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Sunday, February 20, 2011
Disney Down Under: Walt Disney Animation Australia
How would you like a job at Walt Disney Animation in Australia? Well, before you grab a vegemite sandwich, some treats to feed the kangaroos, and your resume and hop a plane to Sydney, you should know that this Disney facility closed down in 2006. It's a real shame, too, because they created some top-notch animation over the years.
Disney's Australian animation studio had its origins as Hanna Barbera Australia, which opened in 1974. The Hanna Barbera studio produced numerous episodes of TV shows like "CBS Storybreak" and "Teen Wolf."
Disney took over Hanna Barbera Australia in 1989. The Australia studio created the animation for many Disney TV Animated series, including Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Bonkers, and Quack Pack. Walt Disney Animation Australia had its own exuberant style, and had a knack for animating some fantastic facial expressions.
The studio also worked on direct-to-video projects and some Disney TV theatrical releases (they animated the concert sequence in "A Goofy Movie"), and gradually they started to channel Walt Disney Feature Animation's style. This was especially the case with "The Lion King 1 1/2" from 2004 which blended pretty seamlessly with Disney Feature's "The Lion King" from 1994.
The last project Disney Animation Australia worked on was "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time."
Disney had set up satellite studios around the world to handle animation production. Disney Feature Animation and Disney Television Animation were two different divisions. Disney Feature had its studio in California and one at Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney Television Animation in California had Disney animation studios in Japan, Australia, France and Canada. Additionally, Disney subcontracted animation to many other animation studios around the world (this is why you may notice a different "look" to many episodes of Disney TV shows). Walt Disney Animation France later became part of Walt Disney Feature Animation.
Eventually, Disney shut down its studios in Florida, Japan, France, Canada, and Australia. Hand drawn animation was no longer the focus, with Disney Feature Animation in California becoming a CGI animation house.
Hand-drawn animation made by various studios today is largely outsourced to companies in other countries. These days, more and more CGI animation is also being outsourced, too.
Disney had other satellite studios that never took off.
When Icelandic singer Bjork became a media sensation with her famous swan dress, Disney developed a "DuckTales" spin-off called "SwanSongs," and launched Walt Disney Animation Iceland to produce the show.
This animated series featured Scrooge McDuck's niece, Swan (voiced by Bjork) and followed her adventures as a singer on a world tour. Each episode would feature a song written by Bjork.
A studio was established in Reykjavik, to allow Bjork the ability to have some creative control. However, as she became more popular, her touring schedule did not allow enough time in Iceland, and the "SwanSongs" project and studio were quickly shut down.
Then there was Walt Disney Animation Antarctica.
When it was discovered that penguins excelled in the performing arts, the decision was made to start up a studio in Antarctica. Penguins were cheap labor (most would take a job just for the halibut). Penguins proved to be very difficult to train, were not skilled animators, and made a mess of things. The Penguins were, however, excellent dancers.
*For those that don't realize this, please note that the Iceland and Antarctica studios were not real. I had fun making them up, though.