Penguin Moves to Disney

Disney and other animation studios draw on CodeWeavers' Wine expertise to run Photoshop on Linux.

Last year, when the Walt Disney Co.s feature animation unit, in Burbank, Calif., announced that it was using Linux for digital animation work, speculation grew that Adobe Systems Inc. would finally port its products to Linux. To this day, however, Adobe has done no such thing. Rather than wait, Disney, along with two other motion picture animation studios (which declined to be named for this article), decided to jointly fund the development of a Windows-to-Linux porting solution. The idea: develop technology using the Wine emulator to run Adobe Photoshop on Linux.

While animation studios compete fiercely for ticket sales and are not known as team players, all three agreed that a project that would benefit the entire open-source community—while delivering a technology they needed—was worth their cooperation, said Jack Brooks, director of technology at Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Case file

  • Company Walt Disney Feature Animation, a division of The Walt Disney Co.
  • Location Burbank, Calif.
  • Challenge Find a way to support Adobes Photoshop application on Linux workstations
  • Solution With two other animation studios, fund CodeWeavers development of a plug-in that ports Photoshop to Linux
  • Tools CodeWeavers CrossOver Office and CrossOver PlugIn; Red Hats Red Hat Linux 7.2; Adobe Systems Photoshop
  • Whats next Migration to Red Hat 9.0

Source: eWEEK reporting

The project has paid off tremendously for Disney this year alone. Development of the porting solution, including site licenses, cost Disney less than $15,000. Had he opted to run Photoshop on Windows machines, it would have cost upward of $50,000 just in annual licensing fees, said Brooks. He estimates support would have been an additional $40,000 a year.

"Its been a win-win model to have someone else provide added value to an open-source product," Brooks said. "I didnt have the resources to chase that project internally. This way, the open-source community got the product, and we got what we needed cheaper than we could have done it ourselves."

Although Linux has proven success on servers, it is just beginning to gain ground on enterprise desktops, experts said. Much of this has to do with emulators such as Wine, which enable companies to run Windows-only applications on Linux, said Chad Robinson, an analyst at Robert Frances Group Inc., a research company in Westport, Conn.

"Wine has always been an important element in considering Linux deployment on the desktop in corporate environments because desktop product vendors have simply not kept pace with server product vendors in porting their products," Robinson said. "Although there are a few methods of emulation available, Wine is one of the most complete and effective; and while not every application runs perfectly, enough do that many companies end up using it at some point."

Disneys foray with Linux began in 2000 when Brooks and his team came to the realization that they could no longer afford to rely completely on their animation platform, which was based on Silicon Graphics Inc. technology. They began benchmarking Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Windows and Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux.

Disney needed support for leading commercial animation and special effects applications such as Maya, from Alias Systems (a division of SGI); Side Effects Software Inc.s Houdini; and Pixar Animation Studios RenderMan. When those applications were ported to Linux in 2001, Disney deployed Red Hat Linux 7.2 on more than 600 desktops. All the desktops run CodeWeavers Inc.s CrossOver Office 2.0.1, which enables non-Linux applications to run on Linux.

Brooks and his team also moved all their GUIs to Qt, a multiplatform kit from Trolltech Inc., and ported more than 4 million lines of code to Linux.

"It was a pretty daunting proposition because we use a large number of third-party software packages as well as internally developed software," Brooks said. "But we came to the conclusion that the right solution was going to be Linux, and weve been pleased with the results."

By 2002, Disney had standardized its digital animation platform on Linux running on Hewlett-Packard Co. hardware. The company also uses Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows operating systems in its computing environment.

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