BREAKING LOCAL NEWS
Disney officially closes local animation operation
Sentinel staff report
Posted January 12, 2004, 11:29 AM EST
The Walt Disney Co. announced Monday that it was closing its Florida animation facility at Disney-MGM Studios, formalizing what many animators already knew was coming.
David Stainton, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, said the closure completes the final stage of a production reorganization. All Disney animation creative and production activities will be housed solely at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif.
The company did not say how many employees were involved in Monday's closure, but about 260 animators had been employed at the facility, which opened in 1989. Sources say some are expected to relocate to Burbank.
Stainton said the Florida studio "houses talented artists and staff who brought us such great Disney animated features as Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear, but this difficult decision was based on what is best strategically for our business in both the short and long term. Having the entire animation group working together in Burbank under one roof will further enhance our filmmaking process."
The shutdown is the last phase in a nearly three-year effort to cut overhead and consolidate production by closing satellite operations such as the one in Orlando.
Walt Disney Co. last year laid off 50 animators in Orlando, closed its Paris animation studio and shuttered its animation unit in Tokyo, laying off more than 100 employees. In all, Disney has slashed more than 700 jobs in recent years and cut animators' salaries as much as 50 percent. The most recent cuts leave the company's animation division with a core staff of between 600 to 700.
Disney, which pioneered the art of hand-drawn animation, is trying to rejuvenate the high-profile unit creatively, while accommodating an emerging audience preference for cutting-edge 3-D computer-generated movies over traditionally drawn cartoons.
For the first time in decades, Disney does has not have any major 2-D animated features in production. But company executives have stressed that they are not giving up on traditional animation - two projects are in development --- arguing that audiences ultimately care more about good stories than movie formats.