As part of my trip to Disney Animation Studios, I got to meet and learn about some of the new characters that feature in the sequel to the 2013 Disney smash. Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Hans all return, but this time there are some new characters as we venture beyond Arendelle and go into the unknown enchanted forest and dark seas. Animation Supervisor Trent Correy, Animation Supervisor Svetla Radivoeva, Effects Supervisor Erin Ramos, Art Director Characters Bill Schwab, Head of Animation Tony Smeed and Software Engineer Hannah Swan all presented this aspect of the presentation introducing the characters.
The first character was Gale, the Wind Spirit. Bill Schwab talked about collaborating with the directors. Schwab approached this by asking the basic questions “How do you draw the wind? How do you draw something that isn’t there?” For Schwab, he used debris and sticks and leaves to define the character of Gale. He then looked at how Gale would interact with characters. Tony Smeed adds,“Jennifer Lee was writing in this little bit into the story where Gale gives Elsa a hug and was this like up close and personal interaction between the two. One of our biggest partners in the creation of Gale is the Department Tech Anim. And they’re in charge of things like hair simulation, cloth simulation, among many other things. “
Once Schwab had that, he then worked with Griselda (Sastrawinata-Lemay) created images of patterning with Gale. “Again, just looking for ways to make this character unique and using color and pattern to help define the character.”
Trent Correy explains, “Mark Henn did this great animation test to start playing around with what Gale would look like? And this character’s not a breeze. This is a very tough character. Dan Lund, a 2D Effects Animator (and Effects Designer), started drawing leaves just to see what Gale might end up looking like”
Bruni is just a cute little salamander.
Trent Correy says, “We took reference from all sorts of lizard, salamander, reptilians, and just really tried to have fun with the character. He’s kind of in that moment where you just want something cute.”
Nokk is a water horse. Bill Schwab worked with Annette Marnat who “created these beautiful images of thinking about the Nokk not only above water but in water.” Marnat explored a few questions; how much water do we need to describe a horse or how little? Once the team had the drawing, it was over to animation.
Svetla Radivoeva explains, “The Nokk is part of Nordic mythology and folklore, and it’s a shapeshifter character. The directors decided to keep the Nokk in the shape of a horse. So, the direction was to be as realistic as possible to a horse and have any funny expressions.” She continues,”In Disney Animation we love to do research. I studied a lot of horse anatomy, locomotion, quadruped motion, but also we really wanted to go deeper and went to the equestrian center to observe beautiful horses and also talk to a trainer to learn a little more about their personalities and habits. The trainer told us that horses are very peaceful animals. But our horse, our Nokk, is actually a warrior and protector of the Dark Sea. We thought of it like a wild stallion that just hasn’t been yet tamed.” Through that research, Radivoeva learned “how to show a horse’s attention- since it was going to have these eyes that you don’t really see where they are looking at, you can track a horse’s attention by looking at their ears. So, wherever their ears are pointing, this is where the horse is looking at. Also, by the ears, you can learn how they can feel.”
Keeping that in mind, the team tested the Nokk; their main goal was to make sure the Nokk felt alive.
When you see Frozen 2, watch closely, especially the Nokk’s hooves that break when it comes out of water. Radivoeva explained animating the Nokk went outside animation: Effects, Tech Animation, and Lighting were all integral to Nokk coming together.
This is just a tease of all to come from the magic that is Frozen 2.
Frozen 2 is released on November 22.