CAPS (Computer Animation Production System)


Active Member
Apr 5, 2018
This was Disney's primary in-house animation process from the late 1980s to the mid-2000s. It was first publicly demonstrated in the final scene of The Little Mermaid (1989) and all of Walt Disney Feature Animation's traditionally-animated movies from The Rescuers Down Under (1990) to Home on the Range (2005) were done more-or-less 100% on the system. The artists would still draw each frame on paper with pencil, but then the frames would be scanned into the computer workstation and the inkin and painting process was done completely digitally. The background layers were usually painted the old fashioned way, but these were also scanned. Any computer-generated footage could also be imported. The system then allowed these three elements to be composited in a completely digital process. It wasn't the first digital ink and paint process, but it was revolutionary and signaled the dawn of a new era of animation: by the turn of the millennium, almost all two-dimensional animation was computerized in some fashion, and nowadays, traditional ink and paint is completely extinct outside of art schools.

However, in 2004, Home on the Range was met with less-than-fabulous reception, and the studio execs declared the death of traditional animation. They decided that all features going forward would be 3D CGI. However, this decision was partially reversed in 2007 for the Goofy short subject How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. This cartoon wasn't made with CAPS, instead using newer, non-proprietary software, and later 2D project followed suit.

Now, I've been wondering about some things:

1. Wikipedia gives a list of productions made using CAPS. It lists all of Disney's "Canon" features from 1989 to 2004, excluding of course their 3D features Dinosaur and The WIld (which is apparently "Canon" outside the USA), as well as Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas and a number of short subjects (which does not include all shorts made during the CAPS period). Is the list complete? Were any theme park attractions made using it? I've found cels from some of them, which indicates they weren't made digitally. And what about other shorts? Tummy Trouble and Roller Coaster Rabbit, which are missing from the list, were made mostly using traditional methods, but also missing are One by One, Lorenzo, and The Cat That Looked at a King. How were they made?

2. The system output footage in 2K, so when Disney releases CAPS-made movies in 4K, are they noticeably upscaled?


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