Animation studio unveils new project

Disney animation is flashing back to the ’90s.

At the conglom’s shareholders meeting in New Orleans on Thursday, Walt Disney Feature Animation Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter officially unveiled “The Frog Princess,” Disney Animation Studio’s 2009 toon release.

“Frog Princess” will be a hand drawn musical, the type of pic that defined Disney’s triumphant animation run in the ’90s, but was abandoned by the Mouse in 2005 after a string of flops like “Home on the Range” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Like every other major studio, Disney has since focused on CGI toons, such as “Chicken Little” and this month’s “Meet the Robinsons.”

“The Frog Princess” is being directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, helmers of “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Hercules.” They left the studio several years ago but were wooed back last year after Lasster and Ed Catmull took over Disney animation following the acquisition of Pixar. Originals songs and score are being penned by Pixar favorite Randy Newman.

Alan Menken, who wrote the music for many of Disney’s ’90s toon musicals, had previously been attached to write the songs when he re-joined the Mouse last year.

Toon was previously known to be in development (Daily Variety, July 26), but this was the first time Disney discussed the project publicly. Pic will be set in New Orleans and tell the story of a young girl named Maddy, whom Disney described as “the newest Disney princess.” She’ll be the first African-American in the Mouse’s lucrative princess line.

Next year, Disney Animation Studios is expected to release CGI toon “American Dog,” which is currently in production.

Pixar, which is also under the Walt Disney Feature Animation banner with DAS, is working on this June’s “Ratatouille,” next year’s “Wall*E,” and “Toy Story 3,” which is expected in 2010. Pixar hasn’t yet revealed any details on a 2009 release.

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