If there is one thing Disney’s animations are best liked for, it is definitely their hand-drawn classics.
An introduction to Disney’s hand-drawn animations
Hand-drawn animations were what built the Walt Disney empire which eventually coined the term Disney Renaissance throughout the late-’80s to mid-’90s. To breathe life into a 2D film, each frame was delicately drawn by a team of talented animators just to complete one scene.
Disney’s hand-drawn animations brought about a burst of colours, warmth, elegance and a spark of child-like curiosity to the screens. As every frame was painstakingly created by hand, the older Disney movies feel very personal and hit closer to home – the likes of Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).
The creative process for Disney’s hand-drawn animations
Traditional animation is a technique in which each frame is drawn by hand. Until computer animation became a thing, it had been the dominant technique used by animation creators worldwide.
After a storyline is set and the script has been finalised, a storyboard is derived. The storyboard visualises a break down of each scene, shot by shot. At this stage, the angles and point of views are determined for the team of animators to have a better understanding of how each scene should flow.
The animation process starts by drawing sequences on sheets of transparent paper atop a desk or light table, one frame at a time, using coloured pencils. Oftentimes, each major character of a 2D film is assigned an exclusive team of one supervising animator, several lead animators and many other assistant animators.
The lead animator had the honours of drawing out the key details of a scene, enough to get across the movement and poses of a character to the audience such as a jumping or flying scene. Then, the assistant animators would fill in any missing details or frames between scenes.
Until approval is sought, the cycle of correcting drawings never ends.
Why did Disney reuse animations?
Now that we know how tedious and meticulous hand-drawn animations are, can we really blame Disney for resorting to recycling their animations?
The practice of reusing animations helped Disney cut down on time, effort and cost that went into completing an entire film. Also known as rotoscoping, this technique captures the basic movement of a character and all the team of animators have to do is add on the character details over the footage.
The Daily Mail first reported on this practice back in 2009. A quick search for “Disney reused animation” on YouTube will call up plenty of examples.
Redrawing an existing sequence requires a lot of work and when a deadline is fast looming, the animators will decide to just wholly reuse previous fitting footages.
Which Disney animations contain recycled scenes?
Avid fans of Disney’s animation films have spotted many recycled scenes but here are a few.
Remember the famous scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) where she danced around the little cottage with the dwarves? The exact same frames were reused in Robin Hood (1973) where Maid Marian danced in circles with the other animal characters!
Then there is also the exact pose from when the three pups from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) were perched over a sofa while the three wolf pups from The Jungle Book (1967) were overlooking the stream on top of a huge stone.
So yes, Disney did recycle animation and only got exposed on the Internet several decades later but here’s a fun idea. The next time you decide to revisit your favourite Disney animations, you can try spotting the similarities for yourself.