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Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 7

Can't get enough of the Multiplane camera either?
Here is my final posting to top off Multiplane week. I thought of spreading this out, like Disney's 18 month "year," but enough is as good as a feast, especially since most of the readers are out locating metal columns or attending welding class.

First the simplified drawing printed in Bob Thomas' Art of Animation (1958). It shows how the levels can move in relation to each other. Where the patent art was a complex schematic, this one is down to the basics...
Working the Multiplane 3

The camera at work - first in plain clothes (a clearer version of the one in the first posting of this series), then in lab coats, the two right images seemingly press pictures - the gent on the right seems to be the department head. (Suggestions anyone?)
Working the Multiplane 1Working the Multiplane 2Press image

The next picture on the left has a caption written up: « The multiplane camera room. This new type of camera, developed within the studio at a cost exceeding $75,000, is seen at the left. It consists of seven movable horizontal planes so that characters can be shot at various levels. Each level can be individually lighted. The multiplane method also serves to give an illusion of depth to the photography. In many cases, it is not necessary to shoot a scene on the multiplane camera. Only about 30 per cent of the footage of "Snow White" was shot on the multiplane. » So this probably dates from early 1938, and seems to show the same camera as in the first picture above, with a fixed camera level. Note there is only one camera operator on the Multiplane crane. The Snow White draft only mentions two scenes specifically using Multiplane, Seq. 3-B Sc. 1 & 3, the end of her collapse with the animals' eyes. Some scenes are using the larger 6½ Field, though, and we saw in a technical reference that these first could only be shot on the Multiplane camera. It was used as a big version of a stationary setup!

The center image comes from the curious French 1987 exhibition catalogue "Les Artistes de Walt Disney," edited by Pierre Lambert, who later did those wonderful glossy art books. I still wonder where he got his list of the Nine Old Men from... The neg number indicates that this was shot for a TV show. It seems to be a still for The Tricks of our Trade—more later. Note the holder for the glass panes.

On the right we see Walt himself visiting the camera department during the shooting of Alice in Wonderland in March 1951.
Working the Multiplane 3Working the Multiplane 4Shooting Alice

As a treat within a treat, here is a little collection of Card Walkeriana. As you probably know, Esmond Cardon "Card" Walker (born in Rexburg, Idaho 1/9/1916 - died in La Cañada Flintridge, California 11/28/2005) started as mailroom clerk at Disney in 1938. Then worked in the camera department, and became one of the unit managers for short subjects. US Navy during WW2, then, back at Disney, head of the ARI, the Audience Research Institute, Disney's focus group research department. Vice president of advertising and sales in 1956, elected to the board 1960. President in 1971, CEO in 1976, Chairman of the board 1980, retired as CEO in 1983, member of the board of directors until 1999. Named Disney Legend in 1993. He was "one of Walt's Boys." But here, of course, we are only interested in him as cameraman.

First the image from Finch's Art of Walt Disney (1973) with Walker top left, on the same camera as in the previous two images. Then the lamp voltage regulators, with the future company president on the phone. Then the same setup as above but with Card on the left - with eyes closed. Finally four members of the crew, with Card Walker at the top...
From FinchLamp Voltage ControlCard and bossCrew with Card Walker on top

That's all very nice, but of course the most important thing we can do is to remember to revisit the films that were made possible with this invention—not because of the camera, but because of their amazing storytelling and entertainment.

Relive the excitement of The Old Mill!

Watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, "Walt Disney's First Full-Length Feature Production in Multiplane Technicolor." "When the script called for the camera to "'truck up' for a close-up," the lens remained stationary, while the cels moved upward." (From TCM).

Then see the second film released as being "in Multiplane Technicolor," Pinocchio—especially sequence 2 scenes 1.01 to 1.06—for arguably the most famous Multiplane shot over the rooftops of Geppetto's village, laid out by Thor Putnam, and costing as much as a $48,000 by itself, more than an entire short film. "The backgrounds which we were able to use on this camera for Pinocchio were twice as big as those which fitted into the original multiplane set-up used in Snow White." (From TCM's notes). The Pinocchio draft mentions most all Multiplane scenes.

Watch Fantasia again. It is brimming with Multiplane shots!

Check out the opening of Bambi as laid out by Dick Anthony.

Admitted, there are scratches and cel flicker. Still, you'll have to agree, the effects added by the Multiplane camera are stunning...

