Toons of the 2000s: The Fall and Rise (?) of 2D Animation – Part 2
disappearance makes the mouse’s story
during the 00’s particularly heart-wrenching, and who can’t be moved by the plight of all the artists and other employees who found themselves
put out of work during the transition to 3D CG?
In 1989, the company created Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, which had initially worked only on shorts and later assisting with features coming out of the Burbank studio. It wasn’t until Mulan (1998) that the Florida studio had a film to call their own. The movie, an adaptation of a Chinese folktale, was well-received with an 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It had a production budget of 90M and a domestic gross of 120.6M. Their next film, Lilo & Stitch (2002) was the story of a delightfully odd girl and a destructive alien she adopts as a pet. The movie relies heavily on themes of family and Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Ugly Duckling. Lilo & Stitch had a production budget of 80M and domestic gross of 145.8M.
The Florida studio’s last film, Brother Bear (2003), follows an Eskimo named Kenai who transforms into a bear after dispatching, in an act of thoughtless revenge, the one that took his brother’s life. It was not nearly as engaging as the studio’s first two releases and, to go along with its 39% rotten rating, was described as “pleasant, if unremarkable” by Rotten Tomatoes. There was one important scene regarding Kenai’s direct connection to the death of the mother bear; it could have been particularly poignant but is instead glossed over in montage. Brother Bear had a production budget of 80M and domestic gross of 85.3M. On November 14, 2003, then President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, David A. Stainton, paid the Florida studio a surprise visit. He pulled the plug on their latest film in production and strongly suggested people begin looking for work elsewhere. The studio was officially shut down on January 12, 2004. A small, unconfirmed number of animators were offered jobs at the Burbank studio. The rest sought employment with other studios or left the industry entirely.
In several interviews and articles there were mentions of the company receiving credit for animated successes that were not their own. The general public thought of“Feature Animation” and the Disney name as synonymous; it is not a great logical leap to say this perception was probably a double-edged sword. In addition to damage done from within, the Disney brand, which had once stood for the pinnacle of quality, was further dinged by the financial and critical failures coming from other studios. Trust in your brand brings consumer loyalty. Without that, you have nothing. A movie about a somewhat
realistic looking animated rat might only have drawn an insignificant audience if it had been released by anyone other
than Pixar, with their strong brand name.
Disney and Gold launched SaveDisney.com in December of 2003, with the purpose of ousting Eisner and the belief that they could effect change within the company by applying outside pressure. In their assessment of the online and media campaigns, IR Web Report said that this would go down in history as a symbol of how the web can be a powerful communications tool and a democratizing force in the capital markets, serving as an effective blueprint for how other shareholders and activists could use the internet to challenge companies on governance and other issues. In the media, Disney said all the right things by establishing a rapport with the public, letting them know he stood for the ideals on which his uncle founded the company, creating the perception that he was the last line of defense. He took an already unloved man and made him a pariah. On March 4, 2004, Eisner received a 43% no-confidence vote at a shareholders’ meeting; the CEO was stripped of his role as Chairman. George Mitchell took over the position. That September, Eisner set a date for his exit as CEO, and on March 13, 2005, Bob Iger was officially named as his successor. On July 18, 2005, the Walt Disney Company announced a truce between Roy Disney and Bob Iger, and savedisney.com was taken down.