Computer Animation Production System

The Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) was a digital ink and paint system used in animated feature films, the first at a major studio, designed to replace the expensive process of transferring animated drawings to cels using India ink or xerographic technology, and painting the reverse sides of the cels with gouache paint. Using CAPS, enclosed areas and lines could be easily colored in the digital computer environment using an unlimited palette. Transparent shading, blended colors, and other sophisticated techniques could be extensively used that were not previously available.

The completed digital cels were composited over scanned background paintings and camera or pan movements were programmed into a computer exposure sheet simulating the actions of old style animation cameras. Additionally, complex multiplane shots giving a sense of depth were possible. Unlike the analog multiplane camera, the CAPS multiplane cameras were not limited by artwork size. Extensive camera movements never before seen were incorporated into the films. The final version of the sequence was composited and recorded onto film. Since the animation elements existed digitally, it was easy to integrate other types of film and video elements, including three-dimensional computer animation.

CAPS was a proprietary collection of software, scanning camera systems, servers, networked computer workstations, and custom desks developed by The Walt Disney Company together with Pixar in the late-1980s. It succeeded in reducing labor costs for ink and paint and post-production processes of traditionally animated feature films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It also provided an entirely new palette of digital tools for the film-makers.

History and evolution of the CAPS project

The Computer Graphics Lab at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) developed a "scan and paint" system for cel animation in the late 1970s. It was used to produce a 22-minute computer-animated television show called Measure for Measure. Industry developments with computer systems led Marc Levoy of Cornell University and Hanna-Barbera Productions to develop a video animation system for cartoons in the early 1980s.[1]

The first usage of the CAPS process was Mickey standing on Epcot's Spaceship Earth for "The Magical World of Disney" titles. The system's first feature film test was in the production of The Little Mermaid in 1989 where it was used in a single shot of the rainbow sequence at the end of the film.[2] After Mermaid, films were made completely using CAPS; the first of these, The Rescuers Down Under, was the first 100% digital feature film ever produced. Later films, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame took more advantage of CAPS’ 2D and 3D integration. [3] [4]

In the early days of CAPS, Disney did not discuss the system in public, being afraid that the magic would go away if people found out computers were involved.[5] Computer Graphics World[6] magazine, in 1994, was the first to have a look at the process.[7]


In 1992, the team that developed CAPS won an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Scientific and Engineering Award. They were:[8]

Technical abilities

CAPS was capable of a high level of image quality using significantly slower computer systems than are available today. The final frames were rendered at a 2K digital film resolution (2048 pixels across at a 1.66 aspect ratio), and the artwork was scanned so that it always held 100% resolution in the final output, no matter how complex the camera motion in the shot. Using the Pixar image computer, images were stored at 48-bits per pixel. The compositing system allowed complex multi-layered shots that was used almost immediately in The Rescuers Down Under to create a 400-layer opening dolly shot. The DALS system made use of one of the first large-scale, custom RAID systems in the film industry.

Decline and legacy

Following the box office under-performance of films such as Treasure Planet in 2002 and Home on the Range in 2004, Disney Feature Animation's management team (like DreamWorks Animation) were convinced that audiences much favored 3D computer animated features and closed down their traditional 2D animation department (until 2007 when Lasseter stepped in as the studio's new head of management and called for its reopening). The CAPS desks were removed and the custom automated scanning cameras were dismantled and scrapped. As of 2005, only one desk system remained (and that was only for reading the data for the films that were made with CAPS).

Since the merger with Pixar, as most of the CAPS system was discontinued, Disney's subsequent traditionally animated productions; How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007), The Princess and the Frog (2009), The Ballad of Nessie (2011), and the Winnie the Pooh (2011), were produced using Toon Boom Harmony computer software, which offered a more up-to-date digital animation system.

