Walt Disney Studios uses animation software.

Disney has made many animated films showing how hard each animator puts into each project. No wonder animated films today are more realistic in appearance. It would be best if you thought about the software and technology behind every successful animated movie because of these advances in animation.

What animation software does Walt Disney Studios use for their animation? Autodesk Maya has been used to model and rig the characters. Pixologic Zbrush is used for sculpting, and Houdini to create effects. Pixar’s Presto animation software is the most popular, while Disney’s Hyperion renders the final shot.

Additional proprietary software was developed during each project, such as the Hyperion Renderer and the Meander Animation Tool. Continue reading to learn more about how each software is used and what each software brings to the animation table. As a bonus, I included a section from Disney-developed software near the end.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya is one of the market’s most well-known 3D animation software suites. It has been used in many Disney films to create low-resolution models that were later transformed into beloved Disney characters.

Alias Wavefront released the first version in 1998. Autodesk later purchased it in 2006. This software has been used to model, rig, and sometimes animate recent Disney Animation Studios characters. Many animators praise this software for its versatility and intuitiveness.

Moana,” Frozen II,,” and “Wreck–It Ralph” are just a few examples of animated movies that have used Maya to create their characters and animate them.

Pixologic ZBrush

ZBrush and Maya are used to create complex characters in a computer-generated environment. You can also generate low-resolution models here, and Maya will add the details. ZBrush allows Disney animators to work on virtual clay in real-time.

Disney animators used this software to create more realistic characters. ZBrush was used to develop characters in movies like “Big Hero 6,” and “Tangled.”


This software creates most of the visual effects in Disney’s animated films. Houdini is the preferred software for Disney animators when creating lightning, water, and fire effects. Houdini allows collaboration between artists and is flexible due to its node-based process.

Houdini allows you to save every special effect and iterate them in the future without affecting the master copy. The built-in tools make it easier to create stunning visual effects and provide better particle simulation.

Houdini was a crucial player in animating the oceans and lava of Te ka in Disney’s animated movie “Moana.”

Pixar’s Presto

Because it is Pixar Animation Studio’s proprietary software, only a little information is available about this software. Pixar created this powerful animation software to meet its specific needs.

Pixar developed this software to work with Maya. It is easy to see why Disney would use it extensively. It can be used to create scenes, rig models, and animated characters. This previz was made six years ago at the Nvidia GTC conference and is enough to show how powerful this animation program is.

Disney Hyperion

Disney Animation Studios used Pixar’s RenderMan before Hyperion to render their computer graphics. Hyperion was born out of growing demand. The artist can render scenes quicker and with fewer distortions.

Hyperion is a ray-traced global lighting renderer that shades and traces rays in large batches. Each collection is first sorted for geometric coherence in scene traversal. Then, it sorts ray hits to determine texture coherence during shading. It produces more precise and more detailed locations at the end.

Hyperion was born in response to the film “Big Hero 6”. Since then, it has been the rendering software used by Disney Animation Studios.

Other Software

As I mentioned in the beginning, this section contains a list of tools that Disney has developed over time. It is meant to help artists meet their needs.

Meander Animation Tool

In 2010, Meander was first introduced to Disney Studios as an animation tool. Meander was created because of the growing demand for a faster workflow and better tools. According to Disney Animation, Meander is a combination of a raster- and vector drawing system. It allows artists to have responsive drawing capabilities, high pen or brush customization, quick player, and instant raster drawability of a raster system, as well as the stroke editability and image scaling of a vector drawing program.

Meander’s main objective is to let artists express themselves freely and work as quickly as a pen and a piece of paper.

Quicksilver and Beast for Realistic Hair

The movie “Moana” creators wanted to upgrade their characters’ hair simulation. It is when “Quicksilver” came into being. Each character can have realistic, dynamic, and believable hair that reacts to wind, water, and other movements.

“Frozen 2” is a new hair system called “Beast,” as the characters have more hair to maintain and animate. Anna’s hair transformed from the little girl’s in “Frozen to her future Queen of Arendelle. This software allowed animators to simulate more inches per frame at a faster speed than Quicksilver.

Swoop For Elements Animation

You have probably seen “Frozen 2”, an animated movie. It will show you how each element is brought to life. The visual effects are usually earth elements like wind, water, and fire. These elements are also your characters in this movie. In “Moana, Houdini was employed to give the ocean personality, but here in “Frozen 2”, a new software called “Swoop” was created to animate these characters.

In this movie, the elements were given names – the wind was called “Gale,” then the “Earth Giants,” and the water horse “Nokk” was the most difficult to animate. Swoop was a tool that allowed artists to ensure that every element character behaves the same way in the movie.

Tonic for Hair Grooming

Tonic was initially created for the film “Frozen.” It allows artists to develop hair simulacra using the coarse-to-acceptable workflow. Artists could create something coarse from the start, edit it as they wish and then divide it to add finer details. It allowed for faster workflows and better control over hair grooming for each character. Moana and all the films used this hair grooming tool after Frozen.

iGroom and Disney’s XGen for Fur Grooming

In the previous sections, we’ve discussed hair quite a bit. Let’s now talk about fur. Disney Animation Studio was allowed to create their fur grooming tools after “Zootopia.” Certain movie characters must look fuzzy and furry, but they must still be believable and not too animated. XGen and the groom played a significant role in providing fur for the characters.

iGroom is a fast and intuitive grooming tool that animators can use to control the length and direction of characters’ fur. XGen allows artists to create large numbers of geometric shapes on any surface quickly.

Matterhorn for Snow Simulation

Matterhorn was developed to create snow effects “Frozen.” It uses the Material Point Method to simulate large amounts of snow that interact with the environment and characters. This software allowed artists to create complex visual effects that were impossible to achieve by hand. This software made all the snow scenes and snow blizzards in the movie. Matterhorn ensured that the snow behaves as average snow if there is a snowstorm or snowfall in real life.

Water Simulation

Splash is an APIC fluid solver that allows animators to render water realistically in the animated movie “Moana.” The solver used all of the physics of water to create a water simulation. It will enable animators and artists to simulate water in the animated movie “Moana.”


It gives you an overview of the animation software used by Disney Animation Studio for its many animated films. It also includes the tools and in-house software created to meet animators and artists’ needs and requirements. Disney will undoubtedly continue to innovate and create better technology for each project.