Disney's Animated Response

Now that Pixar is in the Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) bloodstream, it seems that a few of Disney's in-house animators are being shown the door. Several reports over the weekend had the family entertainment giant letting go of as much as 20% of its 800-strong workforce. Pixar's headcount, supposedly, won't be chopped.

After a string of mostly lackluster productions, Disney has whittled away at its ink-and-paint staff in the past. This move appears tame by comparison. It's also not a very surprising decision. The company had already indicated that it was hacking away at the number of live-action features it would be producing, so it's only natural to see it follow suit in non-Pixar animation.

In the past, cynics would have considered a move like this to be retreat. It just doesn't feel that way these days. Under CEO Bob Iger's leadership, terms like "addition through subtraction" and an emphasis on quality over quantity aren't likely to draw snickers. Disney really does feel like it's coming together as a quality family entertainment powerhouse, even if it had to acquire some of the key parts -- like Pixar -- to get there.

Steve Hulett, an Animation Guild representative that Reuters cited in its story on the matter, claims that Disney is lengthening its production timeline on new releases from a year to 18 months. That doesn't sound like the move of a company trying to skimp on costs. It sounds like a commitment to quality. Pixar and DreamWorks Animation (NYSE: DWA  ) have come to rule the computer animation space, in part because of their longer development cycles. Better stories and crisper animation have helped set their efforts apart from many of their rivals, as well as from some of Disney's rushed theatrical and direct-to-video offerings.

Yes, you can produce rendered magic in a hurry and on a shoestring budget, but it's not worth the near-term cost savings. Disney fell into that trap during the latter half of Michael Eisner's tenure, and it began to pay for it dearly in brand-sapping duds and a $7.4 billion bailout in the form of a Pixar purchase.

As long as it leans on the Pixar gray matter, which has done nothing but serve up classy epic after classy epic, Disney's future will be brighter than its bleaker recent past in in-house animation.

Disney and DreamWorks Animation areMotley Fool Stock Advisornewsletter recommendations.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys going to the movies. Sometimes he enjoys leaving them, too. He owns shares in Disney. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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