storyboard of a 2D animation

The Disney Animator That Invented The Storyboard

How Disney Invented The Storyboard

Disney is well known for innovating a great number of things. How about adding the invention of the storyboard to the list?

In 1994, John Lasseter and Pixar crew brainstormed the next four widely beloved films they would make during a lunch meeting. All on a single napkin. About 60 years before, one man working at Walt Disney Studio would change how all of animation and filmmaking was made from then on; all by putting papers up on a wall with pins.

So, Mickey made the Storyboard?

Actually the first cave paintings or even the ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs may have been the first documented storyboards in history (Just some food for thought).

Regardless, it’s the 1930s: Animation is expensive and Disney recognized the need for a more efficient way of planning and organizing their films. In these uncivilized times, the plot was described with words before an animator would begin drawing each scene. Perhaps like cavemen would. The problem here is there was very little margin for error as it relied on everyone visualizing the words in the same way.

Webb Smith was the man credited with the idea of telling ideas of a story through multiple drawings and attaching said drawings onto a bulletin board. It was like the apple falling on Newton’s head, but instead of gravity, it’s storyboards. By the end of the decade, the entire film industry was starting to use storyboards, Gone with the Wind being the first live-action film created entirely with storyboarding.

group of original Disney animators pointing at a Storyboard

Webb Smith can be seen here on the Leftmost side

I still don’t know what a storyboard is.

It can help to think of a storyboard as a comic book for your script. Storyboards are usually comprised of squares with illustrations representing each shot. Along with little notes detailing what’s going on and what campy dialogue is being said in the scene. Maybe except for the Mad Max Fury Road Storyboards, which really was just a comic book. (A movie which had no shooting script and instead had a storyboard with over 3,500 panels created for the film)

Collage of graphic novel style storyboards for the Mad Max Fury Road Movie

Storyboard for the film Mad Max: Fury Road

The drawings on the frames don’t have to make Picasso shed a tear either. Just look at this original frame from the storyboard for Knives Out! Because after all, storyboards are a roadmap and not the finished product.

crude drawing of a girl with hundreds of knives around her, original storyboard from Knives Out

Yes, this is real

Why do I need one?

Just like you wouldn’t hop onto a plane to Tennessee without planning first (you really wanna see the Bush’s Beans Museum), you wouldn’t go head into creating a video without having a plan. We’ve all been told about the 5 P’s as a kid: Proper preparation prevents preposterous payment. By visualizing the shots ahead of time, everybody will be on the same page. Avoiding costly mistakes and revisions down the line.


Storyboards are a travel guide saving time and money for everyone involved. It was invented by the House of Mouse and took the industry by storm. The drawings can be as simple or complex as they need to be, as long as they convey the idea of what’s happening from scene-to-scene.

At Optious

We’re no stranger to storyboards either, having a document to point back to when situations come up have saved our hams more than once. We’ve done plenty of before, whether stick figures or otherwise. Often times weaving entire stories with no script to fall back on. It’s just one of the many services we offer from small tech startups to even Microsoft. We’re no Disney but it’s not hard to see the benefits of having a storyboard when laid out like this.

storyboard of a 2D animation

Take a look at our storyboard above and the final video below. Nearly one-one isn’t it? The power of the mighty storyboard allowed us to freely explore ideas and concepts without commitment.

Thank You!

If you need a storyboard for your project and don’t know where to start, or even an entire video from A-Z ; feel free to hit us up!

Thanks for reading our article! Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to send it to someone who might be interested.

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