What Do Xerox and Disney Have to do with Each Other?

June 22, 2021

What if we told you that much of Disney’s classic animation, including that sickening sweet love song “Cruella De Vil”, is completely Xeroxed?

That's right, American physicist Chester Carlson invented the process of xerography in the early 1940s that Disney later adopted to create your favorite films like One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book

Before 1961 and what's referred to as the "Silver Era" of Walt Disney Animation Studios productions (1950-1967), the making of an animated film involved the cel animation process. Every frame of a film using this process had to be hand-drawn, traced,  painted, and animated. Disney movies have 12-24 cels (or frames) per second, meaning tens of thousands of cels per feature-length film. The cel process provided stunning results for the time but proved to be tedious, expensive, and extremely time-consuming.

Before the release of the first major Disney film featuring Xerox technology, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Disney's animation department wasn't doing so well. With Sleeping Beauty's release in 1959 only grossing slightly more than $5 million, the $6 million cost of the film began to raise questions about the future and viability of Disney's animation department.

Ken Anderson, art director for One Hundred and One Dalmatians, suggested using Xerox to cut down ever-rising production costs. The inking step of the outdated cel animation process was streamlined thanks to now being able to copy drawings onto cels in a matter of minutes. Subsequently, production costs were drastically reduced and Disney was able to continue to make the films everyone loves.

Considering the recent release of Cruella De Vil origin story Cruella, without the timely invention of Xerox technology, who knows what would have become of Disney Animation Studios? Luckily, we won't need to find out.


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