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Walt Disney Animation Studios is the subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company responsible for creating the company's well-known animated films. The feature animation studio was an integrated part of Walt Disney Productions from the start of production on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1934. In 1986, during the corporate restructuring to create The Walt Disney Company, it officially became a subsidiary of the company under the name Walt Disney Feature Animation. The division took on its current name in 2007.


Walt Disney Feature Animation logo from 1998 to 2007
Walt Disney began the move into features in 1937, pulling selected animators away from the short subjects division that had previously been the whole of Walt Disney Productions. The result was the first animated feature in English and Technicolor, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White became an unprecedented success when it was released to theatres in February 1938, and it and many of the subsequent feature productions became film classics. These first features were presented as being made in 'multiplane technicolor', since both the multiplane camera and technicolor were still something new in the area of animation. Following the successes of these features, Disney expanded his company's operations, moving into live-action features, television, and theme parks. Beside successes like Snow White, Dumbo, and Cinderella, Disney also directed the Feature Animation staff create experimental and stylized films such as Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio some of which sustained losses and did not recoup their costs until decades after their original releases. In 1962, Walt Disney shut down the corporation's short subject department, focusing its attention mainly on television and feature film production (the studio would periodically produce featurettes and shorts on a sporadic basis, including films starring Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, and Roger Rabbit).

However, the expansion coincided with a decline in both revenue and quality of the department's output. Competition from other studios drove animator salaries to a high level, making traditional animated features a costly proposition, and beginning in 2000, massive layoffs brought staff numbers down to 600. Deciding that the reason for its unsuccessful box office draw was the fact that they still used traditional animation methods in a time when Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks Picturesmarker and Blue Sky Studios were producing highly successful CGI films, Disney converted WDFA into a CGI studio, performing more layoffs and selling off its traditional animation equipment. The Paris studio was shut down in 2003, and the Orlando studio followed suit in 2004. The Orlando studio was turned into an attraction at a Disney theme parkmarker.

Despite Pixar's 2006 acquisition by Disney, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios continue to maintain separate studios and release their films under separate banners, with former Pixar executives Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter serving as both studios' president and Chief Creative Officer, respectively. Both were brought in to reinvigorate the Walt Disney Animation Studios, whose prestige had been flagging over the last six films The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear and Home on the Range.

Walt Disney Animation Studios once announced that Home on the Range would be the last 2D-traditional animated film and Chicken Little onwards, all future Walt Disney Animation Studios films would be CGI, however the studio officially returned to 2D-traditional animation with the 2009 release of The Princess and the Frog. The three films in between Home on the Range and The Princess and the Frog (Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt) were done in CGI.


From 1985 until his resignation in November 2003, Walt Disney Feature Animation was officially headed by Chairman Roy E. Disney, who exercised much influence within the division. Most decisions, however, were made by the WDFA President, who officially reported to Disney but who in practice also reported to the Disney's studio chairman as well as its corporate chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner. From 1985 to 1999, the President of WDFA was Peter Schneider.

As of 2007, Ed Catmull serves as president of the combined Disney-Pixar animation studios, and John Lasseter serves as the studios' Chief Creative Officer. Catmull reports to Walt Disney Company President & CEO Bob Iger as well as Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross. Lasseter, who has greenlight authority, reports directly to Disney's President & CEO Bob Iger and Vice Chairman Emeritus Roy E. Disney.

Andrew Millstein has been named general manager of Walt Disney Animation Studios. In this new position, Millstein is in charge of the day-to-day running of the studio facilities and products.


Walt Disney Animation Studios is headquartered in Burbank, Californiamarker, across the street from the original Walt Disney Studiosmarker in a specialized building completed in 1995. Satellite studios once existed at Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker in Lake Buena Vista, Floridamarker (1989–2003) and at Paris, Francemarker (1995–2002), but those studios were closed in an effort to revive lagging profits by restructuring and recentralizing the division to produce fully computer-animated features solely in Burbank.

Feature filmography

Walt Disney Animation Studios has released 48 films in what is known as the "Disney Animation Canon." Each film is assigned a number that denotes the chronological order that that film was released. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is assigned #1, while The Princess and the Frog — the most recently-released film (in New York City and Los Angeles as of November 25th, 2009) — is assigned #49. Numbers 50 and 51 have already been allocated to upcoming releases Rapunzel (2010), and King of the Elves (2012), respectively.


Walt Disney Feature Animation has occasionally joined forces with Walt Disney Imagineeringmarker to create attractions for various Disney theme parks around the world that requires the expertise of Disney animators. Among this select number of attractions are:

WDFA did the Sprites and backgrounds for the Sega Genesis, Commodore, Amiga and PC vrsions of the video game for Disney's Aladdin, and the Super Nintendo, PC, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga versions of the video game adaptation of The Lion King. In 2009, WDAS produced their first animated Christmas special, the CGI Prep and Landing for the self-owned over-the-air television entity, ABC.


The Animation studio is noted for creating a number of now-standard innovations in the animation industry, including:

  • The multiplane camera (for Snow White, but first used in the Academy-award winning short "The Old Mill")
  • The realistic animation of special effects and human characters (for Snow White)
  • Advanced composition processes to combine live-action and animated elements using color film (for The Three Caballeros)
  • The use of xerography in animation to transfer drawings to cels as opposed to ink-tracing (developed for One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but first tested in a few scenes in Sleeping Beauty and first fully used in the Academy-award nominated short Goliath II)
  • The use of all-digital methods for painting, compositing, and recording animated features CAPS

Among its significant achievements are:

See also

External links


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