The short answer to this question is yes. Our discussion of what Disney Animation looks like under Lee’s leadership following John Lasseter’s departure led to a discussion from Del Vecho, who is now WDA’s senior vice president of production, about the possibility that the hand-drawn animation come back to the studio, and what they would need to make that happen.
Jennifer, what kind of changes have you made at Walt Disney Animation since you took over after the departure of John Lasseter?
Lee: For us, we’re very focused on movies that are in production right now. It was Ralph [Breaks the Internet] and Frozen [II] and Raya [and the Last Dragon], and the feeling of uniformity to maintain the confidence of our history and function. One of the things that excites me is that we really want to develop new talent internally and bring in new talent. That our bedrooms truly reflect the world we live in.
I’m excited to announce a few new directors in the fall – I won’t be the only director, which is exciting for me. Really, the most important thing is to create new opportunities for young talent. Not all departments have access to the story. To create that access, to create new short programs for people to try to push technology in ways that we haven’t and new styles that we haven’t tried, and to use the short form to do that. I think that’s about all I’ve had time for so far. (laughs) And there’s still a lot to do, but I think those are the most important things I can mention.
You talked about new styles, and they said at the presentation earlier that it was the tenth anniversary of The frog princess [which Peter Del Vecho produced]. Is hand-drawn animation on the Walt Disney Animation table?
Del Vecho: It’s such a big part of our heritage, and I loved it princess and the frog. I would say there is still a lot of hand-drawn influence in our CG movies.
Lee: In our movies.
Del Vecho: I think we’re one of the only studios in the world that can do both, and how that evolves over time and how we experiment with different styles. But it ultimately comes down to the filmmakers and how they want to tell that particular story.
Lee: Yeah, and some of our new shorts, you’re going to see, as they come out, new styles. Watercolor styles, even things we’ve never done, but using technology to help us do it in an exciting way too.
Buck: And there’s something else. People aren’t even aware of it. Hand drawn animators helped our CG animators a lot. I think there’s an appeal to hand-drawn animators, it’s innate in them, and they taught CG animators –
Lee: Silhouettes and swirls, that language.
Buck: – put that into their work. So when you watch some of our movies now, even though it’s CG on the screen, underneath is the hand-drawn affair.
But it sounds like you might be open to that if a filmmaker came to you.
Lee: Of course. And it really is, the style is driven by the filmmakers and there’s definitely a lot of excitement, as we’ve developed new talent, to try out different styles.
You’ve heard it, Disney filmmakers: all you have to do is present to the direction of a film in which hand-drawn animation is an integral part of the story you’re trying to tell! Easy, right? But seriously, folks, while traditional hand-drawn animation hasn’t appeared in a Walt Disney Animation feature in ten years, I’m so glad to hear that perspective isn’t completely dead yet. and buried. We just need the right filmmaker with the right story to come along and bring it back to life.
Frozen II hits theaters on November 22, 2019.