Disney is closing down DisneyToon Studios, which has made the company nearly 50 feature films over almost three decades.
Originally called Disney MovieToons and sometimes Disney Video Premieres, this division was one of three animation studios that the Mouse House owned, the others being Walt Disney Studios (which makes most of the animated films that you associate with Disney) and Pixar. Originally founded in 1990, it made spin-offs of other Disney properties, beginning with DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Another notable entry was A Goofy Movie, which came out in 1995.
It was probably most famous, or perhaps infamous, for making the direct-to-video Disney sequels (or “cheapquels,” as they are often called). Those ended in 2008, when John Lasseter took over Disney’s animation departments and put an end to the practice; since then, the focus has instead switched to the Tinkerbell movies, as well as the two Planes films that were based on Pixar’s Cars.
To many fans, this will not seem like much of a loss, and it seems as if this closure has been in the works for a while; the studio has not created any films since 2015, when Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast got a limited theatrical release. As such, this does not seem to be related to the recent shake-ups that replaced John Lasseter with Jennifer Lee (director of Frozen) as head of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out) as head of Pixar.
In a statement, a spokesperson from Disney mere said “After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios.”
At the time of its closing, DisneyToon Studios still employed 75 animators. There is currently no word about what will happen to them, whether Disney will let them go or choose to transfer them to another division.
Most will agree that DisneyToon’s products were not masterpieces, but then, if you grew up during its 28 years of operation, it probably produced at least one film that is close to your heart. So in a sense, this is a sad move, albeit one that makes sense, as Disney has moved away from making inexpensive spin-offs of its animated fare. (After all, now it has live-action remakes when it wants to rehash them.)