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Tag Archives: Technique

April 2

April 2, 1899 – Sound and Camera Pioneer and Disney Legend Bill Garity is Born

“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.” – Disney Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith

On April 2, 1899, Bill Garity was born in Brooklyn, New York. After attending the Pratt Institute of Art in New York, he served with the Radio Research and Development sector of the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I. His work in radio continued to flourish when, after the war, he met and worked with Lee DeForest, a pioneer in the field of radio. The pair would work on the development of sound for the earliest films. As Garity was working on the Cinephone motion picture recording system in 1928, he met a young Walt Disney, who was hoping to elevate the animated art form. With Garity’s help, Steamboat Willie became a hit for the fledgling Disney Studios, and Disney bought the Cinephone system with an offer for Garity to come out to Hollywood to install it and train a technician to operate it. Garity officially joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 and stayed with the company for over 13 years, leading a department of 18 engineers. At Disney, Garity was instrumental in creating such innovations such as the multiplane camera, which earned the studio an Academy Award in the Scientific and Technical category; the team also invented Fantasound, a unique stereo system that was installed in theaters specifically for the animated feature film Fantasia. Garity left the studio in 1940 to pursue other technical ventures, and ended up serving as the vice president and production manager for the Walter Lantz Studios. He passed away on September 16, 1971, in Los Angeles California. For his groundbreaking technical expertise and ability to help Walt achieve his dream of the elevated animated film, Garity was posthumously honored as a Disney Legend in 1999.


February 3

February 3, 2014 – Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story Premieres at the El Capitan Theatre

“When you are born blank in a painted world, love can give you color.”

On February 3, 2014, the stop-motion short film Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The film would be released on the Google Play platform on February 10, and would continue to play at the El Capitan alongside a limited-time showing of Lady and the Tramp to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It was produced by Disney Interactive Entertainment, and was directed by Greg Shewchuk, Paul Foyder, Michael Ambs, Whitfield Scheidegger, and Regina Roy.

The short begins with the character Blank being released into the painted world, and soon spotting Bow, a similarly blank Vinyl. Bow gives Blank a bow tie, and the two watch the sunrise together, with Blank giving Bow a flower. The mood quickly changes when a strange creature arrives and takes Blank Minnie away on a train. Not wanting to lose his love, Blank Mickey hops on the top of the train as it rolls along, and sets off on an adventure to find her, making unlikely friendships, traveling through the woods at night, and doing whatever it takes to find her.

April 10

April 10, 1972 – Bedknobs and Broomsticks Wins Academy Award for Special Visual Effects


“Treguna, Mekoides, Trecorum Satis Dee.”

On April 10, 1972, the 44th Academy Awards were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Nominated for five Academy Awards, the live-action feature Bedknobs and Broomsticks managed to go home with one for Best Visual Effects, beating out the film When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth by Hammer Films, distributed by Warner Brothers. One of the effects used included the sodium screen vapor process (originally developed by Ub Iwerks), which was used mostly for the flying bed scenes and involved a three-strip Technicolor camera that removed the sodium light by use of a prism. The sodium process has since been replaced by green screens and blue screens, as well as compositing via computers.

March 25

March 25, 1996 – John Lasseter is Awarded a Special Academy Award for Toy Story

John Lasseter Award

“Now we take you to the world of computer animation, where director John Lasseter has proved that a boy with a hard drive can go a long way.” – Presenter Robin Williams

On March 25, 1996, the 68th Academy Awards were held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. At this ceremony, John Lasseter was awarded a special Academy Award for the creation of the first fully computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, calling its creation a milestone in the achievement of motion pictures. The film had been a long time in the making, going back to Lasseter’s aspirations after starting at Disney decades earlier. Lasseter showed up on stage to receive the award, bringing with him a Woody and a Buzz Lightyear toy. Lasseter thanked the Academy for its longtime support of student filmmakers, as well as everyone at Pixar and Disney for their support and effort into making the film.

February 14

February 14, 2004 – John Lasseter is Honored by the Art Directors Guild


“In 2004, Lasseter was honored by the Art Directors Guild with its prestigious ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery’…”

On February 14, 2004, the 8th annual Art Directors Guild Awards were held in California. Amongst the winners for best in film and television for 2003, John Lasseter from Pixar was honored by the guild with a special award for “Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery” thanks to his work in groundbreaking computer animation.

February 7

February 7, 2009 – Ed Catmull is Awarded the Gordon E. Sawyer Award


“…for his lifetime of technical contributions and leadership in the field of computer graphics for the motion picture industry.”