Projects produced using CAPS

Feature films

Short films


  1. ^ Bruce Wallace, Merging and Transformation of Raster Images for Cartoon Animation, Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 1981, Vol 15, No. 3, Aug. 1981, 253-262.
  2. ^ Barbara Robertson (January 2010). "The Tradition Lives On". Computer Graphics World. 33 (1). Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  3. ^ Robertson, Barbara (July 2002). "Part 7: Movie Retrospective". Computer Graphics World. 25 (7). December 1991 Although 3D graphics debuted in earlier Disney animations, Beauty and the Beast is the first in which hand-drawn characters appear in a 3D background. Every frame of the film is scanned, created, or composited within Disney's computer animation production system (CAPS) co-developed with Pixar. (Premiere: (11/91)
  4. ^ "Timeline". Computer Graphics World. 35 (6). Oct–Nov 2012. DECEMBER 1991: Beauty and the Beast is the first Disney film with hand-drawn characters in a 3D background. Every frame is scanned, created, or composited within CAPS.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  5. ^ "Alvy Ray Smith: RGBA, the birth of compositing & the founding of Pixar". 5 July 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Visual Effects - Computer Graphics World - 3D Modeling - Animation - CGI". Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Disney lets CAPS out of the bag". Computer Graphics World. July 1, 1994 – via (Computer Animation and Production System used for animated motion picture The Lion King)
  8. ^ "Results Page - Academy Awards® Database -AMPAS". Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
  9. ^ "The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb., Inc. Retrieved 2014-09-15. caps personnel
Bob Lambert (executive)

Bob Lambert (c. 1957 – September 7, 2012) was an American media executive with The Walt Disney Company for more than twenty-five years. Lambert is widely credited with championing the transition to computer animation (CGI) within Disney and the larger entertainment industry.Lambert was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia. He received his bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech.Lambert, who was with Walt Disney Feature Animation at the time, developed the plan to transition Disney animated film production from hand-drawn, cel animation with CGI. Along with leaders at Pixar, Lambert spearheaded the development of Disney's Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), which earned an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 1992.In addition to his work with Disney, Lambert founded and chaired Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a consortium encompassing six major film studios. Under Lambert, DCI aided movie theaters' transition to digital exhibition, including digital cinema. DCI established industry quality guidelines for theaters for digital content and film projection.Lambert held more than thirty patents in media technologies. He was honored as a digital industry pioneer by ShoWest, which is now known as CinemaCon. In 2013, USC Entertainment Technology Center established the annual Bob Lambert Technology Leadership Award, and Chuck Dages (former executive vice president of emerging technologies at Warner Bros.) was the first recipient.Bob Lambert died at his home in Glendale, California, on September 7, 2012, at the age of 55. He was survived by his wife, Cheryl Murphy; his brother Paul Lambert; and nephew Nathaniel Lambert.

Cambridge Animation Systems

Cambridge Animation Systems was a British software company that developed a traditional animation software package called Animo, and is now part of Canadian company Toon Boom Technologies. It was based in Cambridge, England, hence the name. Established in 1990, it created the Animo software in 1992 after acquiring Compose in Color, which was developed by Oliver Unter-ecker. Animo was used for several animated feature films, shorts, and television series, and it powered the UK animation industry until the 2000s as it was used by studios like King Rollo Films, Telemagination, and Cosgrove Hall Films, but it was also used by studios in other countries, most notably Warner Bros. Feature Animation, DreamWorks, and Nelvana. In total, Animo was used by over 300 studios worldwide.In 2000, CAS developed Animo Inkworks, a plug-in which allowed Maya and 3ds Max users to export 3D data into Animo and integrate it into 2D animation via the Scene III plug-in. In 2001, they developed another plug-in called Animo Sniffworks, which exports Flash output to Maya.In 2009, CAS was acquired by Toon Boom Technologies and has since folded.


A cel, short for celluloid, is a transparent sheet on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Actual celluloid (consisting of cellulose nitrate and camphor) was used during the first half of the 20th century, but since it was flammable and dimensionally unstable it was largely replaced by cellulose acetate. With the advent of computer-assisted animation production, the use of cels has been all but abandoned in major productions. Disney studios stopped using cels in 1990 when Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) replaced this element in their animation process, and in the next decade and a half, the other major animation studios phased cels out as well.

Circle 7 Animation

Circle 7 Animation (or Disney Circle 7 Animation) was a short-lived division of Walt Disney Feature Animation specializing in computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation and was originally intended to create sequels to the Disney-owned Pixar properties, leading rivals and animators to derisively nickname the division "Pixaren't". The studio did not release any films during its existence, and none of its scripts were used by Pixar.The division was named after the street where its studio was located. Circle Seven Drive in Glendale, California is also home to KABC-TV.

Clyde Geronimi

Clito Enrico "Clyde" Geronimi (June 12, 1901 – April 24, 1989), known as Gerry, was an Italian American animation director. He is best known for his work at Walt Disney Productions.

David Coons

David B. Coons is a computer graphics professional and longtime CGI expert.

Dick Huemer

Dick Huemer (January 2, 1898 in New York City, New York – November 30, 1979 in Burbank, California) was an animator in the Golden Age of Animation.

