Strange World's Producer and Animators Reflect on 100 Years of The Walt Disney Company

Strange World is hitting theatres in November, and it marks the latest feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Next year will mark 100 years since The Walt Disney Company began, and there's certainly a lot to celebrate, especially in the wide world of animation. There are folks who have been working for the company for quite some time, including Strange World producer Roy Conli, whose first producing credit was on The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996. recently had the chance to chat with Conli during a press event for Strange World and we asked about how much Disney Animation has changed over the years. 

"I think that the wonder of animation is that every film is different in terms of the technology," Conli shared. "I started off with hand-drawn with a little bit of computer stuff and then I did Treasure Planet, that was 50/50 hand-drawn and computer, and then Tangled, which was all. And I have to say that we talked earlier about the DNA of this place as a hand-drawn studio, what I love and I was watching [Strange World] today and was just blown away. Our animation is so good, because of that DNA from hand-drawn, and then you take what you can do in CG, in terms of peril in CG is so much better than hand-drawn actually. So the combination of the two just blows my mind and I love how each film is different and it just keeps getting more inclusive and better." also spoke with Sean Jenkins, who served as Head of Environments on Strange World and also worked on Bolt, Tangled, Moana, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen II, and more in various roles. During the interview, we asked Jenkins about his history with Disney Animation.

"I've been with Disney for 26 years and in this building since 2002, when we started setting up for Chicken Little," Jenkins explained. "So I've seen a lot of changes through it. And I think that that's probably one of the biggest takeaways that I have is that it is a division. It is a part of Disney that's always evolving. It's always changing. It's always kind of looking for the next place to take the medium. So that's what keeps it really exciting. I'm learning new stuff every day. And I've been here for quite a while and we're always pushing the limits. We see what a movie does. We see all the kinds of new things that come out in it and it gets you excited. And then it's almost a challenge of, 'Okay, well... how can we put more into the next movie? How can we have it be stronger or richer or something that you haven't seen before?' So for me, it's all about that kind of continual evolution."

Jenkins added, "It is cool to have a studio with a rich history and a lot of people who've been here for a long time to be able to pull from it. So you're really supported as you then try to build a world from scratch."

Strange World's Heads of Animation Amy Smeed and Justin Sklar, who both have a long history with the company, also spoke to about Disney's 100th anniversary. 

"I think what I love about being a part of this studio and why I've stayed here for so many years is I love the legacy," Smeed explained. "I love the stories that we tell. It feels like they're stories that last forever. So, I mean, for me, that's why even if I am not connecting with a specific idea on something, I always connect with the characters."

"I think in terms of the hundred-year anniversary, what I think is to Amy's point, we talk a lot about legacy," Sklar added. "I think where we are in this moment, I think is great for the hundredth year because I think we always talk a lot about legacy because we have a lot of legacy in the building. We rely heavily on, again, animators like Eric Goldberg, and Randy Hancock, and Mark Henn, who are phenomenal and know more about animation than anyone."

He continued, "But what I think is exciting about this film, what I think is exciting about what we're doing with Wish, is we're really trying to not only look backwards, but look forwards and try and push in different directions, which is really exciting for me. To me, animation's about learning and understanding how the world works, and every time we kind of shift the paradigm a little bit to understand it differently, it's always really interesting."

Strange World opens in theaters on November 23rd. Stay tuned for more from our interviews with the creators behind Strange World