As a result of the series of The D-Files, Editor-in-Chief Alan Ng made an ominous prediction that the entire animation industry is headed in two directions: “overseas and AI.” The overseas component of that prophecy has just been fulfilled as Walt Disney Animation has opened a new studio in Vancouver, BC (granted, not quite overseas), and their first significant feature animated film is Moana 2. The Vancouver studio has operated for over a year and a half.
On the heels of Disney’s announcement of Moana 2, the press release does not mention the new studio. Interestingly, the news comes by way of Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) Artistic Director Malcon Pierce’s personal Instagram account (@malconpierce).
Pierce proudly states, “A year and a half ago, we decided to embark on an incredible voyage, setting sail to Vancouver, BC, determined to build a second animation studio that can continue Walt Disney animation studio’s incredible legacy. Our first project? Moana 2. We gathered the wonderfully talented Moana leadership team and began assembling the crew! In just one year, our team grew to over 100 strong as we began to bring these beloved characters to life. Today, we stand proud with a team of 400+ artists, engineers, and technicians, embarking on our first theatrical release. The announcement of Moana 2 hit me harder than expected today, reminding me of the journey we’ve undertaken since setting sail past the reef. I couldn’t be more proud of this studio and the extraordinary stories we’ll bring to the world!”
Is this good news? First, why is Disney opening a new studio in Canada? Second, WHY IS DISNEY CORPORATE NOT MAKING THIS PUBLIC? The news was so secretive that Walt Disney Animation just held an all-hands meeting in Burbank to reveal that Vancouver would not only be the lead studio on Moana 2 but that its staff had ballooned to 400 members. Of course, they assured Burbank that they would “partner up on Moana.”
The new studio has some interesting advantages. Though technically not overseas, Vancouver is close enough to Burbank for corporate oversight. My sources inside Disney describe Malcon Pierce as a talented guy with a good personality who somehow managed to create an equally talented team. He served as an animator on Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 and a supervising animator on the original Moana. Also, being in Canada, the team is shielded from the woke SJW nonsense that has infected the animation studios in Burbank. Not verified, but the Vancouver studio appears to be non-union, which poses significant financial and operational advantages.
If I weren’t so pessimistic about Disney, I would say this Vancouver studio is a brilliant move. It could potentially preserve Walt’s legacy by hiding it like Snow White in the forest terrain of Vancouver. Knowing Disney, at some point, the Evil Queen will find her way to the Great White North…poison apple in hand. While the new studio may have solved the animation problem, it didn’t necessarily solve the story problem.