Disney's Nine Old Men

Disney's Nine Old Men were Walt Disney Productions' core animators, some of whom later became directors, who created some of Disney's most famous animated cartoons, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs onward to The Rescuers, and were referred to as such by Walt Disney himself. All members of the group are now dead. John Lounsbery was the first to die, in 1976 from heart failure, and the last survivor was Ollie Johnston, who died in 2008 from natural causes. All have been acknowledged as Disney Legends.

Frank Thomas (animator)

Franklin Rosborough "Frank" Thomas (September 5, 1912 – September 8, 2004) was an American animator and pianist. He was one of Walt Disney's team of animators known as the Nine Old Men.

Frank and Ollie

Frank and Ollie is a 1995 documentary film about the life and careers of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two chief animators who had worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios from its early years until their retirement in the late 1970s.

It was directed, produced and written by Theodore Thomas, Frank Thomas' son. A number of other important figures in the animation business are also interviewed about Frank and Ollie's influence of modern animation, and about their personal friendship.

Jack King (animator)

James Patton "Jack" King (November 4, 1895, Alabama – October 4, 1958, Los Angeles) was an American animator and short film director best known for his work at Walt Disney Productions.

Multiplane camera

The multiplane camera is a motion-picture camera used in the traditional animation process that moves a number of pieces of artwork past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another. This creates a sense of parallax or depth.

Various parts of the artwork layers are left transparent to allow other layers to be seen behind them. The movements are calculated and photographed frame-by-frame, with the result being an illusion of depth by having several layers of artwork moving at different speeds: the further away from the camera, the slower the speed. The multiplane effect is sometimes referred to as a parallax process.

An interesting variation is to have the background and foreground move in opposite directions. This creates an effect of rotation. An early example is the scene in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the Evil Queen drinks her potion, and the surroundings appear to spin around her.

Pixar Image Computer

The Pixar Image Computer is a graphics designing computer originally developed by the Graphics Group, the computer division of Lucasfilm, which was later renamed Pixar. Aimed at commercial and scientific high-end visualization markets, such as medicine, geophysics and meteorology, the original machine was advanced for its time, but did not sell in quantity.

Pixel artist

A pixel artist is a graphic designer who specializes in computer art and can refer to a number of artistic and professional disciplines which focus on visual communication and presentation. Similar to chromoluminarism used in the pointillism style of painting, in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary and intermediate colors, a pixel artist works with pixels, the smallest piece of information in an image. The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones. Pixel art is often utilitarian and anonymous. Pixel design can refer to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.Common uses of pixel design include print and broadcast media, web design and games. For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as shapes and color which unify the piece. Composition is one of the most important features of design especially when utilizing pre-existing materials or using diverse elements. Pixel artists can also be a specialist in computer animation such as Computer Animation Production System users in post production of animated films and rendering (computer graphics) images like raster graphics.In the 2000s, pixel artists such as Tyler West, Stephane Martiniere and Daniel Dociu have gained international notoriety and artistic recognition, due in part to the popularity of computer and video games. For instance the E3 Media and Business Summit, an annual trade show for the computer and video games industry, has a concurrent juried art show, "Into the Pixel" starting in 2003. Jurist and Getty Research Institute curator Louis Marchesano noted that most of the works were concept pieces used in the development of games.Pixel artists are also used in digital forensics, an emerging field, to both create and detect fraud in all forms of media including "the courts, politics and scientific journals". For instance, the Federal Office of Research Integrity has said that the percent of allegations of fraud they investigated involved contested images has risen from less than 3 in 1990 to 44.1 percent in 2006.

Production system

Production system may refer to:

Production systems, in operations management and industrial engineering

Production system (computer science), a program used to provide some form of artificial intelligence

Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), developed by The Walt Disney Company and Pixar in the 1980s

Toyota Production System, organizes manufacturing and logistics at Toyota

Subsea Production Systems, typically wells located on the sea floor

Roy Conli

Roy Conli is an American film producer and voice actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for the 2014 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Big Hero 6 at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.

So Dear to My Heart

So Dear to My Heart is a 1948 feature film produced by Walt Disney, whose world premiere was in Chicago, Illinois on November 29, 1948, released by RKO Radio Pictures. Like 1946's Song of the South, the film combines animation and live action. It is based on the 1943 Sterling North book Midnight and Jeremiah which was revised by North to parallel the film's storyline amendments and then re-issued under the title So Dear to My Heart.

It was the final film appearance of Harry Carey.

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