On National Camera Day, there’s no better camera technology to celebrate than one of Disney’s own inventions – the Multiplane Camera.

Some of Disney’s most famous classics were created with the Multiplane, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Little Mermaid. Before the camera’s invention, animated features were flat, two-dimensional moving images. The Multiplane Camera would breathe life into static animated features by adding the illusion of depth and realistic three-dimensional visuals to animated films.

Invented by special effects and sound technician Bill Garity at The Walt Disney Studios, the camera was a game-changer for the animation industry. In the words of Walt Disney, the invention revolutionized animation, forever making cartoons “more realistic and enjoyable.”

The Multiplane Camera’s setup is intricate. A camera points down at a series of glass panes, each of which features different layers of a landscape. The camera zooms in and out of each layered pane to add depth to a story’s environment, as though the camera were moving through the layers of a virtual scenery. For example, to bring the foreground closer to viewers, panes could be maneuvered vertically while the background pane remained stationary.

In 1938, The Walt Disney Studios received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award® for the camera’s development. During the same year, Disney would also win an Academy Award for The Old Mill, the first film made using the new device. The camera was patented in 1940.

Other films famously compiled with the Multiplane Camera include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), and Bambi (1942). So started an era of experimentation at The Walt Disney Company and The Walt Disney Studios, a time that would mark the beginning of Disney’s innovative contributions to animation technology.

AlexaDisney Internships & Programs Communications Team