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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Shadowgraph!  ...or: Walt the Inventor

Recently I acquired a few Disney lectures, and I would like to share one of them here that made some things fall into place for me. This is the supplement of a lecture given by Bob Martsch on 06/15/38. Though it is all interesting, look especially at page TWO, the part about the Shadowgraph!
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This was all new to me, or so I thought at first. Slowly it dawned on me: back in the late 70s, I had an opportunity to search out some patents, and I looked for the name Walt Disney. I received a document that left me puzzled, because it didn't make much sense to me. Now, with the above document in mind, it is all coming together! I looked it up on the internet, and yes, there it was again, the same thing! The only patent attributed solely to Walt Disney himself - it is the Shadowgraph!

For easy viewing, here is the patent document as JPGs:
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As a title, "Art of Animation" isn't really explaining a whole lot...
Hands up everyone who has heard of this contraption before!

Now to find some examples... Here are a few:
Three Blind MousketeersSnow White< Click on them!

Of course, there is practically no way of knowing if this was actually invented by Walt himself. On the other hand, it seems that the actual inventors have been allowed by Walt to claim their own inventions on other occasions (unless they had left the studio), as the inventions were assigned to Walt Disney Productions anyway.

Other interesting early Disney patents include the bouncing ball as means of sound synchronization (attributed to Roy O. Disney(!), a month before the premiere of Steamboat Willie), the universally used Click Track (attributed to studio engineer Bill Garity a few months after Ub Iwerks had left the studio), the Bar Sheet (by Walt, Wilfred Jaxon and Bill Garity), a beat generating machine by Garity, and the vertical Multiplane Camera by Garity, a very elaborate patent!

[Addition: in all my years in the animation business, I have never run across anyone using this device. Now, of course, the same effect could be created using a computer simulation. Using the painted drawings, one could map them in a CG program onto a shape. Has anyone done this? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised...]

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5 Comments:

Anonymous George Taylor says...

Wow...

Hans, thanks for sharing these with us. I always marveled at what has been put up on the screen and now I have a much better idea of what they have done.

I wonder how many of these "effects" are still in use today with so much CGI in animation?

Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 6:38:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Michael Sporn says...

This is an absolutely incredible document! Can it possibly be at all cost efficient and/or worth the expense? That WAS the golden age of animation, wasn't it?

Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 7:09:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous David Nethery says...

The fact that they were willing to try stuff like that , constantly experimenting with new methods and inventions is impressive. Hooray for experimentation !

One senses that these artists were in love with the new medium they were pioneering . That's why the period is so endlessly fascinating .

Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 5:43:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous says...

One instance of a multiplane rig that deliberately cast strong shadows of the top level painted cel elements onto the levels below turns up in, of all things, the ultra low budget "Clutch Cargo" barely animated cartoon series of the early 1960's. Cambria Studios made those things.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at 8:57:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Steven Hartley says...

It seems that Bob Martsch was in charge of the Effects Department, maybe he was helping the effect animators for Pinocchio, even he recieved a screen-credit and yet he isn't credited on the draft.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 10:49:00 AM PDT  

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