Disney lays off 160

Disney is laying off about 160 employees, or 20% of the total staff, from its feature animation unit.

Cuts aren't connected to the company-wide layoffs Mouse House went through in summer. Feature animation was excluded at the time, apparently fitting in with CEO Bob Iger's public insistence that toons are a core part of the company's future.

Unlucky employees are expected to be notified in the next couple of weeks.

Cuts come as production is winding up on "Meet the Robinsons," which will be released in June. A spokesman said that "the management team at Walt Disney Animation has determined that each film will dictate its own appropriate production schedule," indicating that it will keep fewer animators on as permanent employees moving from film to film.

WDFA hasn't yet selected its next pic to go into production, though it will likely have to do so soon to get one out in 2008, thus meeting the corporate goal of one pic per year from the unit.

Numerous pics are in development and could get the next greenlight, including "Rapunzel," "American Dog," and "The Frog Princess."

It's unclear whether Disney will look to add staff when production gets under way on its next toon.

Cuts won't effect Disney-owned Pixar Animation, which is also on track to release one toon per year going forward.

Last major layoffs at WDFA came in the late '90s when the unit started shifting away from hand-drawn animation.


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