Originally created 01/13/04

Disney closes Orlando animation studio



LOS ANGELES -- The Walt Disney Co. said Monday it is closing its Orlando, Fla., animation studio and cutting more than 250 jobs as it shifts from hand-drawn animated films to computer-generated ones.

Some of the employees will be offered jobs at Disney's animation studios in Burbank, Calif., the company said.

Disney has been steadily reducing its animation department for the past few years, from a peak of 2,200 employees in 1999 to 600, all of whom will be based in Burbank.

Disney decided to shift from having a large number of animators on staff to hiring on a per-film basis. The company also has been scaling back on its hand-animated films, which are more labor-intensive and cost far more than movies animated by computers.

The Orlando studio, opened in 1989, has animated some of Disney's more popular movies, including "Lilo & Stitch," "Mulan" and this year's "Brother Bear."

But Disney has had its most success with animated films it produces in cooperation with Pixar, which uses computers. Hits produced that way include "Finding Nemo."

Disney has only two animated films in production, both of which are computer-generated - "Chicken Little," due in 2005, and "A Day in the Life With Wilbur Robinson," set for release in 2006.

The studio canceled production earlier this year on "A Few Good Ghosts," which was a hybrid of hand-drawn and computer animation.