Animated Women of Depth & Color
80 years ago (11/5/37), a short film debuted which forever changed the world of animation – Walt Disney's latest Silly Symphony entitled, The Old Mill. This eloquent tone poem featured two unique developments for animation...
Many are familiar with the debut of Disney's Multiplane Camera which provided a more realistic illusion of depth within Disney's animation photography, yet adding a dimension of depth to animated films had been developed and implemented for some time. Legendary animator Lotte Reiniger's 1926 color-tinted feature-length animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, debuted her overlaying of animated elements on multiple levels. Other studios later experimented with a multi-leveled approach to their films including Ub Iwerks (who left Disney in 1930 to start his own studio), created his own multiplane camera in 1933; and Fleischer Studios developed the Setback Camera rig in 1935 to enhance their storytelling with depth and dimension.
What uniquely sets The Old Mill apart from any other animation at this time, was the new range of colors specifically designed by the women of the Disney Paint Labs to enhance the advanced multi-planed camera techniques within this landmark short.
Colors specifically developed for animated films were relatively new and Disney was the only studio to be advancing this aspect of animation. Mary Weiser and the women of the Disney Paint Lab developed and debuted a unique range of colors that had never been experienced within animation. Color Match Specialist, Betty Kimball noted, "Everything up to that time was in bright colors, but working on The Old Mill, they went into subdued grays and it was a serious picture. And that was when you could feel that a feature was coming on." Animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston later recalled, "Our eyes popped out when we saw all of The Old Mill's magnificent innovations – things we had not even dreamed of and did not understand. Even the inked cels and backgrounds did not look like anything we had ever seen before."
This eloquent short garnered an Academy Award and signaled a new level of sophistication and artistry necessary for the feature-length animation that would follow.