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‘Aladdin’ Animator Eric Goldberg Says Disney Plans Return to 2D Features

The famed artist is one of six subjects in the upcoming documentary series ‘Sketchbook,’ which champions the process of hand-drawn character art in animation.

With Disney’s 100th anniversary not far away - the company will hit that milestone in 2023 - a six-part documentary series, Sketchbook, is set to start the celebration early with an in-depth look at its rich animated history.

Sketchbook spotlights six artists as each of them sketch iconic Disney characters. Story artist Gabby Capili draws Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove; animator Eric Goldberg draws The Genie from Aladdin; animator Mark Henn draws Simba from The Lion King; visual development artist Jin Kim draws Captain Hook from Peter Pan; supervising animator Hyun Min Lee draws Olaf from Frozen; and story artist Samantha Vilfort draws Mirabel from Encanto.

The series not only offers insight into each artist’s unique style, but also aims to revitalize the studio’s tradition of hand-drawn animation. In late 2021, Disney began its first 12-month 2D training program in over 10 years. Goldberg participated in that program as a mentor, and is hopeful that the new show will help Disney continue to strengthen its commitments to 2D.

“I’ve been campaigning for a long time to train up people in hand-drawn, and, as the CG films became more and more popular, that idea became less and less important to the studio,” Goldberg told IndieWire. “But now we have an atmosphere and a group of people who recognize that’s part of the legacy here, and to actually have content that requires hand-drawn animation is absolutely great. Thank goodness we have people who can do both here, but to actually commit to training up a new generation is a wonderful thing and I think perfectly appropriate for [us].”

Goldberg hinted that Disney’s plans for 2D projects include features and series that “run the gamut from legacy to originals to hybrids,” but details on those projects have yet to be uncovered. He also shared excitement over Disney’s new and improved digital pipeline, which he says will integrate hand-drawn techniques in whatever way artists’ want.

“One thing that excites all of us hand-drawn people is that not everything has to look like traditional outline and cel paint, and we can do things that are different stylistically,” he explains. “The more that we can use the techniques and the principals to give people something they’ve never seen before, is really what it’s about.”

Sketchbook premieres on Disney+ April 27, 2022.

Watch the series’ trailer:

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Max Weinstein is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. He is the Editor-at-Large of 'Dread Central' and former Editorial Director of 'MovieMaker.' His work has been featured in 'Cineaste,' 'Fangoria,' 'Playboy,' 'Vice,' and 'The Week.'