Technological Advances in Animation | Part One

The Walt Disney Animation Studios not only create amazing cinematic works, but are known for their innovation. The team of technologists and artists work together to advance the art and science of animation. The team look ahead to discover new tools and techniques to shape the future of animated storytelling. These techniques push the boundaries of their filmmaking process

In this two-part series we take a look at some of innovations that have come from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. These innovations in technology can be explored in more details in Disney: The Magic of Animation now on at Queensland Museum.

PART ONE: The Early Years…

From Technicolor to the multiplane camera and xerography, the early years saw the Walt Disney Animation Studios utilise new technologies to take their storytelling to the next level. This blog looks at the early years of the studio.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937

This movie not only holds the title as the world’s first ever feature-length animated film in Technicolor, it also incorporated various innovations including the use of live-action reference and the multiplane camera.

Copyright: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937, Jack Campbell, Clean-up animation drawing, graphite and coloured pencil on paper
© Disney Enterprises Inc

Pinocchio 1940

Walt Disney had an uncompromising approach and determination with regards to taking on the challenges of time-consuming styles and new techniques, which led to even greater improvements in quality of the films the company was producing. One example of this is in Pinocchio – an early morning shot near the beginning of the film showcasing the town in the morning that lasts around 50 seconds. This was filmed with a multiplane camera. The scene’s depth and full 3D rendering is one of the many highlights of the film and is regarded even by today’s standards as a monumental achievement.

Copyright: Pinocchio, 1940, Gustaf Tenggren, Concept art, watercolour and ink
 © Disney Enterprises Inc

Lady and the Tramp 1955

Released in 1955, Lady and the Tramp was the Studio’s first animated feature to use widescreen Cinemascope technology. Recently introduced by another studio, Walt saw the value of Cinemascope for animation as it gave a more panoramic view than the 1.37:1 ratio (also known as Academy Ratio), which had previously been used to create movies from 1932 and into the 1950s.

Sleeping Beauty 1959

In development and production for almost eight years, upwards of 300 artists worked together on Sleeping Beauty, contributing to the film’s evocative style of the film which continues to inspire artists to this day. The film also used the new widescreen Technirama technology. The Technirama process used a film frame area twice as large as Cinemascope to give a sharper image with less photographic grain.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians 1961

This was the first feature film in which Disney used a Xerox process of transferring the animators’ pencil lines to cel. This technology was particularly useful to create scenes that featured large numbers of spotted dalmatians on screen at the same time and was a process developed jointly between The Walt Disney Studios, Xerox and with the guiding hand of Ub Iwerks, the animator who brought Mickey Mouse to life.

Copyright: One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 1961, Walt Peregoy, Concept art, gouache, ink and graphite on illustration board
© Disney Enterprises Inc

Learn more about the technological advances in your favourite animations at Disney: The Magic of Animation – don’t miss out – book your tickets today.