Disney’s Animation Multiplane Camera Is A Blast From The Past

It could be argued that for my generation, no other company had such an impact on our early childhood entertainment than did Disney. Beyond the children watching their cartoons, though, their impact on entertainment and animation technology should go without saying.

One of those many innovations was their Multiplane Camera, and it is really cool from both a photography and animation perspective. This camera was essentially how Disney as able to create semi-realistic three-dimensional environments back in the hand-drawn animation days.

The camera worked by separating the various elements of a scene and moving them independently of each other, snapping a frame for each movement. The resulting footage took Disney’s animations to another level in a time when computer graphics were not even an idea. This informative video from the Disney archives is really great at explaining the technique, and the camera itself.

I found this view into analog animation techniques rather interesting. Of course all of this is now done with computers rendering 3D environments. But one could, if they wished, fairly easily use this same method today with a digital camera. It would take forever to capture a feature length animation, but the results would true to that old Disney style.

I think it goes to show interesting ways that photography helped shape the course of our entertainment in ways that are not readily apparent. Many have the idea that animation back then was simply people drawing cartoons on paper, but clearly, as can be seen here, the process was much more advanced and photography dependent than they could realize.

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.