Disney’s Paper Cut-out Animation Disney’s Paper Cut-out Animation

Disney’s Paper Cut-out Animation

I’m a longtime fan of the incredible (and overlooked) stop motion paper cut-out animation sequences created by Bill Justice and Xavier Atencio for the Disney Studios in the late 1950s and early 60s. These remarkable little films have escaped wide attention by appearing in some of the least of Disney’s efforts during this period (their titles for The Parent Trap (1961) being an exception). The design and direction are top notch – and remember, these were created completely by hand, and animated frame by frame under a camera. None of the computer shortcuts employed by South Park here.

It’s hard to get the Sherman Brothers tune out of your head from the opening titles to The Mis-Adventures of Merlin Jones (1964):

This one is a little un-P.C., from the featurette A Symposium Of Popular Songs (1962):

Disney designer Kevin Kidney has posted his own tribute to these works on his blog, showcasing his own intricate recreations of these paper puppets (created with partner Jody Daily). Check it out here.

  • blue

    Those were Great! I never would have known that the Disneycompany animated in such a simple medium! Well, it probably wasn’t so “simple” back then when cameras were not so accessable…

  • Chris Sobieniak

    And thanks to you Jerry, I may have to hunt down a copy of that tune on 45 if need be! :-)

  • Priceless! God love YouTube! (AND C.B.!!!) Ya just gotta love a film about an oriental who’s sentimental!!

  • GeorgeC


    I COULD tell you how to get this tune without hunting for a 45 that may not exist, but then the Disney lawyers would kill me!

    Seriously, it’s been years since I’ve heard the Merlin Jones intro theme. It is a nice jungle.

    The film had a sequel called “The Monkey’s Uncle” (I think) that was the last film at Disney for both Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk. Annette finished her film career with the “Beach” movies co-starring Frankie Avalon. Kirk suffered the curse of having a lifestyle that if discovered back then would have ended his career anyway. He made at least one more film, “Village of the Giants,” but not at Disney.

  • Hey, thanks for sharing those! I had seen the Symposium short, but never those opening titles for The Mis-adventures… I like how that robot man was designed, and I’m also a big fan of Annette Funicello.

  • Christopher Cook

    Annette was as cute as a cartoon cut-out as she was in real life.

  • Marvin Woodward

    The Annette paper cutout caricature looks more like a youthful Jo Anne Worley than it did the young Funicello, but it was what it was. The miracle is that the trick was done at all with colored paper.

  • My question is…how long did it take Justice and X. to make one of these? It must have taken an incredible amount of time! Great stuff!

  • I was totally floored at the overwhelming simplicity of the background of the girls singing in the Symposium short.

    And, hey, it might not have “computer shortcuts” but (as intrincate as these are) wasn’t cut-out animation considered a shortcut itself back then? :)

  • These are great. I show Symposium in its entirety when I am facilitating Flash class at Vanarts.
    Never saw the Merlin titles before but the early 60s rock combo is used/re-used(?) in Symposium’s modern music example. This of course is available on the Disney Rarities DVD.

    “Annette”? Didn’t know she became that big she could just go by her first name. Predates Cher and Madonna, eh?
    Quite the cutie pie in live action and animation.

    Luis Sopelana wrote: “wasn’t cut-out animation considered a shortcut itself back then? :)”

    Not when as well done as this. Might be as much if not more work than drawn. And imagine: No computers; No seeing the results until the negative came back from processing. Of course it’s a specific look that totally has to celebrate its 2dness…like a pop-up book.

  • “Not when as well done as this.[…] No seeing the results until the negative came back from processing.[…] it’s a specific look that totally has to celebrate its 2dness.”

    All good points. It really looks awesome, well planned and resourceful. Thank you.

  • Well I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Symposium in it’s entirety, seeing as how I’ll be in Gerard’s Flash class next term.

    And I must say I’m pretty impressed by these. I love seeing different styles from Disney, like the shorts Ward Kimball did for the Disneyland tv series. There was a depth of talent in the studio that a lot of people never get to see.

  • Gerard, I’m guessing she could get by with just “Annette” coz that was her nom de Mousketeer, yes?

  • Oh!
    I don’t have knowledge of these animated Disney pieces
    What can I say!!! it’s beautiful : )
    And the tribute is great too, well executed