The Disney Post-Renaissance (also known as Disney's Second Dark Age or Disney's Experimental Era) refers to an era in the Disney Animated Canon beginning roughly in 2000 and lasting until 2008 where there weren't as many critically or financially successful animated films compared to the Disney Renaissance or most of the films that Walt Disney himself produced and directed while he was still alive. While a few films during this time period enjoyed critical and commercial success, such as Lilo & Stitch and Bolt, other films released during this period garnered only lukewarm reception and/or performed poorly at the box office, such as Home on the Range and Chicken Little. This era is particularly notable for witnessing the decline of traditional 2D animation in the face of stiff competition from DreamWorks and Blue Sky, the departure of Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner and subsequent appointment of Bob Iger to the post, the purchase of Pixar in 2006, and the hiring of John Lasseter and Ed Catmull to oversee all animation at the company. However, most of these films were financially successful at the box office and a few films were even nominated for several film awards, winning a few of them.
The release of Tarzan is retrospectively seen as the end of the Renaissance era. However, it should be noted that some animation historians completely disagree. This is mostly due to the fact some of these films got positive reception from movie critics at the time. Though Disney did continue to release lesser successes such as Fantasia 2000, The Emperor's New Groove, and Brother Bear, they were all not as well-received critically or commercially as the earlier films of the 1990s were and the studio also suffered significant box office losses with Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Home on the Range. Dinosaur and Lilo & Stitch were seen as the only major box office successes during this time, with Lilo & Stitch as the more prestigious film of the two. In addition, Disney found itself facing a new more competitive period, beginning with the rise of DreamWorks Animation as a potent sustained rival with its successful Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon series. The same can be stated from Blue Sky Studios with their Ice Age and Rio series.
In 1995, Disney partnered with Pixar to create Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated feature. In the 2000s, many of Pixar's films, such as Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Up, garnered the same box office results and critical acclaim that the '90s Disney Renaissance films had. With the success of Pixar, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner decided that public tastes had changed, and that it was time to get out of hand-drawn animation altogether ending with Home on the Range. In 2005, Chicken Little, the Disney Studios' first full CGI animated feature produced without help from Pixar, received mixed reviews from critics, with most of the criticism focusing on its mean-spirited tone, though it performed well at the box office. But Walt Disney Company got the worst box office total in 2005 (Only higher than Paramount in Hollywood 6), at the end of 2003, Roy E. Disney started "The Saving Disney War" action. In this action, Michael Eisner was dismissed at the same time, Walt Disney Feature Animation was closed, Chicken Little was become the last animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation.
Whereas their second CGI feature in 2007, Meet the Robinsons, the first animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios received generally positive reviews and a modest box office performance. In 2006, Disney purchased Pixar for $7.4 billion and promoted Pixar's co-founder, John Lasseter, to oversee all of Disney's animated projects. In 2008, Disney's first CGI feature made after the Pixar acquisition, Bolt, was released to critical acclaim and was a box office success. It should be noted that Bolt is sometimes considered to be a part of the Disney Revival.
This era's other nickname, the "Experimental Era", refers to Disney Animation moving away from the storytelling and animation techniques of the Renaissance era and broadening their horizons with more unique films:
Fantasia 2000 was a revival of the anthology film and Disney Animation's first film made for the IMAX format.
Dinosaur was a blend of CGI characters and animated scenes with live-action video footage.
The Emperor's New Groove was a Disney take on the buddy comedy genre with madcap humor, although this film also had a tumultuous production cycle.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire was Disney Animation's first science-fiction film. Targeting an older audience, the film's art style was based on that of a comic book creator's and had extensive worldbuilding, complete with its own constructed language.
Lilo & Stitch, also a science fiction film but set in the modern day (contrasting Atlantis which was set in the early 20th Century), featured an original story with very unusual characters. Its art style was based on one of its directors' own personal art style. (Coincidentally, its protagonist is called an "experiment".)
Treasure Planet, yet another science fiction film but this time set in a completely constructed universe, was a unique retelling of a classic tale of English literature that is set in outer space.
Brother Bear was based on Inuit culture.
Home on the Range was Disney's feature-length take on the Western.
Chicken Little was Disney's first ever fully computer-animated film without Pixar.
Meet the Robinsons was Disney Animation's first film after John Lasseter became chief creative officer, and almost 60% of the film was redone after he joined the studio.
Bolt was Disney Animation's first film produced completely under Lasseter and is the first computer-animated film to use non-photorealistic rendering.