FROZEN: I Became a Disney Animator!
It’s a long process to bring a movie to life.
At the Frozen press day at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, I got the rare opportunity to try my hand at becoming an animator myself!
I learned from the special effects team that one of the many challenges of making Frozen was shooting the film with all the angles and the camera tracking. In an empty room, six LED lights track the movement of the camera. On the computers, however, it’s a different story. When the camera moves, the tracker on the computer moves as well.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to map an organic, three-dimensional motion for a layout artist from the real world into the virtual,” says Evan Goldberg, Disney Animation’s Manager of Technology. “How do we decide where to put the camera to tell the story in the best possible way? How dramatic do we want it to be?”
The five monitors in the room begin to play a blocked out, pre-production scene from the movie, where Sven the reindeer is dashing towards a falling ship. I got to experiment with the camera, which showed what I would be seeing had I been standing in the virtual room myself. I could move the camera wherever I wanted in the virtual world. I could stand right next to the ship and watch Sven dash towards me, I could shoot the sky and swing downwards, I could run with Sven and make the scene as thrilling as possible – the possibilities in the virtual room were endless.
Another department was the character development. “This department is primarily responsible for building character rigs, the cloth rigs and running stimulation on the show,” says Frank Hanner, character CO Supervisor.
The riggers build skeletons to the characters, attach muscles and skin on the characters, and build animator controls to allow the animator to determine how the characters move around – from a slight smile to skipping down the street.
In Frozen, there are 312 unique character rigs, more rigging done than on any other Disney film. There are 245 cloth stimulation rigs, an impressive number because it is more than double the number of all stimulated costumes in the combined Disney films preceeding Frozen.
“An average human has a 100,000 hairs on their head. Elsa has 420,000 hairs on her head. She has really thick, lustrous beautiful hair. Our last very famous Disney leading lady was Rapunzel, who only had 27,000 hairs,” explained Hanner.
In the end, I tried my hand at animating Olaf, the snowman who has the uncanny ability to disassemble his body. The countless buttons and controls took a while to get used to, but soon I realized it’s ridiculously fun to stretch Olaf’s mouth as wide as possible or make him cross-eyed and silly.
Cool off with Frozen, in theaters November 27!