Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: A drawing is two dimensional. It’s got an X axis and a Y axis but, much like the sixth generation of “Pokémon,” there’s no Z in sight. Functionally, that means that every frame of a 2D animation project is planned ahead of time so that the renders will all match up. It also means that the camera angle is factored into each hand-drawn frame from the very beginning. In a 2002 interview with 70mm, Roy Conli — a producer on “Treasure Planet” — shared how that just wasn’t enough freedom for John Musker or Ron Clement:
“We were able to employ a technology that was developed during ‘Tarzan’ called Deep Canvas, which allowed us to build sets in the computer, three-dimensionally. It’s almost as if you’re going in on a live-action set, and stroke-for-stroke, painting it as if you’re painting a regular background. Only what you’re utilizing is a digital paint brush that’s being controlled by a stylist and a digital paint palette.”
Conli went on to explain that, unlike “Tarzan,” where the digital set painting was done on a “shot based” system where detail was only added where it was needed, the “Treasure Planet” sets were painted in their entirety, from every angle, so that camera experimentation could occur during production. Now think back to how many CGI sets were featured in “Treasure Planet.” Montressor. Crescentia. Literal space, brimming with space whales (oh, that’s where James Cameron got them from). Treasure freaking Planet itself? All CGI. Does that mean that a ton of effort went unseen? Absolutely. Is it still fascinating to think about? 100 percent yes.