It's back to the drawing board for the Walt Disney Co.

Disney plans to release a 2009 movie that will be animated the old-fashioned way -- by hand-drawing the images rather than letting computer wizardry do the job, the company announced last week at its annual shareholders' meeting in New Orleans.

While other Disney animated movies will open between now and then, "The Frog Princess" is the first to be conceived since Disney's 2006 acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, the outfit behind such blockbusters as "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," "Finding Nemo" and "Cars."

So why would Disney return to its roots after spending $7.4 billion to buy the pioneer of the computer animation, which has since become the dominant form for these movies in Hollywood?

Disney did not return calls Thursday, but industry executives said the move could signal the company's strategy for distinguishing its two animation arms, which remain separate units. Or Disney could be planning to leave the heavily technological animation to its Bay Area sibling.

"We're really proud and excited about this," said John Lasseter, Disney and Pixar chief creative officer at the meeting, which was held in New Orleans in a show of support for the storm-ravaged city.

"The Frog Princess" will be a musical, with songs composed by Randy Newman. Set in New Orleans, the central figure, Maddy, will become the first black among the "Disney Princesses," the company collection of heroines responsible for more than $3 billion in annual retail sales.

Disney dropped the hand-drawn animation that made it famous after 2004's "Home on the Range," which capped a series of disappointments in the genre.

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