We end Multiplane week with the following piece that someone uploaded to YouTube. You can find this on one of the Disney Treasures DVDs - from the show The Tricks of our Trade, the February 13nd, 1957 Disneyland episode. It was obviously produced for entertainment, but hey, you see the actual camera at work! (As in Walt's intro to The Old Mill).

Nowadays, using computer technology "virtualizes" the Multiplane camera, so in most animation software used for hand-drawn film, one can in some way simulate by pressing a few buttons what might have taken a large crew weeks to accomplish back in the analog days of Pinocchio and Fantasia.

I think it is good to learn how things used to be done, the hard, old-fashioned way, so we can make a better product in the future. Some things were more fun to do because it was harder to do them. Only occasionally I had the chance to work directly with a similar contraption, and yet - - -
I miss the romance of the Multiplane camera...

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Anonymous Thad says...

These posts are great, Hans. I am enjoying the history. When you are all done I want to copy and paste them in to Word and print them out as a hard copy for reference.

Off topic: by any chance do you have the draft for "Wise Little Hen"? Do you know who animated Donald's debut? Was it Dick Lundy?

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 1:51:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Michael J. Ruocco says...

What a great series of posts, Hans! Well done!

I remember years ago when I wanted to create films the old-fashioned way. I even tried to build my own multiplane camera out of plywood, some drawer rails & an old camcorder, to no avail of course. After reading these posts & looking at scematics/blueprints displaying the mechanisms & workings of the multiplane, it's crazy looking back how I even 'thought' about making one my own. Youth...

The opening Multiplane shot from Bambi is probably one of my favorite scenes in Disney film. To the average-viewer side in me, it's a beautiful & welcoming shot that puts me right in the film. To the technical side of me, it leaves me astounded & I wonder how they could possibly set up all those planes of painted glass & running water animation together & shoot the whole minute long shot perfectly & seemlessly. That shot is to me like an aquarium, I could stare at that scene for HOURS!

& the long Ave Maria shot at the end of Fantasia... after I heard the whole story of how they had to reshoot it again & again & rush it from the studio to the premiere in New York at the very last minute, I couldn't believe it! Those cameramen were real devoted hard workers!

Once again, thanks for posting about the Multiplane, Hans. A worthwhile read, indeed!

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 2:36:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Hi Thad - I don't have the draft, but that info should be in the Merritt/Kaufman book, which I do not have on me. I think it was Dick Huemer who animated Donald, but right now I am not sure...

Hi Michael - I had fun doing this, as I really like the Multiplane...

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 2:43:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Joost Blox says...

Hans, thank you for this great series!

In December of 2007 I visited the "Once upon a time: Walt Disney" exhibit in Paris. They had the background of the opening scene from Pinocchio on display there (which turned out to be painted on wood). There also was a multiplane setup of the village and castle from Cinderella. Very interesting to see the glass overlays up close and get a "live" multiplane shot.

The village fly-over scene from Pinocchio is my favorite; the amount of artistry, planning, coordination and patience required is mind-boggling!

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 4:33:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Hi Joost - I saw those in Montreal! They were highlights (together with the huge Walrus model in color from Alice...) Except for the Marguerite Clark Snow White, the DVD of that exhibit was awful, though - very self-importantly French. (Sorry, French readers, nothing personal!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 4:38:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Michael Sporn says...

The Merritt/Kaufman book seems to credit Art Babbitt for the early duck's scenes, particularly his dance. Dick Huemer animated the later ones.

This series has been the gem of the internet over this past week. I can't thank you enough.

Monday, August 11, 2008 at 5:45:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Thanks for your posting directing attention to mine, Mike! I am very glad I am not the only one liking this stuff!
Thanks also for checking up on the Wise Little Hen!

Monday, August 11, 2008 at 7:09:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Joost Blox says...

Yesterday I rewatched some of the multiplane scenes in Pinocchio. I had never noticed it before, but at the end of the village fly-over scene is a small error: one of the children that passes Gepetto's front door has a small jitter (it looks like two cels were swapped). I don't know if they noticed it at the time; if they did I can fully understand that they did not want to go to the cost and effort of reshooting the entire scene...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 10:32:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Boris Hiestand says...

I was astounded seeing and touching one of the old Multiplane beasts at the Disney Studios when I visited last February.

Amazing to see that these days we can have limitless amounts of planes at a fraction of the time and cost, and we still can't manage to get decent shots looking anywhere near as fantastic as the old ones!

The technology has improved; the love, dedication, planning and sheer craft has been lost it seems.

Monday, August 25, 2008 at 5:14:00 AM PDT  

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