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5 Things Studios Can Learn From Disney Television Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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The Animation Goldmine of Disney Television Animation

In the world of animation, Disney Television Animation stands as a beacon of creativity, innovation, and evolution. 

Since its inception in 1984, Disney Television Animation has not only entertained generations of viewers but also set new standards in the animation industry. For animators, both aspiring and seasoned, the journey of Disney Television Animation offers a treasure trove of lessons. 

From embracing technological changes to crafting stories that resonate with diverse audiences, their approach to animation is a study of adaptability and excellence.

the Disney logo on an old computer

Cover GIF via GIPHY

In this blog, we delve into the key lessons animators can learn from Disney Television Animation and their illustrious history, underscoring how these insights can shape the future of animation.

1. Embrace Innovation and Animation Creativity

The birth of Disney Television Animation in 1984 marked a pivotal moment in the animation landscape. 

Founded during a period of significant reorganization under the leadership of then-CEO Michael Eisner, Disney Television Animation embarked on a journey that would redefine the standards of TV animation. 

This era was characterized by a bold move away from exclusively using wrap-around segments of existing theatrical material to creating original animated content.

One of the earliest and most notable examples was "Adventures of the Gummi Bears," which, alongside "The Wuzzles," showcased Disney Television Animation and their commitment to innovation. These series were not just about entertaining children; they were a testament to the power of creativity and pushing boundaries. 

Video by Disney Plus via YouTube

By venturing into uncharted territories with these shows, Disney Television Animation demonstrated that substantial investment in quality animation could yield profitable returns, challenging the then-prevailing notion of animated TV series as low-budget ventures.

For animators today, this pioneering spirit is a crucial lesson. It encourages a mindset of experimentation and stepping beyond conventional boundaries, whether in storytelling, character design, or animation techniques.

Embracing innovation and creativity, as Disney Television Animation did in its early years, is essential for anyone looking to make a lasting impact in the ever-evolving world of animation.

2. Adapt to Technological Advancements in Animation

Disney Television Animation has the ability to adapt to technological changes has been a cornerstone of its evolution. This adaptability was most evident when the studio transitioned from traditional to digital animation techniques. 

An exemplary shift occurred with their adoption of Adobe Flash animation, notably in series like "The Buzz on Maggie." This transition was not just a cost-saving measure; it represented a significant shift in production approach, allowing for greater experimentation and flexibility in animation styles.

This shift to digital also led to cleaner redesigns in other series like "American Dragon: Jake Long" and "The Replacements" in their second seasons. The move to digital animation opened new realms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and creative expression, offering animators a broader canvas to experiment with styles and narratives.

Video by Disney Television Animation News via YouTube

Disney Television Animation embracing Flash animation illustrated a forward-thinking approach, balancing cost considerations with the need for creative innovation.

For modern animators, this example underlines the importance of keeping pace with technological advancements. Integrating new tools and methods into their work is crucial, especially as the animation industry continues to evolve rapidly. 

The transition to digital platforms and tools can lead to more efficient workflows, lower production costs, and the ability to create more visually stunning and intricate animations. 

As technology advances, animators should remain adaptable and open-minded, ensuring their work not only stays relevant but also pushes the boundaries of what is possible in animation.

3. Craft Compelling Animated Narratives and Memorable Characters

Disney Television Animation and their masterful storytelling and character creation have been a benchmark in the animation industry. This is exemplified in the success of series like "DuckTales," which not only entertained but also became a cultural phenomenon. 

"DuckTales," adapted from Carl Barks' Duck Universe adventure serials, brought to life characters like Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, making them iconic figures across generations.

a DuckTales character shouting "this is awesome"

GIF by Disney Channel via GIPHY

Beyond "DuckTales," Disney Television Animation continued this tradition with other memorable series. Shows like "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" and "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" further showcased the studio’s ability to create engaging, character-driven narratives

These series didn't just rely on familiar characters; they expanded their worlds and introduced new, equally compelling characters, adding depth and variety to the Disney canon.

This strong emphasis on storytelling and character development is an essential lesson for animators and studio owners. It demonstrates the power of narratives that captivate and characters that resonate deeply with audiences.

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In animation, the story and its characters are the heart and soul, driving both emotional impact and lasting appeal. Aspiring animators can draw inspiration from the Disney Television Animation approach. 

Understanding that well-crafted stories and well-developed characters are pivotal to creating animations that not only engage audiences but also endure in their memories.

This focus on narrative and character is not just about maintaining audience attention; it's about creating a legacy of memorable stories and characters that define a generation. Animators are encouraged to view their work as more than just a visual spectacle; it is an opportunity to tell stories that can inspire, entertain, and even educate audiences of all ages.

4. Explore New Animation Territories and Partnerships

purple fireworks going off at Disney World


The evolution of Disney Television Animation highlights the significance of partnerships and exploring new territories. 

The collaboration with Walt Disney Imagineering, for instance, has led to the creation of character designs and animations for various attractions in Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, showcasing the versatility and broad application of animation skills. 

Such collaborations have not only expanded the reach of Disney Television Animation and their work but have also enriched the experiences in Disney's theme parks.

This approach teaches animators the value of partnerships and venturing into new areas. Whether it's collaborating with other creative entities or applying animation in unconventional settings, these ventures can open up new opportunities and avenues for growth and innovation. 

Animators should be open to collaborations and exploring new applications of their craft, as it can lead to exciting and rewarding endeavors.

5. Embrace Diversity in Animation Projects

In recent years, Disney Television Animation has placed a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusivity in its projects. Shows like "Amphibia" and "The Owl House," for example, represent a significant shift towards more inclusive storytelling and character representation. 

two characters from the show "Amphibia" twirling and high-fiving

GIF by Disney Channel via GIPHY

This move towards diversity is not just a moral imperative but also reflects the varied experiences and backgrounds of the global audience.

For animators and studios today, embracing diversity in animation is crucial. It involves creating content that resonates with a wide range of audiences and ensuring representation across different cultures, identities, and experiences. 

By incorporating diverse themes and characters, animators can create more meaningful and impactful stories that reflect the world's richness and diversity.

Your Studio Could Be the Next Disney Television Animation

Scrooge McDuck seeing falling coins


Disney Television Animation is a testament to the power of innovation, adaptability, and storytelling in animation. 

From embracing new technologies to crafting stories that resonate across generations, their approach offers invaluable lessons for animators and studio owners alike. 

As the animation landscape continues to evolve, the principles exemplified by Disney Television Animation - innovation, adaptability, audience understanding, collaboration, and diversity - remain more relevant than ever. 

By integrating these lessons, animators can not only enhance their craft but also create animations that captivate, inspire, and endure in the hearts of audiences worldwide.

Need some help to take your animation career to the next level? Our Animation Business Accelerator Program provides insights, resources, and a supportive community to help professionals navigate the evolving landscape. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio to kickstart your animation career today or give our free Masterclass a try first if you’re curious.

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