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Monday, August 11, 2008

William E. Garity, Inventor

I'd like to follow, and conclude my Multiplane week with a little celebration of the inventor, Bill Garity.Bill Garity 1940
We met Garity several times before, as inventor of the click track and the method for making 3-D (stereoscopic) animation, and now as the patent holder of the Multiplane Camera. He is also one of the inventors of Disney's pseudo-stereophonic sound system Fantasound, of the film mixing console that used the Iron Pencil to follow the score, and of a sound fader that suppresses one channel while boosting another. He even invented a rig for shooting miniature airplanes for the war-time films. And lets not forget that before Disney, he had several vacuum tube patents to his name.

As important as he was to the technical development at the studio, and with him being the first person officially named manager of the studio, it seems surprising that not much has been written about him. He was justly made a Disney Legend posthumously in 1999, and it is on the Legends site we can read most about him.
Since details can drown in the plethora of Legends mentioned there,
I shamelessly lifted the following text from the Legends site:

Bill Garity from the Disney Legends page « Bill Garity gave Disney animation a technical edge. Among his contributions, the film pioneer helped put sound to the 1928 animated short "Steamboat Willie," the first cartoon to feature synchronized sound, and helped develop other inventions. Walt Disney soon came to rely on Bill, naming him the Studio's first manager.

"Bill Garity is an unsung hero of Disney history," said Dave Smith, director of the Walt Disney Studio Archives. "With his pioneering efforts in sound and camera techniques, he helped set Disney Studios apart from others, while his planning and supervisory expertise resulted in the building of a highly efficient Studio in Burbank."

Born in Brooklyn on April 2, 1899, Bill attended Pratt Institute of Art in New York. During World War I, he served two years with the Radio Research and Development section of the U.S. Signal Corps. After the War, he met radio pioneer Lee DeForest and for the next seven years helped develop early sound for film.

In 1927, Bill installed an audio sound system in New York's Capitol Theatre to accommodate the first newsreel with sound, which featured footage of the Washington reception of aviator Charles Lindbergh after his successful Atlantic crossing.

A year later, he met Walt while developing the Cinephone motion picture recording system. Their meeting was fate. Walt was determined to lift animation to a unique storytelling art form and Bill had the technical know-how to help him achieve his lofty goal.

With the success of "Steamboat Willie" and his new sound cartoons, Walt purchased Bill's recording system for his small Hollywood Studio and asked if he would install it and train a technician. Bill's anticipated 60-day trip to California lasted more than 13 years when he joined The Walt Disney Studios in 1929.

While there, Bill headed a department of 18 skilled engineers, who helped design, build and extend the capabilities of the animated cartoon. The team, under Bill's able guidance, also created the multiplane camera, which gave depth to animated films beginning with the 1937 short, "The Old Mill," followed by such animated classics as "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," and "Bambi." The invention, which made it possible to create camera movements, which simulated live-action films, earned an Academy Award® in the Scientific and Technical category.

In 1940, Bill's team invented "Fantasound," an innovative stereo system installed in theaters for Disney's classic, "Fantasia." The stereo system, which greatly enhanced the effect of the musical animation masterpiece, also earned a nod at the 1941 Academy Awards®.

A year later, Bill left the Studio to pursue other entertainment ventures, including serving as vice president and production manager of Walter Lantz Studios.

On September 16, 1971, Bill Garity died in Los Angeles. »

A very worthy Disney Legend! And a nice article, though they have forgotten to mention a few things in their write-up, like the stereoscopic process...

Bill Garity RecordingBill Garity nose his dialsBill Garity 1931< Click on it...
The left image, from Bob Thomas' The Art of Animation (1958) shows Garity recording at a music session with Frank Churchill conducting a studio orchestra. It is in Finch's Art of Walt Disney (1973) as well - we see more but smaller. With him in the picture Walt, of course, and below him Wilfred Jaxon Jackson. I believe the reclining gent in the dark suit to be gag man Earl Duvall.
I stumbled over the middle image... There must be lots more picture to this, but the person who cut the image on the reverse out of a Fantasia program also cut away a good part of our featured engineer...
The right image: when in the early 30's the staff of the studio congratulated Walt, probably on his two Academy Awards® in 1932, Jack King drew this caricature of "sound engineer" Bill Garity.

Let's not forget, on Didier's great blog, we saw the top of his head...

In one publication from 1940 on Fantasound, Garity credited Walt: "We've done things...most of them Walt's ideas, that looked impossible at first."

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Anonymous George Taylor says...

Fantastic article!

Thanks for sharing what little is known about Garity.

Monday, August 11, 2008 at 1:39:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Didier Ghez says...

Thanks Hens. This is excellent, as ever.I have sent Jeremie Noyer a bunch of documents (including some very rare ones) about Garity and he will be working within the next few months on a long and in-depth article about him for Walt's People. It will mostly be Garity "in his own words". The material you have posted last week and this week brought some new elements, for which I am very grateful.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 1:03:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Didier Ghez says...

Hans: Apologies for the typo on your name in the previous comment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 4:33:00 AM PDT  

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