since I saw disney’s PETER PAN for the first time I was fascinated by one extremely long scene – the flight over london and through the clouds. I was convinced that it was a very complicated multiplane arrangement. the combination of character-animation and camera-moves was never explained in any publication about the film. the whole scene is very well planned with the characters moving from far away to extreme close-ups, they turn around their axes and – to make it even more confusing, the camera moves tilted in and out of the background, towards the end apparently with several cloud-layers, below and on top of the characters. stunning!
well, I found an early layout sketch that showed me the basic planning. then I did what I have done so far with over 600 backgrounds, – patch the single screencaptured puzzle pieces of the whole scene together. in this case I have to admit, it was the most complicated ‘reconstruction’ I ever did. the characters were all over the place, covering a lot of detail in the BG, the camera was constantly moving in and out and tilting… it took a while! but it was worth it – now I can see the genius-work in the planning, what an incredible idea!
and – it is not multiplane. patching it all together I noticed that. and – when you look at the scene you understand why multiplane was no option anyway, with all the moving shadows of the flying characters on top of the clouds and all that on focus. impossible in a multi-layered scene. the simple solution – the clouds were airbrushed on different cels and then moved in different speeds. only in the last seconds of the scene, where the camera moves in close to the star, one cloud-level is multiplane. the difference in that case was, the camera was trucking in and a 3-D effect was only possible with an extra cloud-layer.
you can see below the final re-created BG as well as the whole piece with added camera-fields to indicate the camera moves + corresponding screencaptures. and – the whole extremely long BG in 4 pieces in higher resolution.
© disney enterprises, inc
NOTE on july 31, 2011 -
please be so kind and read the comments about this post below. I have to correct myself – it is a multiplane-scene. the precise movement of every single level in the multiplane camera had to be planned in advance anyway. the shadows were just connected to each of the cloudlevels where they had to appear. the animation was done according to the layout of each cloudlevel and was laid as a cel-overlay on top of each them. a little bit complicated in the planning stage, but the same department had managed more complicated assignments, like the truck through about 12 levels with animation in pinocchio ( the daybreak sequence ). sorry for all the confusion, for me the scene is a masterpiece anyway and I guess that the recreation and discussion about this lost jewel helps to understand the inventive filmmaking of the past.