Eric Goldberg Comments on Disney’s Return to Hand-Drawn Animation

Posted 2022/04/24 7 0

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When Disney closed its 2D animation studio 2004, it was devastating news for fans and artists alike. It seemed like the end of an era, a medium that the studio was founded on was now forgotten and considered a thing of the past. Now, almost two decades later, and just ahead of the company’s 100th anniversary in 2023, they are returning to the hand-drawn animation medium.

Eric Goldberg, a Disney animation veteran, talks about the future of the studio and the magic of the medium with IndieWire. This is while he is promoting Sketchbook, an upcoming six-part documentary series that is coming to Disney+, the trailer can be viewed below.

“I think people like finding out about people who are associated with the things that they love, and the fact that this medium is so collaborative. It wasn’t just me doing The Genie. We had about eight animators and, of course, [directors] Ron [Clements] and John [Musker] and the writers and Robin [Williams] brought a ton to it. And it’s so rewarding to [study] because you get to understand those personal signatures that those artists bring to the characters. And, in animation, it’s more than drawing, it’s about timing and spacing, and how they move.”

While Disney’s last 2D animated movie to date was 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, the studio continued to experiment with it in other ways. The 2012 short Paperman, for example, was an attempt to blend 3D environments with a 2D line drawing. The process was achieved utilizing the program Meander, which is still used by the studio to this day. Another example was Maoi’s tattoos in the 2016 film Moana, which Goldberg supervised the animation of.

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By the end of 2021, Disney decided to make a return to 2D animation by launching their first training program in over a decade. The decision was made by chief creative officer Jennifer Lee and producer turned Disney Animation Studios president Clark Spencer (Encanto). The program featured Goldberg (who is probably most well-known for his role as animation supervisor for Genie from Aladdin), Mark Henn (Supervising animator of Young Simba from The Lion King and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog), Randy Haycock (Supervising animator of Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Prince Naveen from The Princess and the Frog), and Rachel Bibb (Lead Key Assistant Animator of Pooh and Christopher Robin in 2011’s Winnie the Pooh).


Six trainees were selected out of more than 2,000 applicants. The program spans twelve months and covers character and effects animation as well as cleanup. Goldberg expresses the excitement behind the program.

“I’ve been campaigning for a long time to train up people in hand-drawn, and, as the CG films became more and more popular, that idea became less and less important to the studio. But now we have an atmosphere and a group of people who recognize that’s part of the legacy here, and to actually have content that requires hand-drawn animation is absolutely great. Thank goodness we have people who can do both here, but to actually commit to training up a new generation is a wonderful thing and I think perfectly appropriate for [us].”

According to Goldberg, it is the success of Disney+ that played a hand in the studio turning an eye back to its roots. While the company is still shifting its attention to the streaming platform, hand-drawn animation is expected to play a bigger role in the process. According to Goldberg, this could include feature-length films to series! Floyd Norman, a Disney Legend who participated in the creation of such classics as Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and Robin Hood, spoke up about the studio’s return to its roots.

“I remain very enthusiastic about Disney’s animation unit. I’ll be kind of like looking over their shoulder, and I’ll certainly be watching what’s going on in hand-drawn, traditional animation.”

Sketchbook premieres on Disney+ on April 27th.


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