"The Princess and the Frog," Walt Disney Co.'s first hand-animated feature film in nearly six years, is a gamble by the studio that audiences will respond to the traditional medium of Mickey Mouse in an era when animation is dominated by slick computer-generated fare from Pixar Animation and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.

Ironically, it was two of the biggest names in computer animation—Pixar cofounders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, who have overseen Disney Animation since 2006, when Disney bought their company for $7.4 billion—who were behind the decision to return to the hand-drawn technique, and to rehire filmmakers who use it.

Disney in 2003 announced that it was abandoning traditional animation in favor of computer-generated imagery, after a string of hand-drawn flops that included "Treasure Planet" and "Brother Bear." In the same period, DreamWorks' "Shrek" and Pixar's "Finding Nemo" cleaned up at the box office.

But Disney didn't exactly strike pay dirt with its new all-computers, all-the-time approach. The studio's first fully computer-animated feature, 2005's "Chicken Little," posted a middling $135 million at the domestic box office, and 2008's "Bolt" earned $114 million domestically.

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