Hello! Thank you for approaching this amiably and not just straight up yelling at me, as I’ve seen some people do to my friends. ‘Cause y’know, that doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
I believe that most people use PIXAR characters as examples of good character design because it’s the best visual aid to make that point. The usual rebuttal to showing a hand drawn character as an example of diverse design is claiming that it’s harder to design a CG character than a hand drawn one. This is and isn’t true. Yes, some things don’t translate from flat drawing to 3D model. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make diverse models. One medium is not harder than the other. Both have their pros and cons. Saying that modeling a character is too hard is insulting the artists’s skills that created those characters and is glossing over the fact that other characters, minor characters within the same film are capable of more diversity in design than the characters we turn all this attention to.
Also keep in mind that the animation industry is a small one. People that worked at Disney could very likely work at PIXAR. Just as they could work at Dreamworks, Reelfx, Sony, etc. They may be adapting themselves to the style of the film, but film is a collaborative medium that shows a little bit of what everyone’s capable of. What someone learned at PIXAR about modeling and design could be just as easily applied to their work at Disney. Using any studio at all as examples of do’s and don’t’s in animation is completely valid.
On to the Disney “style” in general. The Disney style is a myth. There is no such thing as one set look that Disney defaults to in all their movies and if it’s starting to look like that (*cough* Frozen’s character designs *cough*), then this is a problem and something a studio should be critiqued for. Meet the Robinsons doesn’t look anything like Tangled and Hercules looks absolutely nothing like Brother Bear. They could have similar style themes. Tangled is a very rendered, lush style and so is Tarzan, but the two still look nothing alike. Frozen is more graphic with super bright colors, but so is The Emperor’s New Groove and again, they still look nothing alike. This isn’t just nitpick stuff, either. There are entire teams dedicated to the development of the look of a movie. They do research, artistic experiments, everything necessary to set each film apart from each other and make the style lend itself as fully as possible to the story.
Don’t worry. It’s a common misconception that people even at the company seem to refuse to let go. Most of the merchandising franchises that don’t adhere to these styles and make characters more generic to be more “marketable” is not helping this misconception. What most people probably perceive as the Disney “style” is probably the work of animators like Freddie Moore, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg, and Mark Henn. They were responsible for animating some of the most memorable Disney characters and the inspiration for succeeding generations of Disney artists, myself included, but they were not the only ones at the studio showing their unique visions.
Does any of that make sense? I know I have a tendency to ramble and everything doesn’t always add up. I’d be happy to answer further questions.