Matte Painting in Films – Peter Ellenshaw

Peter Ellenshaw is the master of this clever technique and worked most of his life for Walt Disney.


One of his earliest films was ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ – made in England at Denham Film Studios in the summer of 1951 and released in March 1952


Here are just two marvellous examples with a ‘before and after’ picture that says it all about Matte Painting

The Story of Robin Hood 1952

ABOVE: Robin and His Father walk back through the Forest – with the help of Peter Ellenshaw we see the scene on the right quite differently – and very impressively

The Story of Robin Hood 1952 2

ABOVE: Equally so on the above ‘before and after’ pictures – the scene is the Archery Contest – on the right we now have Nottingham Castle.

There are quite a few of these in this film and in the later film’The Sword and The Rose’

Th Film Director Kenn Annain on both these films became very taken with Peter’s Matte Painting and the scope it could give to the films.

In fact Ken Annakin said :

Walt Disney specifically had the film The Sword and the Rose designed in such a way as to use the maximum number of painted mattes; In fact we used 62 mattes in all, and it allowed us to give the picture a much broader sweep visually than it ever could have had.

It resulted in Peter being given a life contract by Walt Disney. 

I got very taken up with this technique and continued to use it on later pictures, but I almost had to train new artists myself and pass on to them the sort of tricks I thought Peter Ellenshaw relied on. But Peter just knew how to modify reality to make it look even realer than real’

Ken Annakin

ABOVE: British film director Ken Annakin, 85, poses with a poster from one of his film’s at a tribute honoring his career at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, May 6, 1999



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