Disneytoon Studios is no longer. "After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios," said a spokesperson for Disney. Operations at the studio have been shut down effective immediately after being a major part of the company's operation for nearly three decades. As a result, 75 animators and various staff members will be laid off, but it also represents a shift in general strategy for the Mouse House.
In recent years, home video sales, especially of physical media such as DVD and Blu-ray sales have heavily declined. While Disneytoon Studios was responsible for some theatrical releases, such as the Planes franchise, they were mostly known for producing the company's direct-to-video offerings. Given the decline in that market recently, it clearly doesn't make as much sense for Disney to keep an entire studio open that is primarily dedicated to making such movies. That doesn't necessarily mean that those kinds of projects will stop being made entirely, but they're just not going to keep an entire studio operating to meet those needs.
The studio was first launched in 1990 under the name Disney MovieToons. At one point it also went by the name Disney Video Premieres. They launched their first feature, DuckTales: The Movie - Treasure of The Lost Lamp, in 1990 and have produced 47 features in the 28 years since. Their most recent movie was 2015's Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast, which was part of their popular Disney Fairies franchise that was initially launched in 2008 with Tinker Bell. The decision to press forward with the Disney Fairies franchise came from John Lasseter, who was the head of Pixar for Disney but will be leaving the studio at the end of the year following a recent misconduct scandal.
Even though Disneytoon Studios primarily released direct-to-video titles, they managed to create some notable works over the years. A Goofy Movie was produced by the studio and is a favorite amongst 90s Disney fans. The studio is also responsible for Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, Mulan II, Bambi II and The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, as well as several Aladdin sequels, including The Return of Jafar.
This decision comes on the heels of new leadership being put in charge of Disney's animation studios. Pete Docter (Monsters Inc.) has been named chief creative officer of Pixar and Jennifer Lee (Frozen) has been named chief creative officer of Disney Animation Studios. Those will be the remaining two branches of Disney's animation arm now that Disneytoon Studios is closed. Any further direct-to-video offerings or anything that comes from existing franchises from under that umbrella will likely be produced by Lee's division. With John Lasseter leaving and with a major studio closing, the animation division of Disney is going through some major changes right now. We can hope that these changes are ultimately for the better. RIP, Disneytoon Studios. This news comes to us courtesy of IndieWire.