ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Disney Used the Multiplane Camera to Make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Updated on July 21, 2013

Disney shapes the future of cartoons

Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, arrived in California in 1923 with hopes of producing short cartoon films. They started Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with the two as equal partners. Shortly after, a New York distributor agreed to release Walt Disney’s series of short films about a little girl living in a cartoon world and the name was changed to the Walt Disney Studio.

In 1927, the Jazz Singer broke the “silent movies” barrier, becoming the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue sequences. Taking his cue from the Jazz Singer, Disney decided to launch his third Mickey Mouse cartoon with fully synchronized sound. Animation has never been the same since. Steamboat Willie opened to glowing reviews in November 1928 and became an immediate sensation around the world.

Snow White broke all the rules

In 1934, Walt Disney announced he was creating the first full-length animated movie. Dubbed “Disney’s Folly,” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs went on to become a major box office hit, drawing a standing ovation the night it premiered in 1937.

Snow White grossed $3.5 million in the US and Canada and by May 1939, it’s total international gross of $6.5 million made it the most successful film of all time until it was displaced by Gone with the Wind in 1939. These were mind-boggling figures in Depression-era America.

There were several innovations that made Snow White so exciting and such a radical concept. First, it ran 83 minutes, about 10 times longer than the usual cartoons which were typically about 8 minutes. The movie was also the first made in Technicolor and it had an official soundtrack.

The famous multiplane camera
The famous multiplane camera | Source

The multiplane camera

But what made Snow White unique was the special camera Disney used called a multiplane camera. The camera created a three-dimensional effect using two-dimensional drawings by moving them past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another.

The camera also created the illusion of depth. Some parts of the artwork were left transparent to allow other layers to be seen from behind. By having different layers of artwork moving at different speeds, depth could be created – the further away from the camera, the slower the speed.

The appearance of rotation was created by moving the background and foreground images in opposite directions. Disney used this effect when the wicked Queen drinks her magic potion tp turn herself into the old hag who sells Snow White the poison apple.

This display case in the lobby of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco shows many of the Academy Awards he won, including the distinctive special award at the bottom for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
This display case in the lobby of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco shows many of the Academy Awards he won, including the distinctive special award at the bottom for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. | Source

The Golden Age of Animation

Snow White was hugely successful for Walt Disney and he received one large and seven miniature statuettes. The movie ushered in an era of era of success for him and was quickly followed by Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942). These movies were not as immediately financial hits for the studio, primarily because of World War II but became much more so in decades to come as these and other films were re-released in theaters and later on videocassettes and DVDs.

All in all, Walt Disney and his studio produced an astounding 576 animated movies such as Lady and The Tramp and live action films such as Follow Me Boys and Treasure Island.

After The Little Mermaid was made in 1989, the studio switched from hand drawn and painted animation to using a new Computerized Animation Production System or “CAPS.”

Snow White still tops the charts

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not only a groundbreaking animated film, but it also has grossed a phenomenal $184,925,486 since its 1937 premiere and subsequent releases. Allowing for inflation, the film is still in the top 10 American film moneymakers of all time.

This is an interesting video that shows how Disney and his cartoonists made their movies. It also shows the multiplane camera as well as how they produced some of their sound effects.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)