Disney has officially closed down DisneyToon Studios, the company's third animation studio after Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. DisneyToon (which was originally called Disney MovieToons) has been around for three decades and produced nearly 50 feature films over the course of its run. The studio got its start with 1990's DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, a theatrical release based on the DuckTales cartoon series that Disney aired from 1987-1990.
After the release of Treasure of the Lost Lamp, DisneyToon started to focus its efforts on churning out direct-to-video sequels, prequels, and/or spinoffs to Disney Animation's biggest films, including Renaissance hits like Aladdin and The Lion King. That changed when John Lasseter took over as head of Disney/Pixar Animation in the mid-2000s, and effectively ended its low-cost approach to expanding the Mouse House's most beloved titles. Now, however, DisneyToons is being permanently shut down.
IndieWire has the exclusive on DisneyToon Studios being closed, which will result in the layoff of 75 animators and staff members. A Disney spokesperson issued a statement on the news, announcing that “After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios". It's not clear yet if the 75 employees in question will be offered new jobs with either Disney or Pixar Animation, or how Disney will be compensating them for their job loss.
Despite the timing of this announcement, DisneyToon Studios' closure has reportedly been in the works for some time and is unrelated to the recent changes in leadership at Disney/Pixar Animation. It was recently announced that Lasseter will be stepping down from the studios at the end of 2018, in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed Disney/Pixar's female employees and fostered an otherwise sexist working environment. Frozen director Jennifer Lee and Inside Out helmsman Peter Docter will now serve as the Chief Creative Officers of Disney and Pixar Animation, respectively.
It's worth noting that DisneyToon did make some theatrical releases in the '90s (see A Goofy Movie) that have since gone on to become children's classics of the decade, for many people. Unfortunately, with the rapidly changing home video market and lukewarm critical response to the studio's theatrical releases (see: the Planes movies) impacting its profitability, DisneyToon has struggled to sustain itself over the past decade. With DisneyToon now shut down and both Disney and Pixar about to enter a new era, here's to hoping the future is brighter for the Mouse House's animation empire across the board.