Eight years after Pixar shut down production in Gastown, Walt Disney Corporation announced that it would be opening a new animation studio in Vancouver early next year.
Walt Disney Animation Studios said that the new Vancouver facility will focus on long-form series work and special projects created for the Disney+ streaming service. Disney mentioned that its feature films will continue to be made at the company’s Burbank studio.
Disney Animation president Clark Spencer said both Burbank and Vancouver are home to some of the world’s most talented artists and technicians. “We believe the storytelling and visual quality created within each location will meet the incredibly high standards we set for ourselves and (which) audiences have come to expect from Disney Animation,” he said.
The flagship animation studio in Burbank will expand its 900 employee-base and remain the exclusive home for film projects, as well as shorter form series such as the recently announced Baymax and Zootopia+. Story development, storyboarding and production design for all projects will be based in Burbank.
“Disney Animation is creating more original storytelling for Disney+, expanding into series for the first time in our history with Iwaju, Tiana, Moana, Baymax and Zootopia+,” said WDAS chief creative officer Jennifer Lee. “As we continue to grow our original slate of projects, there are more creative, artistic and technological opportunities than at any previous time.”
With the opening, Amir Nasrabadi becomes head of WDAS, Vancouver. An animation veteran, Nasrabadi most recently served as WildBrain Studios executive VP and GM. “I am so honored and excited to be joining the Disney family again,” said Nasrabadi. “I continue to be amazed at the high-level of artistry and technical advancements coming out of the animation industry here in Vancouver and I am so proud to be a part of this community. This is really a dream come true for me.”
Disney is recruiting talent to be in place for the studio’s official opening in January 2022. The Vancouver studio’s first project will be a highly anticipated Moana series for Disney+. Israeli animation producer Osnat Shurer, who earned an Oscar nomination for the Moana feature film in 2016, will serve as showrunner on the project.
WDAS is not the only Disney-owned unit amping up animation. Marvel Studios is preparing the release of the animated multiverse series What If? on 11 August.