Xerography was introduced at the Disney studios, in order to ease the graphic reproduction requirements and to produce animations at lower cost. Prior to the introduction of Xerography, the studio had relied on the more traditional animation technique of Rotoscoping for tracing action sequences.
The technique of Xeroxing a cartoonists sketches instead of hand tracing them was first tested in a few scenes from the film ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Eventually the studio began to use Xerography more frequently films, making Disney an early pioneer of using Xerography in the animation process.
Up until 1959 the typical Disney animation style had hand inked outlines which were mostly smoother than the original pencil sketches that they were traced over. By 1959 this style had become a trademark animation style of the Disney Studio’s. However, this would all change when the studio decided to produce animations using the cheaper and more efficient method of Xerography printers to print the outlines of characters.
As Xeroxing developed over time so would the style, quality and craftsmanship of Disney animations.
Downsizing At Disney
Between 1950 and 1962 new technology began to take the place of some of Disney Studio’s staff, as skilled cartoonists were replaced with Xeroxing machines.
After the release of Sleeping Beauty, Disney went on to use the Xerox technology on One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which greatly speeded up the production time and required less staff.
Walt Disney went on to shut down the studio’s short subject department in 1962, as their main attention was now on television and feature films, which were made using the new technology. This arguably led Disney into a golden era of animated feature films.
The Golden Age Of Xeroxing At Disney
101 Dalmatians was the first film to incorporate Xerography and saw a distinct change of style to the previous animations. This was because when a cartoonists images are Xeroxed, every pencil line is copied, giving a scratchy pencil sketch feel to the animation, as opposed to the smooth hand inked outlines in productions such as Fantasia.
From 1961 up to 1989 Xerography was used by Disney Studio’s on some of their most well know films. See below for the list of these films.
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1962)
- The Sword in The Stone (1963)
- Mary Poppins (1964)
- The Jungle Book (1967)
- The Aristocats (1970)
- Bed Knobs and Broomsticks (1971)
- Robin Hood (1973)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
- The Rescuers (1977)
- Pete’s Dragon (1977)
- The Fox and The Hound (1981)
- The Black Cauldron (1985)
- The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
- Oliver and Company (1988)
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
Don Bluth, an animator that had worked at Disney on films such as Petes Dragon, Robin Hood and Winnie the Pooh, went on to open his own studio in which he would use Xeroxing on some hugely popular animated films. These films are listed below.
- The Secret of Nimh (1982)
- An American Tail (1986)
- The Land Before Time (1988)
- All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)
More Recent Use Of Xerography In Animation
Although Xerography is not used as much in recent animations due to the majority of mainstream animations now being 3D, there are still a large number of animations being made using more traditional methods such as the Japanese Anime films.
The earliest commercial Japanese animation dates back to 1917, but it was during the 1960’s when producers of animations started to use Xerography as a technique for copying cels and it was during the 1960’s that the distinct Anime style evolved.
Today the Anime industry has over 430 production studio’s including the hugely popular Studio Ghibli, Gainax and Toei Animations. With a great deal of this style of animation being in 2D, the Xeroxing technique is still alive.