There have been whispers about this since as far back in November. When animation industry vet Don Bluth -- over at his www.donbluth.com website -- reported that Disney CEO Michael Eisner had been quoted as saying: "... perhaps we discontinued 2D production prematurely."
But now comes word of outright revolt from Disney's few remaining traditional animators. People who just refuse to be put out to pasture with "Home on the Range."
Who am I talking about? Feature Animation vets like Andreas Deja. Who -- I'm told -- is absolutely refusing to work on any Disney CG projects. Who has reportedly delivered this ultimatum to Mouse House management: "You guys either give me a new traditionally animated film to work on or I walk at the end of my contract."
This sort of stick-your-neck-out, put-your-whole-career-on-the-line gives some real hope to the hundreds of traditional animators who are currently out of work. Who could use a real hero right about now.
Why? Well ... because... a lot of their earlier heroes seem to have deserted them recently.
"Like who?" you ask. Well, take -- for example -- Glen Keane. Who's gone from being one of the most revered animators to one of the most reviled. All because Keane decided to go with CG on his very next project for Disney Feature Animation, "Rapunzel Unbraided."
Man , if you could just hear the way some of those out-of-work Disney animators out west have been talking about Glen lately. How he supposedly "... went over to the dark side. If only Keane had stuck by us, traditional animation at Disney might have had a fighting chance. But when Glen sold us out for that new contract as well as his first directorial credit, that was all she wrote."
Of course -- to hear Keane tell his side of the story -- he only went with CG on "Rapunzel Unbraided" because Disney had already decided to go with computer animation on that Reese Witherspoon project anyway. Glen's goal -- in taking on this project -- was to see if some of traditional animation's artistry and fluidity could finally be successfully translated into the CG format.
At least that's what Keane keeps telling folks as he shows off his "Rapunzel" ballerina demo. With its side-by-side comparisons of a hand drawn dancer and a computer animated one.
Of course, that sort of rationalization doesn't really wash with Disney's out-of-work traditional animators. "The plain simple factor of the matter is Andreas stuck by us and Glen didn't. End of story," said one unnamed vet.
Of course, in order to make this sort of stand, you really have to have the courage of your convictions. And given that Deja supposedly still has two years left on his contract with Disney Feature Animation ... well, that's an awful lot of time to just sit around inside your office, doing nothing.
Still, I hear that Andreas hopes that WDFA head David Stainton is actually a man of his word. After all, as David was shutting down Disney Feature Animation-Florida back in January, he was quoted as saying that "... while we don't have any traditionally animated films currently in development right now, if the right story and the right project eventually comes along, we may go with traditional again."
It's statements like that that gives Andreas -- and me -- a small measure of hope. That maybe someday soon the Walt Disney Company will see the error of its ways and revive its traditional animation unit.
After all, the Mouse is reportedly already learning that -- just because you're now working in CG -- doesn't automatically mean that you're going to stop having problems with your new animated features.
Take -- for example -- "Chicken Little." Last week, www.savedisney.com ran a letter which reported that -- in spite of its previously announced Summer 2005 release date "... Chicken Little, a 3D production (that's already) 20% complete (is) being totally scrapped."
Of course, this note over at SaveDisney.com raised a few hairs with the folks over at Disney Feature Animation. Who said it was irresponsible of Roy and Stanley's people to run a letter like that. Particularly since work is said to be continuing on "Chicken Little." That this Walt Disney Pictures CG project is still expected to bow in American multiplexes in July of 2005.
But let's face it, folks ... this is a pretty dynamic situation. Right now, Andreas is allegedly a hero. Glen is said to be a goat. And "Chicken Little"? Well, it appears to be 'way too early to insist that the sky is actually falling for that WDFA project ...
Though -- in a totally ironic twist on this entire situation -- that is actually a significant plot point in Disney's "Chicken Little" film. That -- just like the advertising slogan for the movie says -- this time around, the sky really is falling ...
But I digress ...
Anyway, that's what's supposed going on within WDFA these days. That several Disney diehards are holding on by holding out, with the hope that -- if they did in their heels and wait long enough -- Disney traditional animation may be able to make a comeback.
Here's hoping that they're right.