First thing I thought this past Saturday when I woke up was; "I want to make a feature length hand drawn animated film." Which is a pretty crazy thing to want to do as an independent. Especially when I already have a 3 minute short film on the go and I'm struggling to find the time to work on that. But I felt that urge and I've felt it before... It was a burst of inspired energy.
I felt this burst of drive in response to the news that broke this past Thursday that Disney had "gutted" it's animation division and laid off many staff including numerous veteran animators. My reaction was basically; "Yeah, they've done that before". When I heard this news it was via an email sent around at work. My co-workers responded to this email with sadness and surprise. The general response of people to the news of the layoffs and discontinuation of hand drawn animation seems to be disappointment that these masters of animation are being let go and that the art form is "dying". People feel that Disney artists spent a lot of time honing this craft and they would then pass on their knowledge to artists who could keep nurturing the system. And then it feels like the whole set of knowledge and expertise was basically dumped. I'm definitely saddened that there aren't more hand drawn features on the big screen but it's my belief that hand drawn animation cannot die. It won't as long as artists continue to create animations of their own. And these days it's easier than it ever has been to produce and distribute animation / shorts independently.
Adam and Dog
It's hard to know what to think of the Disney layoffs. It does suck. I remember feeling sad and fearful when I was still in college during the days of regularly hearing bad news for 2D feature animation. In the early to mid 2000's Disney theatrically released: Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo and Stitch, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range and Chicken Little. In 2003 Disney animators were told that the focus was going to shift to making CG animated films. Please check out this fantastic article that discusses the history and frustration of those times. I graduated college in 2005 so things seemed bleak for the future of hand drawn animation.
From Up On Poppy Hill
I think it's important for hand drawn films to be supported. I suppose that mediocre films aren't going to be blockbusters and they shouldn't be. But if reception is lukewarm, it's just doesn't seem to be enough for the big studios to feel that investing in hand drawn films is worth their time. I think it's important for artists who care about the medium to keep practising and creating in their own time. You just can't wait to see what a studio such as Disney is going to do and hope for the best. We're not always going to be in a golden age. If we let our skills deteriorate, it will be even harder to get hand drawn crews together in the future. And having a knowledge and practise of anatomy and hand drawn animation is very valuable for any animator, including CG, stop motion and cut-out style animators. Critically valuable. I'm not saying that "everyone should be able to draw". There are lots of folks that can't do hand drawn but are great animators. But an understanding of the principals is pertinent and hand drawn animation is great way to practise/learn/refine those skills. Having a copy of Flash or Toonboom to practise digital hand drawn animation is a great idea. You can use the brush tool and draw up a pencil test and be able to watch it back instantly and learn from that.
Black Sunrise
Some animators / studios currently or recently doing 2D hand drawn animation:

*Studio Ghibli - From Up on Poppy Hill is the newest Ghibli offering, directed by Goro Miyazaki. Go see From Up on Poppy Hill in theaters, it won't be in theaters for much longer! It's a damn lovely film.
*Bill Plympton - He recently finished a new Simpsons Couch Gag, a reimagining of Windsor McCay's The Flying House and is soon to release the pencil test and a production blog for his upcoming feature Cheatin'
*Nick Cross He's been hard at work making an entire feature called Black Sunrise. His Tumblr. The trailer for Black Sunrise.
*Minkyu Lee just finished working on the beautiful Adam and Dog which I was fortunate enough to see on the big screen at the Animated Oscar Shorts Screening this year
*Imaginism Studios (with Bobby Chiu ) just successfully wrapped up a kickstarter campaign to make a fully animated comic book called NIKO and the Sword of Light
*Sylvain Chomet - I'm not entirely sure what Chomet is up to these days. According to Wikipedia he wants his next film to be 3D or live action wheras his last 3 were hand drawn

Are you a hand drawn film maker or animator? Please leave you name in the comments and let me know who you are and what you do and put a link to your work!