Schumacher To Leave Disney Feature Animation?

The Internet rumors have been flying for weeks and now a recent LA TIMES report has stated that Tom Schumacher, president of Disney Feature Animation, may leave his post when his contract expires in June 2003. No word on what Schumacher will do if he departs, but he is reportedly in discussions with Disney to figure out what his role will be with the company. Schumacher has headed Disney Feature Animation since 1999, throughout a turbulent time for the division. High profile failures like ATLANTIS and the troubled production of THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE (both of which nevertheless grossed over $80M at the box office), were part of Schumacher's reign, as were the layoffs that occurred due to department restructuring and downsizing based on changing technology and a reduction in feature animation production from the Mouse House. Despite Schumacher's troubled tenure, he was a strong proponent of Disney's summer animation hit LILO & STITCH, which grossed $145M theatrically and has spawned a direct-to-video sequel and television series. Disney has not yet confirmed that Schumacher will step down when his contract expires and when asked by the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER if the rumors were true, Schumacher responded that they were "remarkably inaccurate." However, he went on to say he could not comment on his ongoing negotiations with Disney. Prior to his promotion to head of the division, Schumacher ran Disney Feature Animation with his boss Peter Schneider for more than ten years, during which time the studio saw some of its biggest hits with THE LION KING, POCAHONTAS and TOY STORY. Together, the pair was also responsible for Disney's foray into musical theater, with the wildly successful stage production of THE LION KING, among others. With a stage version of THE LITTLE MERMAID currently in the works, it's possible that Schumacher will continue to head Disney's Theatrical Division but turn over the reins of Feature Animation to David Stainton, Disney's current head of Television Animation who has been rumored as a possible successor. However, we may have to wait until closer to June to hear the official word on this possible shuffle.

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