When Disney closed their Florida animation studios in Orlando in 2004, many thought that the animation industry was dead in Orlando. Disney's animation studio was a satellite of Walt Disney's original California studio from 1988 through 2003.
It was here that the feature films Mulan, Lilo And Stitch, Brother Bear, three Roger Rabbit short features, the short film John Henry, and the musical segment “I Can’t Wait To Be King” for The Lion King were produced.
The Orlando animation unit was first established with approximately 40 employees as part of the Disney-MGM Studios complex (now Disney's Hollywood Studios). Visitors to the park were able to take a tour of the studio and actually observe the animators at work.
In 1998, the unit moved into a new $70 million state-of-the-art facility. At the studio’s height in the mid-1990s, it employed approximately 400 artists and technicians.
Brother Bear, was the last animated film to come out of Disney’s Orlando animation studio. The staff was laid off as the film was coming out.
While Disney as a company seemed interested in getting out of the traditional animation business, many of it’s now-former employees were not. Several animators who were let go joined forces to form their own animation studios.
Project Firefly Animation Studios is a talented group of animation veterans from Walt Disney's Feature Animation Studio in Orlando who joined creative forces to form a new animation company. Project Firefly is a full service animation studio providing 2-D and 3-D animation, artwork for theatrical and video releases, high-end Flash animation, television series, commercials, interactive/internet media, children's books and educational products. They also worked on a large part of Universal’s Curious George.
Other former Disney animators have gone on to work for over 200 production companies located in the Orlando area. These include Mighty Mojo Studios, video game powerhouse EA/ Tiburon (animation for video games), and EFX Creative Group.
Orlando has some of the top animation schools in the country. Orlando's animation schools train students to work in film animation, or specifically, in the digital field with computer animation and visual effects. They offer a variety of 2-D and 3-D animation courses, which will allow students to find work as an illustrator in many different types of media including video games.
Orlando's animation school graduates can choose to focus on classical animation, film animation, digital animation, or specialize in a specific area of computer animation. Some arts and animation programs are offered online and these courses can be a great option for students that are self-motivated and are able to manage their time and make course work a priority in their lives.