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 when there weren't as many critically or financially successful animated films compared to the Disney Renaissance. While a few films during this time period enjoyed critical and commercial success, such as Dinosaur and Lilo & Stitch, other films released during this period garnered only lukewarm reception and/or performed poorly at the box office, such as Treasure Planet and Home on the Range. 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 not as commercially well-received as the earlier films of the 1990s were. 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, and Kung Fu Panda series. The same can be stated from Blue Sky Studios with their Ice Age series.
In 1995, Disney partnered with Pixar to create Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated feature film. 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, the Disney Studios produced its first fully CGI animated feature, Chicken Little, without help from Pixar. It 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 among the "Big 6"). At the end of 2003, Roy E. Disney started "The Saving Disney War" action. In this action, Michael Eisner was dismissed and at the same time, Walt Disney Feature Animation was closed, and Chicken Little became the last animated film produced under the Walt Disney Feature Animation name.
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 is a revival of the classic anthology film Fantasia and Disney Animation's first film made for the IMAX format.
Dinosaur is a blend of CGI characters and animated scenes with live-action video footage.
The Emperor's New Groove is a Disney take on the buddy comedy genre with madcap humor, although this film also had a tumultuous production cycle.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is Disney Animation's first science-fiction film. Targeting an older audience, the film's art style is based on that of a comic book creator's and had extensive worldbuilding, complete with its own constructed language.
Lilo & Stitch, the second science fiction film but set in the time period of its release date (contrasting Atlantis which was set in the early 20th Century), featured an original story with very unusual characters. Its art style is based on one of its directors' own personal art style. (Coincidentally, its protagonist is called an "experiment".)
Treasure Planet, the third science fiction film but this time set in a completely constructed universe. It is a unique retelling of a classic tale of English literature that is instead set in outer space.
Brother Bear is based on Inuit culture.
Home on the Range is Disney's feature-length take on the Western genre.
Chicken Little was Disney's first ever fully computer-animated film.
Meet the Robinsons is 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 is Disney Animation's first film produced completely under Lasseter and is the first computer-animated film to use non-photorealistic rendering.