One of the nice things about being a parent is getting to revisit movies you haven’t seen since you were a child. We’ve been on a classic Disney movie binge at my home and I’ve been really enjoying the movies from the 50s and early 60s.


Figure 1. Tinkerbell in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953).

Peter Pan, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have been in pretty heavy (i.e., mind numbing) rotation which has given me plenty of time in which to start focusing on some of the minor details in these movies. One of the things that caught my eye was the pixie dust effect used for the Tinkerbell character in Peter Pan. I did a lot of hand drawn animation in college, spending many hours hunched over a makeshift animation table (it consisted of a sheet of Plexiglas with a taped on registration board, two chairs, and a desk lamp for an under-light). I know first hand how labor intensive and frustrating hand drawn animation can be, and its difficult to fathom the amount of time and effort that was put into tracking and animating the various specks to make the pixie dust effects in Peter Pan.

Today, we can achieve a similar effect with just a few lines of code. My implementation lacks a bit of the human touch which gives life to the Disney work, but I think it’s still a pretty fun piece.

Figure 2. Move your mouse over the area above to spread some pixie dust.