“Disney Presents: The Animation Studio for Amiga”, or, “Tech Support Before the Internet”

I was reading a Facebook status update from Charles Blaqière about the demise of his Imagine3D for Amiga discs and books.

I dealt with a crate of AmigaOS floppies last year and resigned to sending them to landfill. I spared the Amiga200 and A3000 a similar fate, and I have an impressive shelf dedicated to my Amiga books on animation, programming and design.

One of the cases I’m most impressed with was the software box for the one and only Disney authorized animation creation software, aptly titled “Animation Studio”. It’s the kind of jewel that the true animation and Amiga fans at Disney obviously snuck through the system in the late 80’s. The software was a celebration of animation in the purest form. It supported onion skinning, flipping back and forth, standard colour palettes for ease of skin tone updates, a rudimentary ink-and-paint department, etc. Even the layout of the software was designed to support the idea of the studio: storyboards, then keyframes, the in-between, then ink and paint, and finally a dope sheet that allowed for frame holds and loops of finished artwork. And of course, the Amiga supported video out which allowed you to output frames in real time to tape which was an incredible innovation in the day.

The manual was most incredible: it is a condensed version of the seminal “The Illusion of Life”, offering thoughts on the entire animation process with an ominous tiny final chapter, “Computer Animation” which consisted of a few words along with a black and white photo of an animation printer hooked up to a Cray supercomputer.

But it wasn’t all great; it seems in the winter of 1990 I had a problem with the Exposure Sheet. Remarkably, I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote down my problem, then went to the post office and mailed the question in to Disney Software in Burbank California. Several weeks later, I received a response:


Kids: this is how we did tech support before the Internet!!!!!

Oh wait, in the last paragraph he did give me the Disney 300-9600bps BBS (note the handshake protocol 8, N, 1). I recall the line was always busy! 🙂

I’m amazed this is how things were done just a few years ago, and more impressed that I had the sense to keep this piece of history. It’s safely tucked away in my manual of Disney Presents, and has become all the more valuable in the process.

And if you’re reading this Mike Weiner, drop me a line. In the month between my letter and yours I figured out the problem! 🙂 It would be great to catch up.

Now all I need to find is my copy of Jim Butterfield’s, “Machine Language for the Commodore 64 and other Commodore Computers”.

One Reply to ““Disney Presents: The Animation Studio for Amiga”, or, “Tech Support Before the Internet””

  1. Glad you liked the program.

    I created it, in fact, to allow my team to work much faster in creating animations for video games at first.

    Support never told me about this issue, so I need to see your original problem to better understand this.

    Jim was one of my favourite tech writers too, he passed in 2007 if I recall.

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