSTERS, INC. and DreamWorks/PDI's SHREK, lead some in the industry to speculate that Disney is shifting its focus from traditional animation to CG, as it seems that's where the money is. And maybe the notoriety -- all three Oscar-nominated films in this first year of the animated feature category are computer animated, and SHREK has received numerous critics' prizes and other awards. But, as quoted in the TIMES, Schumacher said Disney was not pulling out of the traditional animation business. "We're an ambidextrous studio that can create traditional and digital movies," Schumacher said. "We're not going out of the traditional business but we are expanding our digital business." Schumacher also said that Disney has a $1 million budget set aside to retrain traditional artists to use computer animation software. Disney will release two traditionally animated features this year, LILO & STITCH (June 21, 2002) and TREASURE PLANET (November 27, 2002). Disney's recent theatrical release RETURN TO NEVERLAND was created at Disney Television Animation, with most of the animation outsourced to Disney's international studios. This will also be the model for the upcoming theatrical feature JUNGLE BOOK 2, which will be in theaters February 2003.