Disney Shifts TV Animation Group

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The Walt Disney Co. is realigning its animation outfit, moving its television animation unit into the division controlled by ABC Cable Networks Group president Anne Sweeney.

The shift is part of a wider restructuring that includes the appointment of a new head of the theatrical animation division, David Stainton, who had led the TV animation unit. Following the changes — which sources said could happen within days — Barry Blumberg, a veteran of the TV animation division, will replace Stainton, reporting to Sweeney.

The television-animation division is responsible for current series productions, such as the strips produced for Saturday-morning broadcast television and for Disney Channel.

Blumberg is credited with shepherding the Disney's One Saturday Morning
kids block on ABC, bringing Kim Possible
to Disney Channel and moving The Legend of Tarzan
to worldwide syndication.

Sweeney already oversees cable networks, including Disney Channel, SoapNet and Toon Disney. The latter channel is approaching 40 million homes passed, a threshhold that could make it ripe for original programming from the in-house division.

"By moving television animation to our cable group, we are combining production and development with programming and distribution: a model that has worked extremely well for our motion picture studio, and for Touchstone Television and the ABC Television Network," said Walt Disney Co. president and COO Robert Iger in a statement.

The company also named Thomas Schumacher as president of Buena Vista Theatrical Worldwide, the unit that produces live stage productions such as Beauty and the Beast.

The shifts are part of Disney's reorganization of its theatrical and animation units to improve overall use of resources and continue the focus on creation of franchise properties and characters, the company said.