ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

Knowing that all (or at least most) of animated films and TV shows these days are produced using computer programs, it's hard for me to imagine how they animated films before the advent of all of this technology... but that was before I learned about a technique called 'rotoscoping.'

Rotoscoping is an animation technique where animators trace over live-action footage, frame by frame (talk about a long process!) to help them reference of how a character should move and interact. It was this technique that helped give birth to many of the early Disney classics we all know and love, and is actually similar to how many films are animated today, except now the process has been slim-lined through the use of computers.

Check out these pictures which show the Disney animations spliced with the reference actors:


Snow White

Snow White and Dopey

Snow White was directly traced from live-action footage, though it was decided that despite the use of real actors, the animation looked stiff and generally unappealing. From then on Disney continued to use the rotoscoping technique but only used the live-action actors for reference, rather than as direct models.

This is why Snow White looks quite balanced in her proportions, but the Disney characters after her often look much more unrealistic in their features and their tiny waists.


Cinderella and Her Wicked Stepmother

There's something about seeing a human standing next to their animated self that is just very cool.


Maleficent and Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty

Live-action Maleficent looks almost as scary as animated Maleficent (except for the long chin part).


Aurora dancing in Sleeping Beauty

Aside from the obvious difference of live-action versus animation, you can see where the animators have taken huge liberties with Aurora's waistline, though I guess that's all part of the Disney charm.


The mermaids from Peter Pan

Getting to play a mermaid for a living? That's a pretty cool job.


Peter Pan and Wendy Flying

You definitely need to inject a bit of Disney magic to make Wendy and Peter look like they're flying rather than planking.


Tinker Bell in the keyhole

I love that they built an enormous keyhole to use for this shot! Talk about impressive!


The Coachman from Pinocchio

I guess they left in his very animated looking eyebrows!


For more information check out this video on live reference models:


Did you know about Disney's use of live-action models?

Source: Messy Nessy Chic, Reddit


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