Ever since Snow White, Disney had been struggling with two separate animation issues: effects sequences and the process of transferring animation art to film without going disastrously over budget. Some film tricks—using cornflakes to create something that more or less looked like snow, for instance—had helped with the first, and the xerographic process introduced in One Hundred and One Dalmatians had been a lifesaver for recent film budgets. But some of those techniques also caused problems: the cornflake technique could often be tricky to film, and the xerographic process generally resulted in characters outlined with thick black lines, and limited the ability of animators to add the subtle color shadings that had been featured in Pinocchio and Fantasia.
But in the 1980s, something new and miraculous entered the picture: computers. They could, animators thought, solve multiple issues: the transfer process; effects shots (Disney animators had been thrilled by the computer animation created by Pixar for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan); and even—possibly—filming. They decided to try to insert computer generated images into their next upcoming film. And, they thought, they could also try out a new animation transfer technique, animation photo transfer (APT) for a few scenes.
Unfortunately, audiences were introduced to both in Disney’s second all time greatest animation flop: The Black Cauldron.