Walt Disney’s MultiPlane Camera

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

An evening pause: This was filmed in 1957, and was almost certainly made to be shown as part of Disney’s weekly television show series for kids that began in 1954 and was one of television’s most popular shows in the 1960s. It describes one of the most important technical developments in animation, developed by Disney, until the arrival of computers.

To repeat: This was made for kids, yet it is thoughtful, entertaining, educational, and quite detailed in the information being conveyed. It treats its young audience with great respect and dignity.

I generally do not watch children’s shows today, but the few that I have seen have generally been quite shallow, overwrought, and would have insulted me, when I was a child. I don’t know if today’s kids would react the same today, because when I was a child Disney’s show was somewhat typical. I expected to be treated with respect. Today’s kids might not have that expectation.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.



  • Ted

    If memory serves wasn’t this esentially the same system used in Mary Poppins when Dick VanDyke did his dance with the penguins?

  • Phil Berardelli

    The genius and painstaking effort required to produce animated features in the days before CGI (e.g., nearly 130,000 individual, hand-painted cells for a 90-minute feature) were supremely impressive. I once had the privilege of interviewing some of the Disney animators for their late-’80s release “The Black Cauldron.” They had been with the organization nearly half a century by then, but their enthusiasm and love of the medium remained undimmed.

  • John

    I remember seeing this on the weekly Walt Disney show. Probably in the 60’s, but that’s so long ago it all blends together.

  • Edward

    Walt Disney says, “The trick of the multiplane camera is movement.”

    Another trick is getting all the planes in focus at the same time. This requires depth of field, which is easily done with a pinhole camera or with a high F-stop. But this requires either more lighting on the object being filmed or more exposure time. As we can see in the video, they keep the small aperture open for a couple of seconds in order to get enough light through it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *