Siggraph: Disney Team Previews New 'Frozen' Footage, Behind-the-Scenes Work

Th studio's animation team discusses working with John Lasseter and Idina Menzel, their Jackson Hole research trip and creating lots of CG snow.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A panel from Walt Disney Animation Studios showed several clips as well as test material and art from its animated comedy/adventure Frozen, which opens Nov. 27.

The session, held during CG conference Siggraph, included a clip in which the film’s protagonist, Anna, meets Prince Hans.

The film’s head of animation, Lino DiSalvo, explained that the animation team worked with an acting coach and the actors, as well as, of course, the filmmakers, including John Lasseter and directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.

“For John to be involved in this film -- acting choices, and pushing us from editorial to animation -- was huge, During preproduction we were showing him characters, designs, animation tests, how the characters move. ... Animation is based on a caricature of what you know. That is John’s philosophy -- truth in acting and believability."

On working with the actors, DiSalvo told The Hollywood Reporter that one day he moderated for the animation department a sort of Inside the Actors Studio with Idina Menzel, who does the voice acting for Anna’s sister Elsa. “We talked about singing, her breath, acting techniques -- her insight on the Elsa character. We went on the journey with her. It was huge having the actors there and having the animators hear what they were thinking.

“When [Menzel] would come in to read lines, I’d show her what we were up to, get her feedback.”

The animators brought elements of cold -- ice, snow and frost -- to life using new simulation techniques. The big challenge was creating deep snow. “Not shallow snow, but ankle-deep to knee-deep and waist-deep snow,” said Dale Mayeda, co-effects supervisor.

As part of their work, the Southern California-based animation team took a research trip to Jackson Hole to see how it feels to trek through deep snow. They even brought a heavy full-length gown that some team members wore in the snow to see how it would react.

Their work resulted in development of new tools to create the snow, including a solver dubbed Matterhorn. Disney Research in Zurich even got involved in the development. Matterhorn allowed the animators to control parameters in order to create fresh snow, wet snow or sticky snow.


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