Hand-drawn animation reigns in Disney's 'Princess and the Frog'

Audiences may be delighted by "The Princess and the Frog." For the veteran Disney animators who worked on the film, though, the film comes as a relief.

The fantasy marks Disney's return to traditional, hand-drawn animation. That style was seen by some within the studio as being archaic and dated, and as dead technology.

In fact, at one point Disney fired nearly all of its hand-drawn animation force. (The move was prompted by the less than impressive box-office receipts for its 2002 and 2004 cartoon releases, "Treasure Planet" and "Home on the Range.")

That changed quickly when Disney acquired Pixar, and that animation house's chief, John Lasseter, was put in charge. One of his first mandates was to revive "traditional" animation. And work began almost immediately on "Princess."

However, "most of us had already moved on, professionally," Mormon animator Randy Haycock recalled.

"I was already making something out of my normal comfort zone," he said, referring to his work on the 2005 digitally animated feature "Chicken Little."

Fellow animator Bruce Smith was working on the Disney Channel television series "The Proud Family," which he created.

"I was already on to the next phase of my life and my career. I really thought I was done with film animation at that point," Smith said.

But when each of them got a call to work with co-directors Ron Clement and John Musker -- the architects of such earlier Disney hits as "Aladdin" (1992) and "The Little Mermaid" (1989) -- they understandably jumped at the chance.

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