5 best animation software for Disney-like movies

Madalina Dinita
by Madalina Dinita
Former Managing Editor
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  • Who doesn't like Disney animations? Many of us used to spend several hours every day watching Disney cartoons when we were kids.
  • As we moved into adulthood, some of us realized they could learn animation and earn a living by creating animations and cartoons.
  • Adobe Animate is an excellent tool to create really amazing video animations -- as are all the other tools that we'll explore in this guide.
  • For more useful guides, visit our special hub dedicated to video and animation software.
what kind of animation software does disney use

Over the years, Disney cartoons have gained a cult status. The cartoons are classics that are still loved and enjoyed by all ages, till date. The credit entirely goes to the cartoon making team and of course the software programs they use. So, what kind of animation software does Disney use?

The Disney franchise is known to use different programs with some proprietary changes, and some of their own proprietary applications.

In fact, they have also designed some of their own extensions and plugins that are open-source. There was a time when cartoons were hand drawn, arranged in order, and flickered while recording.

While technology has indeed simplified the entire process, the hard work still goes in.

Here’s a list of the programs for those who are wondering what kind of animation software does Disney use.


Animation software that Disney uses to create memorable characters

Adobe Animation

adobe animation software

Adobe Animation is available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud and it’s an excellent tool for both beginner and more experienced animators.

You can use Adobe Animation to create TV and game animation or animated video content for your YouTube channel. Educators and teachers can use this tool to create eLearning content and draw their students’ attention.

You can also use the built-in Adobe Fresco brushes to create really expressive characters and make them talk, blink, and walk naturally.

Users can draw new animation frames on previous frames for more fluid animation thanks to the Onion Skinning feature. The Layer parenting feature makes rigging and moving your characters much simpler and easier compared to other animation software.

Adobe Animate lets you save your animated videos in any format you want. In this manner, your creations will display properly on any type of screens.

Are you ready to see what Adobe Animate can do?

Download Adobe Animation

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya - Animation Software Disney Uses

Autodesk Maya is one of the most popular software used by Disney to create animation and lower resolution models based on the Zbrush models.

From 3D animation modeling or simulation to rendering software, it comes with a set of built-in, dynamic tools. It makes creating animation a breeze with innovative features like Time Editor.

Users can also view scene modifications in real-time that includes camera, lighting, and materials, using Arnold RenderView. The software helps create complex systematic animations and effects with specified objects.

Besides, users can also create and edit UVs collaboratively using UV toolset. This offers the same kind of modeling process of Maya.

What’s more? Faster animation playback helps the designers to evaluate the animation directly in the viewport. The software is increasingly intuitive, while the new features like the Butterworth and Key Reducer help improve the animation curves.

Price: free trial available, upgrade starts from $50/month

Get now Maya from the official website


ZBrush Animation Software Disney Uses to Create Characters

Disney uses ZBrush for modeling and sculpting of their cartoon characters. It’s a unique and creative software that offers some really dynamic new features to help users create all new dimensions. The program helps users to customize brushes to shape, texture, and paint virtual-clay in real-time.

The new feature called the NPR system helps users create 3D designs in a completely new manner. Using this feature, users can give a final touch to the hand-designed 2D style, while taking the designs to the comic book.

Learn animation with these amazing beginner-friendly animation tools

Option to insert overlaying textures, add a decorative printed form, or drawing a dark outline around the 3D model are some of its other significant features.

In addition, it also offers the option to implement different types of integrated pre-sets for artists. With the help of Spotlights feature, the artists get an opportunity to arrange color details of any texture on a sculpted exterior in the form of PolyPaint.

Using Snapshot3D, users can transform any gray-scale image into a 3D prototype. The prototype created can be used as a groundwork for sculpting characters.

ZRemesher is an automatic retopology toolkit helps maintain creased edges while automatically tracking sharp surface angles.

The new folder System, on the other hand, accelerates your productivity with functions like the move, rotate, delete, scale, duplicate, and more.

Universal camera, Intersection Masker, or the ZColor, are some of its other advanced features.

Price: starts from $39.95/month

Download ZBrush


Houdini Animation Software Disney Uses to Create Characters

Houdini is a completely procedural software that’s used by Disney, especially for effects. It is designed from the basics to be a procedural system that enables the designers to work with complete freedom.

Moreover, it also builds different iterations and share processes with co-workers, swiftly.

It offers flexibility with its node-based process that helps users save each action in a node. The nodes are then connected in networks creating a method that can be adjusted to improve the results. These outcomes are again repeated to build similar yet exclusive results.

It’s a responsive software that comes loaded with several viewports and built-in tools allowing related viewport communications for the artists.

Besides, it offers a perfect setup for designing refined particles and powerful simulations leading to amazing visual effects. It also lets you build tools that can be used repeatedly throughout a project’s term.

Powerful asset building tools and the option to create shots and multiple iterations are some of its other major features.

Price: free version available, starts from $269/year

Download Houdini

Presto by Pixar

Presto by Pixar Animation Software Disney Uses to Create Characters

Disney is also known to be using Presto which is a proprietary software designed and used internally by Pixar. Presto is the animation software that’s developed in association with Maya, along with a library of real-time rendering tools and also modeling tools.

Presto is basically in charge of all that includes animation, scene layout, rigging, and more.

Price: not available for public use

Read more about Presto


Hyperion is one of Disney’s other proprietary software programs that they use for final rendering, and for final compositing they use Foundry Nuke.

While this answers your question: what kind of animation software does Disney use, there’s still a lot unknown about the animation giant.

For biggies like Disney, it’s natural that there are a lot of things that are not made public. Till the time we know more, we keep enjoying the classic characters.

FAQ: Learn more about animation software

  • What animation software is best for beginners?

Adobe Character Animator, Toon Boom, Animaker and Pencil2D are some of the best animation software that beginners can use.

  • Is Adobe Animate free?

Adobe Animate is not free but you can download a trial version of Animate CC with a free Creative Cloud membership.

  • Is animation hard to learn?

Animation and especially 3D animation is hard to learn and it’s also time-consuming.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has since been updated for freshness and accuracy.