The last 2D-animated film from Disney was ‘The Princess and the Frog’, which premiered in December 2009, more than 10 years ago. After that Disney focused on 3D animation, but why?
Disney was famous for its traditional hand-drawn films. It started with their first feature film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ and since then released a lot of Disney classics like ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘The little Mermaid’, ‘The Lion King’ and so on.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Disney was very successful, but with Pixar releasing ‘Toy Story’ in 1995 that changed. In the next years Pixar continued to beat Disney in the Box Office (table below).
With their new way of storytelling and animation, Pixar got more people in theatres. The competition for Disney got even worse with DreamWorks releasing ‘Shrek’, which had a box office of $484 Million. And Blue Sky also entered the game with ‘Ice Age’. Disney could not beat that and then in 2006, they bought Pixar.
The Disney animated films were not profitable anymore and when they bought Pixar, they kind of abandoned 2D animation. The money was a huge motivation for doing that. Other big companies saw that and also hopped on the CG train, because this is where the money is. It seems that the 1990s was kind of the death of 2D animated films, because in the 2000s even TV channels like Nickelodeon began to produce series with CGI.
Disney tried to get back to their 2D animations and their princess franchise with ‘The Princess and the Frog’, but afterwards in 2010 they really abandoned it. In 2013 they started laying off their animators. They removed value from their hand drawn animation work and started moving towards the computer animated work.
Disney is re-releasing their classics every few years for each new media. First it was VHS, then DVD and Blu-Ray. Now they are releasing remakes of their classics in live-action and CGI. If you look at the box office numbers for the 50 highest-grossing animated films, you find only two 2D animated movies, which are ‘The Lion King’ from 1994 and ‘The Simpsons Movie’.
If 2D animation is really dying, than it is not Pixar’s fault, but Disney did greatly contribute to that. Disney is such a big company and has a huge influence in the business. After buying Fox, their market share grew even more and other companies are following that direction to not be left behind.