Disney FX Wiz Robert Broughton Dies at 91

Pioneering camera effects artist Robert Broughton who worked on almost every Disney movie from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to The Black Hole (1979) passed away recently at a nursing home in Rochester, Minn. Broughton used color traveling matte composite cinematography to help Dick Van Dyke dance with the toon penguins in Mary Poppins and created the memorable Hayley Mills twin effects for The Parent Trap. He also worked on the attacking birds sequences for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds.

Mary Poppins

Broughton was born in Berkeley, Calif. on Sept. 17, 1917 and studied at UCLA before landing a job in the Disney mailroom in 1937. He soon learned to work the advanced multi-camera technology, which helped create the illusion of depth in animated features such as Pinocchio. During the Second World War, he worked as cameraman for the Office of Strategic Services, which was headed by director John Ford. He photographed a documentary on the Battle of Midway for the famous helmer. When the war ended, he went back to Disney and worked there until his retirement in 1982. He worked as assistant to Ub Iwerks and contributed effects to the studio’s live-action movies, alongside Julie Andrews, Maureen O’Hara and Dean Jones. He also photographed Disney’s lead-ins for the weekly TV series Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

The Parent Trap

“I had one of the best jobs anyone could have, with a one-of-a-kind organization and incredibly talented people,’ Broughton once said.
”If it looked like we doctored up a scene, we were a failure. Our effects weren’t supposed to be obvious.”

Broughton was honored as a Disney Legend in 2001. A private memorial will take place in his honor at a later date in Woodland Hills.