This has been a long time coming, but it still feels momentous.
Veteran animator Glen Keane yesterday resigned from Walt Disney Feature Animation, signalling his desire to seek out animation's "endless new territories to explore" beyond that one studio's walls.
Previously, Keane has animated many of Disney's greatest characters, perhaps most notably the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and he initiated the Rapunzel movie that mutated into Tangled, as well as serving as that film's animation supervisor and pushing its CG crews to new, cartoonier extremes.
Here's Keane's full resignation letter as published at Cartoon Brew:
March 23, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Walt Disney Animation Studio,
After long and thoughtful consideration, I have decided to leave Disney Animation.
I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can't resist it's siren call to step out and discover them.
Disney has been my artistic home since September 9,1974. I owe so much to those great animators who mentored me—Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—as well as to the many other wonderful people at Disney whom I have been fortunate to work with in the past nearly 38 years.
Over these four decades I have seen so many changes, but the one thing that remains the same is that we all do this because we love it.
I am humbled and deeply honored to have worked side by side so many artists, producers and directors during my career here at Disney, and I am tremendously proud of the films which together we have created. I will deeply miss working with you.
With my most sincere and heartfelt good wishes for your and Disney's continued artistic growth and success,
Now, should Keane next roll up at a big studio like Dreamworks or Sony his comment about seeking "new territories" is going to read like one heck of a burn on Disney. Should he go independent – as he did, for a while, in the mid 80s – it's less of an indictment on the studio, I suppose.
I spoke to Keane about a year ago, and it was already being rumoured that his time with Disney was coming to an end. He didn't have a comment, but he did have some things to say about the future of Disney:
The challenges of Reboot Ralph are entirely different to those of Tangled. There are so many different styles of characters in that movie going from one video game to another to another to another that it's going to be phenomenal. And I'm telling the team "It's going to be a whole different challenge for you guys to stretch and expand and become much more versatile than you are right now, so there will be new ways in which we're going to be growing.
For my next project I have some ideas in my mind. I really believe that the fairy tale has to be a big part of the future of Disney animation for us to continue to grow and be strong and to be who we are.
Keane is a fine animator and Disney have lost one of their greatest talents. Here's hoping he has great luck with whatever he moves onto next.
To finish up, here's a YouTube clip which offers "a little bit of a picture into the cartooning mind of Glen Keane."