On February 7, 2009, President of the Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Animation Studios was honored with the Gordon E. Sawyer Award at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award, first presented in 1981, is presented to those whose technological advances have helped the industry. Catmull was instrumental in creating the fundamentals of what would become computer animation, with his film A Computer Animated Hand being hailed as groundbreaking. He would go on to found three computer graphics research centers at New York Institute of Technology, Lucasfilm Ltd., and Pixar. Catmull had previously received two Scientific and Engineering Awards for his work in the film industry, winning as part of a team for RenderMan software in 1992 and part of a team for Digital Image Compositing in 1995.

February 4

February 4, 1999 – Pixar Announces PixarVision


“[David DiFrancesco] recently led our team of scientists in developing PixarVision, which uses solid state lasers to record on multiple film formats with more quality and speed than ever before.” – Ed Catmull

On February 4, 1999, Pixar Animation Studios announced the creation of PixarVision, a new proprietary laser recording system that converts computer animation data onto motion picture film stock. The process was tested on the studio’s second animated feature A Bug’s Life, and was announced to be used on all Pixar animated features, starting with Toy Story 2. The process itself replaces the cathode ray tubes used to create the images that expose the filmstock with laser beams that are carefully controlled. The new process boasts higher quality color reproduction, sharper images, and faster recording. PixarVision, headed up by David DiFrancesco, was awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences with a Scientific and Technical Academy Award on February 27, 1999.

September 17

September 17, 1917 – Visual Effects Coordinator and Disney Legend Bob Broughton is Born

Bob Broughton

“If it looked like we doctored up a scene, we were a failure. Our effects weren’t supposed to be obvious.”

On September 17, 1917, Robert Broughton was born in Berkeley, California. A man of many talents, Broughton studied chemistry, physics, math, and optics at the University of California at Los Angeles. He joined the Disney Studios in 1937 in the mailroom, and quickly found his way to the camera department where his first major assignment was to shoot the test camera for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; his job ensured that the animated scenes flowed smoothly before the final production shot. Broughton was then moved to the multiplane camera, becoming one of only two operators for the complex machine. After moving to the special photographic effects department and assisting with the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment, Broughton found himself promoted to camera department supervisor. His work with the studio was interrupted by World War II, where he served in the Army as a cameraman for the Office of Strategic Services. His skills were used on an Oscar Award winning film about the Battle of Midway, and after the war, he returned to Disney to assist fellow Disney Legend Ub Iwerks. Broughton’s technical wizardry created magical effects for several animated and live-action films, and even for the Disney Anthology series. He continued to work on films until his retirement in 1982, and remained involved with the company through the Golden Ears Retirement Club for fifteen years. He was honored for his work in Disney film in 2001. In 2009, Broughton passed away at the age of 91.

August 12

August 12, 1919 – Supervisor of the Paint Lab and Disney Legend Dodie Roberts is Born

Dodie Roberts

“I love puzzles, and mixing paint was like putting together a puzzle. It was fascinating to create colors and to get them exact.”

On August 12, 1919, Dodie Roberts was born in Plainview, Nebraska. After attending college in Delaware, Roberts moved to Southern California in 1939, and was invited to visit the burgeoning Disney Studios. In October of that year, Roberts gained employment at the Studio as a runner for the Ink and Paint Department. Soon after, she was promoted, being given the choice position of creating new colors for the staff. The work was challenging and exact, as many proprietary colors were created in the lab for use in animated features; only the Supervisor of the department was allowed to know the ingredients in the paints, as there was fear that other studios could swipe the formula. In 1972, Roberts became the Supervisor of the Paint Lab, overseeing eight staff members and more than 500 shades of color. One of her responsibilities was making sure that the right paints were selected, down to the gradations of single colors to match the lighting and mood in any particular scene. In 1984, Roberts retired after 45 years with Disney. A shade of purple was developed in her honor, named Dodie 6. She, along with fellow employee Al Jones, worked to found the Disney Golden Ears Retirement Club in the same year for former employees. In 2000, she was honored as a Disney Legend. In 2008, Roberts passed away at the age of 88.

June 13

June 13, 1990 – The Television Special Dick Tracy: Behind the Badge…Behind the Scenes Airs


“Dick Tracy on one hand is about good versus evil, and on the other hand it’s a story about people wanting to form a family.”

On June 13, 1990, the television special Dick Tracy: Behind the Badge…Behind the Scenes aired. The special took viewers behind the scenes of the comic turned film, with a look at how Warren Beatty acted as both lead actor, producer, and director, how actors like Al Pacino were transformed from actors to comical mobsters, and how Madonna was able to become character Breathless Mahoney. Beginning from its origins as Chester Gould’s comic, this featurette explores the work it took to turn this to a big screen action film, from the art of make-up magic to the explosive experts for the elaborate scenes. The featurette was written by Rick Sublett, and directed by Gayle Hollenbaugh.