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The studio had originally been formed at the former location of Walt Disney Television Animation Australia or Walt Disney Animation Australia, one of several Disney television animation satellite studios responsible for programs such as Goof Troop, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Bonkers, Quack Pack, Darkwing Duck, Timon & Pumbaa, and Aladdin. DisneyToon Studios later became the main producer of the many Disney sequels and direct-to-video films (along with the theatrically released Return to Never Land, The Jungle Book 2 and Piglet's Big Movie).
The Australia studio was closed in October 2006; the pre- and post-production facilities at the main Disney lot in Burbank, California, USA remain in operation. DisneyToon Studios is today a division of Walt Disney Animation Studios and continues to develop both theatrical and direct-to-video features based upon Disney Consumer Products franchises and television programs, as well as spin-offs and original properties.
Walt Disney Animation Australia had worked on Disney television series since its opening in 1988. Originally subcontracting to Asian studios such as TMS Entertainment, Cuckoo's Nest Studios, and Wang Film Productions, Walt Disney Television Animation began setting up its own foreign satellite studios by the end of the 1980s. In addition to Walt Disney Animation Australia, the company set up Walt Disney Animation Japan and Walt Disney Animation France (formerly the Brizzi Brothers Studios) to work on Disney television programs. As with most American television animation, the main Television Animation department in California handled pre-production (writing, storyboarding, and layout), while the satellite studios handled the animation production.
The television studios' first feature production was 1990's DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, based upon the syndicated Disney TV show DuckTales. In 1994, the France studio was absorbed into Walt Disney Feature Animation as work began on a second Disney feature based on a TV show, A Goofy Movie (derived from Goof Troop). At the same time, Disney began producing direct-to-video sequels of its Feature Animation productions, the first of which was the Aladdin sequel The Return of Jafar. More DTV sequels followed, among them Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998), The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998) and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002).
In 2003, the Australia studio became the main production hub of a new division known as DisneyToon Studios, exclusively dedicated to producing DTV sequels and spin-offs of Feature Animation productions. With the closings of the Disney studios in France, Florida and Japan by 2004, as well as the conversion of the main Feature Animation studio in California to all-computer animation production, DisneyToon Australia became the only in-house Disney animation studio still actively producing works using traditional animation. Some of the DisneyToon productions, including Return to Never Land (2002) and The Jungle Book 2 (2003), received wide theatrical releases rather than being issued only on home video. The Australian studio also provided additional animation on Home on the Range (2004).
On July 25, 2005, Disney announced that it was closing DisneyToon Studios Australia in October 2006, after 17 years of existence, with its final feature being Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. The closing was attributed to the rising costs of animation production in Australia. DisneyToon Studios continued to produce its animated films (both traditional and computer-generated) after the closure by outsourcing to third party companies. These include Rough Draft Studios, Wang Film Productions, Kennedy Cartoons, Toon City and Sunwoo, among others.
On June 22, 2007, management of DisneyToon Studios was turned over to the control of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter under the banner of the recently reorganized and renamed Feature Animation studio, now called Walt Disney Animation Studios. As chief creative officer, Lasseter called for the cancellation of all future films in production or development at DisneyToon Studios that weren't connected to a Disney Consumer Products franchise. As a result, planned or in-progress sequels to Dumbo, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons and The Aristocats were all cancelled, among other projects. A few days later, it was announced that DisneyToon would no longer produce future sequels to Disney animated films, but will instead focus on spin-offs and original films.
Following conflicts over the new direction for the division, as well as complications relating to the production of Tinker Bell (2008), the debut film of the Disney Fairies franchise, the previous president of DisneyToon, Sharon Morill, moved to a new position in the company.
Films created by DisneyToon Studios include the following:
|DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp||August 3, 1990|
|A Goofy Movie||April 7, 1995|
|The Tigger Movie||February 11, 2000|
|Return to Never Land||February 15, 2002|
|The Jungle Book 2||February 14, 2003|
|Piglet's Big Movie||March 21, 2003|
|Teacher's Pet: The Movie||January 16, 2004|
|Pooh's Heffalump Movie||February 11, 2005|
|Secret of the Wings (limited release)||October 23, 2012|
|Planes||August 9, 2013|
|The Pirate Fairy (limited release)||April 1, 2014|
|Planes: Fire & Rescue||July 18, 2014|
|Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast (limited release)||March 3, 2015|
|Untitled DisneyToon Film||April 12, 2019|