Animator Glen Keane, a 38-year veteran of the Walt Disney Animation Studios who worked on such classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, announced Friday that he is leaving the company.
In a letter sent to his co-workers, he said that while the studio has been his “artistic home,” he had decided after “long and thoughtful consideration” that there are “endless new territories to explore” and so he is moving on.
Keane played a key role in the Disney animation renaissance of the ‘90s, and his departure came as a shock to many in the animation community. “He’s such a Disney icon and an inspiration to so many people,” one source said.
Confirming his departure, a Disney spokesperson said, “After an incredible 38-year career as an animator, storyteller, and filmmaking pioneer with Walt Disney Animation Studios, Glen Keane has decided that the time has come to take the next step in his personal exploration of the art of animation. As much as we are saddened by his departure, we respect his desires and wish him the very best with all his future endeavors.”
Keane could not be immediately reached for further comment. His last project was 2010’s Tangled, on which he is credited as animation supervisor and directing animator for the character of Rapunzel. While he has been developing several ideas, according to one insider, he was not currently attached to any future project at Disney.
Keane brought to life such characters as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and the title characters in Aladdin, Pocahontas and Tarzan.
In his letter, which was posted by the animation web site Cartoon Brew, he said, "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.”
Saying that “I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate form of our time with endless new territories to explore,” he wrote, “I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”