Computer Animation Studio from Disney

The Animation Studio is a computer software program from Disney for the IBM PC or Amiga computer. Review by David Jefferson.

The Animation Studio from Disney is one of many recent programs that uses the computer’s ability to store drawings and show them in quick succession. The Disney version includes tools for drawing and painting your animations. There are also facilities for adding sound effects if your computer has the appropriate sound equipment.

Cel of flight produced with the Animation Studio from Disney.

The version reviewed here is for the IBM PC or compatible. It comes packed in an attractive box with two books and disks for 3.5” or 5.25” drives. The book entitled Getting Started explains how to install the program and then runs through a series of five lessons on using the program.

Lesson one introduces the drawing tools and tells how to create a simple animation with a bouncing ball. The “onion skin” effect is demonstrated as further frames are added. The previous drawings are shown in successively lighter shades of grey. This is similar to viewing a number of pencil drawings on a light box. This effect can be switched off and on as required.

Lesson two introduces the sample animation files supplied with Animation Studio. There are two kinds: well known Disney characters which can be viewed but not changed and sequences that can be changed. The Disney characters are useful for studying how the Disney artists work. If you do alter them they cannot be saved for copyright reasons. Other sequences such as a sack jumping can be altered and you are encouraged to do so by the lessons.

The animation program is divided into two separate parts: pencil test and ink and paint. In pencil test you create a sequence and time it with an exposure sheet. When you are satisfied you go to ink and paint to add colour and a background. Once the sequence has been changed in ink and paint it cannot go back to the pencil test stage. However, you can go back to the original sequence and change that before re-painting it.

The program works in four screen resolutions ranging from 320 x 200 to 640 x 480. The program ran well in all resolutions at the pencil test stage but when colour was added the high resolution ran too slow to be practical on my 386SX PC computer. I found the high resolution useful when using the program as a line tester for animation created outside the program and scanned in.

The Animation Studio is supplied with a conversion program so images from most scanners can be converted to the correct format.

The other book is a users guide. This begins with a brief history of Disney animation and introduces the professional methods of producing animation. The rest of the guide goes over the Animation Studio program in detail. It is a good introduction to the principals of animation for anyone new to the subject. People who are familiar with these kind of programs can dip in as required by using the helpful index.

Silhouette test example from the Animation Studio user’s guide. A good extreme pose should ‘read’ in silhouette. Pose A is clear while B isn’t.

There are no special animation effects such as flying logos, transformations and so on as found in some programs such as DeluxePaint Animation (reviewed in Animator issue 29). All the movement has to be created by hand one frame at a time. The drawing tools include a brush menu where an image can be selected and manipulated by stretching or shrinking in various ways. Images can also be copied, inserted or deleted. There is a cleanup key which removes any stray, single black pixels from the drawing. This is useful for scanned images.

The number of colours used by the paint program depends on the graphics card in use. MCGA users can create a palette of 256 colours whilst VGA users have sixteen colours. This is not as limiting as it sounds, as these sixteen can be any colour it is possible to mix from the three primary colours. The colour is mixed by operating sliders until the required colour is achieved. Colour can be applied with a pixel brush or flooded into an area. The paint program does not have as many features as DeluxePaint Animation, there is no airbrush or graduated fills.

A background can be added to the painted animation by importing a picture created separately. This may have been created in Animation Studio or another suitable paint program. When you ask the program to load a background it will add it to the number of cels you indicate.

Disney’s Animation Studio is recommended for those wishing to learn animation. The example animation files are excellent and the single frame abilities of the computer program make it an ideal medium for studying them. The 640 x 480 resolution makes it suitable for use as a line tester in combination with a scanner or other digitiser.

Printed in Animator Issue 30 (Spring 1993)