Cartoon Brew reports that Glen Keane has departed Disney after nearly 38 years. Keane is the supervising animator most identified with Disney’s second Renaissance (Ariel in The Little Mermaid; Beast in Beauty and the Beast; Aladdin in Aladdin; Tarzan in Tarzan). It’s sad but not surprising given the bittersweet experience he had on Tangled (he never could quite conquer his hybrid vision for Rapunzel). In fact, Keane confided to me a year ago at DreamWorks’ annual Oscar brunch — of all places (they were trying to woo him) — that he probably should’ve left Disney to make Rapunzel as an indie. He liked the idea of doing something smaller and uncompromising in 2D. Maybe that’s just what he’ll do now that he’s on his own. Or continue down the path of creating a better hybrid.
All I know is that Keane is one of the few contemporary geniuses from animation I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He’s so talented, creative, curious, and innovative. He never stops drawing and thinking about the craft and and what young people are doing. He could’ve abandoned the CG Rapunzel and go back to a hand-drawn vision when John Lasseter took over Disney. But he adored the challenge — he had something to prove.