- Having visited the multiplane camera scenes of SNOW WHITE, I can only see the usefulness of going to the keystone of the camera, “The Old Mill.” It’s on this lyrical and beautifully produced short that they admittedly devised the idea of testing the multiplane camera in action. However, in an interview I’ve read with director, Wilfred Jackson, we find that the camera wasn’t available for much of this film. It was being tied up with a number of shots from SNOW WHITE. The interview is by David Johnson posted on American Artist‘s site. Here’s the passage I’d read:
- DJ: Since you worked on The Old Mill, you were involved with the multiplane camera. Can you tell me about Garity [the co-inventor] and the invention of this thing and some of the problems and miracles that it did.
WJ: What I can tell you about my experiences with it was the The Old Mill was supposed to be a test of the mutiplane, to see if it worked. Somehow, we were so held up in working on The Old Mill by assignments of animators because Snow White was in work at that time and animators that I should have had were pulled away just before I got to them and other animators were substituted because Snow White got preference on everything. And we got our scenes planned and worked out for the multiplane effects and by that time some of the sequences on Snow White were being photographed. The multiplane camera itself had all kinds of bugs in it that had to be worked out. We were held up until so late that I actually did work on another short – I don’t remember which short. I don’t even remember if I finished it up – did work on some other picture to keep myself busy while we could get facilities to go ahead on The Old Mill. By the time they had got the bugs out of the multiplane camera, they had multiplane scenes for Snow White to shoot and they got it busy on those first. Finally in order to get The Old Mill out the scenes that had been planned for multiplane had to be converted to the flat camera to do the best they could. You won’t find more than a very few multiplane scenes in The Old Mill.
DJ: I wasn’t aware of that.
WJ: I’ve had messed up schedules on pictures but I’ve never had a more messed up one than I can remember for The Old Mill.
So, of course, I’ve searched for scenes that I believe are definitely part of the shoot done on Garity’s vertical Multiplane Camera.
The film is little more than a tone poem of an animated short. It’s about as abstract a film as you’d find coming out the Disney studio in the 30s.
Let’s take a look at some frame grabs from the film, itself:
We open on a slightly-out-of-focus mill with a spider’s web
filling the screen, glistening in focus, in the foreground.
Here, we cut to a long pan up the mill using the multiplane. The lighting in this scene is inconsistent. There are flares and glares and some minor jerks to the artwork. No doubt this was done on the multiplane camera, and it would have been reshot if there were time and money.
I couldn’t hook up the artwork to simulate the pan since overlays from one frame didn’t match the next. It was all moving with multiple levels (maybe five?) and they didn’t match from one frame to the next.
The shot starts from the top of the mill looking down on the birds.
At this point there is a cut outside to bats fleeing the Old Mill for the night.
Gustaf Tenggren made some preproduction drawings of this scene which can be found in John Canemaker‘s book, Before the Animation Begins which in itself is something of a tone poem of a book devoted to many of the designers at the Disney studio.
Now here are frame grabs from the film, itself.