The Camera Department

It sure may seem antiquated today but Disney's Camera Department was once considered the hottest cutting edge technology in the movie business. Now, desk top computers can replicate what the mighty Multiplane Camera could only accomplish. And, that required a team of a half dozen crew members.

I took this photograph from the roof of the Animation Building on the Disney studio lot. The Camera Department was directly across the street from us. My trips to Disney's Camera Department back in the fifties was always a thrill. Several smaller cameras were continually in operation as well as the Multiplanes and the famous horizontal camera that was utilized for special shots. Today, the famous department looks like a museum for vintage equipment.

As a young animator, we were required to send out scenes to the Camera Department to be photographed. Naturally, we received the footage by messenger the very next day. I gotta tell you, we felt like big shots having film footage delivered to our offices just like the big guys. Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Milt Kahl were receiving their animation tests and so were we. It made you feel like you were now somehow a member of a very special club. Of course, the animation by Frank, Milt and Ollie were pure Disney gold. Our feeble attempts at animation could only be described as, marginal at best and more often than not, pathetic. In any case, our stuff went to the same camera department. I couldn't help but wonder if the operators in camera remarked to each other, “Who did this crap?”

Today, the Camera Department is no more. Heck, we don't even use motion picture film any longer. Panavision, once a motion picture camera standard in Hollywood for decades has finally shut down their manufacturing of film cameras. The Red and other digital motion picture cameras have replaced film and we've now entered the digital age almost totally when it comes to film production, or should I say, movie production. Like many other things in this changing world, Walt Disney's Camera Department is now another relic. The tools we use today could not even be Imagined back in the fifties. We've come a long way since I took this roof top photograph back in 1958.