This ultra-rare piece of Disney animation technology can be found in San Francisco

ByJason Beal Localish logo
Monday, April 8, 2024
This ultra-rare piece of Disney animation technology found in SF
The Walt Disney Family Museum is home to the Multiplane Camera, one of only three left in the entire world.

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the Presidio of San Francisco, The Walt Disney Family Museum is home to thousands of rare artifacts and memorabilia from the life and career of Walt Disney. It's also home to one of the rarest pieces of revolutionary film technology, the Multiplane Camera.

"The multiplane camera is a unique device in that it is as large in scale as it is in importance to animation history," says Chris Mullen, Marketing and Editorial Specialist with The Walt Disney Family Museum.

"Animation was really limited to just two dimensions," says Mullens, "part of this is because you couldn't isolate different elements of the scene by background, mid-ground, and foreground until the multiplane camera came about."

The Multiplane Camera was developed in 1937 by Disney's Bill Garity. It was used in every Disney feature film through the 1989s "The Little Mermaid," making it the state-of-the-art in animations for over 50 years.

"One of the most elaborate early shots used on the multiplane camera was sequence two in Pinocchio, released in 1940," Mullen explains. "That opens with the chiming of the town bell, birds flying around, and then a tracking shot going into the village with school children flowing out into the streets."

The multiplane camera required several people to operate it. There was a ladder attached to the side of the rig that someone would climb up the ladder and would operate the camera from right on top, looking down.

"It was actually quite a feat to get the multiplane camera into this particular spot at the museum," says Mullen. "The whole museum essentially had to be oriented around fitting the multiplane camera in this space. The multiplane camera begins on the first floor in the museum store and goes upward into the second floor into the main galleries."

If you find yourself interested in the many innovations in Disney animation, live action filmmaking, nature documentaries, and theme parks, the best place to see that is at The Walt Disney Family Museum, located in the Presidio of San Francisco.

For more information, visit here.