Walt Disney and the Multiplane Animation

Hola Amigos! Today I want to share with you this video of Walt Disney explaining the multiplane animation camera, an innovation which changed the animation factory forever, until its analog to digital conversion.  This development consisted in the recreation of a tridimensional space based on a bidimensional scene as a result of dividing the image into a foreground, middle distances and a background. The layers pass in front of the camera changing the speed and distance between them creating an illusion of depth.

The Parallaxillusion is based on the Parallax visual phenomenon: The Parallax is the way an object’s position or direction seems to change depending on the viewing angle. By using this image as an example to emulate two  different points of view (right-left), we notice that the objects in the foreground apparently are moving faster in our visual field than those which are on the background.

In 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animation film with color and sound, was released in the cinema. Despite it was not the first time that Disney Factory used Multiplane Animation, as it was used in the short film The old Mill as a kind tester for its capacities, Snow White performed a freehold of these techniques on a full-length film, as well as giphy (1)other innovations like the rotoscope or the technicolor for first time in animation. This film was such developed that, despite winning only an Oscar from the Hollywood Academy for the soundtrack of the film, Walt Disney was awarded an honorific full-sized Oscar statue and seven miniature statuettes for “recognition as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field” two years after, in 1939.

The photogram attached on the right is a good example of the use of the multiplane camera: On the first frame we see Snow White in a bidimensional background and, as soon as the image is divided into layers, the tridimensional sensations grows. I can differentiate five layers, at least, apart from Snow White’s movements one, all of them with different speeds.  For example, the clouds in the very background are almost static while the trees in the very foreground rush by the camera’s objective.

The introduction of this system in the industry meant a sensible reduction of time and work for the animators. However, it must be said that Disney’s camera creation found its inspiration in European animators, specifically in Germany, where the vanguard movements were catching on. Nevertheless, It is enough for today! I will talk about Disney and his relation with German animators in following posts. I Hope you had enjoyed it!


Christiane Schönfeld (2005) Practicing Modernity, Germany: Königshausen & Neumann.

Raymond Spottiswoode (1968) Film and Its Techniques, Los Angeles, USA: University of California Press.

Chris Pallant (2011) Demystifying Disney: A History of Disney Feature Animation, A&C Black: A&C Black

Pat Williams and Jim Denney (2004). How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life

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One response to “Walt Disney and the Multiplane Animation

  1. Pingback: From Lotte Reiniger to Walt Disney | Anklesound Media Blog·

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