I read a laughable quote from someone at Disney a while back saying "People just don't want to watch hand animated movies any more..."
Of course! That's gotta be it! Spirited Away, Triplets of Bellevue - they were successful because why exactly? Can't have had anything to do with actually having decent stories.
But hey - shortsightedness at large companies is something every young artist should be encouraging - especially now.
Let's look at an animated feature: Long development time, expensive development time, expensive distribution. How do we fix it?
Why not take a leaf out of the *nix and open source dev world and open up animated movies? Have a few key and motivated people keeping the thing alive and making necessary decisions (directors, if you will) then leave what can be out there for people to do themselves out there.
Script development can be done with something like Writeboard, from there storyboards can be done by whoever wants to, and ok'd by the directorial staff when they're done. Character sheets can be uploaded, commented upon, designs defended and retried, all through a combination of blogging and source control for the actual images.
Flash isn't expensive, and what's more, thousands of talented people already have it. If they could come to a site, see which shots need doing, grab the storyboards and have a crack at animating it themselves. Editors can come and grab the swf's and splice them together as they see fit. Sound engineers can stop by and add effects, actors can record their interpretations of the dialogue and upload them for use and/or scrutiny...
It might be horrible. It might never see completion. It might find enough like minded people to get together and do it themselves outside the public eye of the internet. If it gets people interested in making movies and telling stories, then as far as I'm concerned - it's worked.
It's certainly possible. Anyone up for an animated Macbeth?