Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

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mr. pebbles jacksonville

Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by mr. pebbles jacksonville » Thu Sep 11, 2014 3:55 pm

Hello again. I have a question for the group. I'm sure we are all aware of the ground breaking multiple camera developed by Walt Disney (or he at least popularized it.) If you were around in the 50's and 60's and saw an animated movie, it was shot on a multiplane camera and almost always by Disney as well. We know that.

My thoughts have been that most older animation cameras have been Bell & Howell 2709's. The Mitchell being equally up to the task but was most likely used to shoot live motion instead.

Although I know that in the 70's and 80's the Mitchell L-Base and cameras were bought up like crazy by the Asian market for animation use due to the light-tight capping shutter.

What made me think about this subject is that I stumbled on a YouTube video of What Disney explaining the multiplane camera. I'm sure I watched it as a kid but I just re-discovered it. Toward the end of the video we see the camera operators (I guest the correct word is animators) pressing the trigger to shoot a frame on the mutiplane. Then we see it - a Mitchell Viewfinder complete with the company acorn.

Of course, this means nothing as most camera utilized the Mitchell Viewfinder no matter what the make. But still, could it be? Did they use a Mitchell Standard? I can't quite make out the body features.

And I have searched on the internet every which way for "camera make and Disney Multiplane camera" but nothing mentions the make of the camera. So, does anybody know? Screenshot is provided. Thanks in advance.


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Re: Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by mitchellbnc » Thu Sep 11, 2014 4:04 pm

Heck Mr. Pebbles, I have no idea. But great topic and I hope somebody more knowledgeable will respond. In the meantime, will you settle for a photo of Walt Disney and a Mitchell BNC? It's in living color. Get it? Wonderful world of .... ah never mind.


Theodore Wilhelm
MitchellCamera.com administrator
color walt disney mitchell.jpg


Re: Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by followthefocus1 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:24 pm

Love the color shot of BOTH Walt and the BNC. I don't know the answer to the question either and I don't even have a nice color photo to share. But I do have this fine B&W one, if you will accept it. Walt is looking rather dapper and I like the tape measure hanging down from the camera. Now that is a real action shot! If you don't see a tape measure than something is wrong/stagged. I also like the sun shade on the external viewfinder.

But back to the Multiplane camera make - I have no idea. So sorry.

Now back to pulling some focus ...
walt disney mitchell.jpg

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Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by marop » Sat Sep 13, 2014 10:18 pm

Hello Mr. Pebbles,

If I may throw in my two cents...I have picked up a few facts; First, of note, the film magazine in your picture is a Bell & Howell, used for 2709s and Eyemo cameras. Secondly I know for certain that Disney did use Mitchell cameras for some of his multi-plane work. In the last of the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Memorabilia auction, a Mitchell camera sold that had been used by Disney. This was a unique camera. It was owned by Technicolor but converted to hold a special filter wheel, and rented to Disney. If you are familiar with the Technicolor 3-strip camera, it simultaneously exposes 3 strips of movie film. Each strips records an individual color, red, green and blue. (If you want to get really technical, it records the color "information" on black and white film). With the Technicolor modified Mitchell, it exposes the color information in three separate film frames. With each exposure of a frame, the color wheel rotates to place a different color filter in front of the lens. Later in the lab the color information is combined into a print. This works because the subject, in this case a single frame of animation, does not move.

I hope this is not too much information for you! I guess the short answer is "yes" Disney used Mitchell cameras on his multi plane work, but, based on your photo, he may have also used Bell & Howells, which is likely. If you search for the auction I reference it will even list some animated films that the Mitchell worked on.


mr. pebbles jacksonville

Re: Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by mr. pebbles jacksonville » Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:35 pm

Pebbles here, thank you Mark. Very informative to my request for clarification. If I can ever return a request for help, I would be happy to do so.



Re: Was the Disney Multiplane camera a Mitchell?

Post by cinemaeng » Tue Oct 14, 2014 4:03 pm

Hello all I had the privlege of bidding to work on one of the Multi Plane cameras in the late 1980's. Of the 2 cameras I looked at they were both based on Bell & Howell 2709 cameras fit with various accessories from other manufacturers as well as custom parts from the Disney machine shop. The exception was the Hall of Presidents camera which had what looked like a complete custom camera on the stand. The only other interesting bit of info I was given at the time was the process of shooting three film frames one each for Red, Green, and Blue for every frame of actual picture. Hope that's of interest.

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