Learning About Animation & Rigging for Frozen
When I got my invite email to attend a blogger event for Disney in L.A. I was so excited when I was reading all the things we had lined up to do. One of them was spending time with in the rigging lab or something like that. I in all my excitement read it as ringing lab. Yes so when I was sharing with my husband all we were going to do I told him I was going skating with Olaf. Yes I really did. Fast forward a few days and re-read that email and realize that I wouldn’t be going skating after all. I couldn’t stop laughing at myself for reading that totally wrong. One of the most interesting parts of the trip was sitting in that rigging lab and learning about the whole process of the movement, facial expression, wind, dancing and so much more. Rigging was much more important that I could ever imagine and without it the finish product just wouldn’t be the same. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to go ringing either. LOL. I would have totally had fun with our group trying to ice skate, I know I probably would have fallen a few times.
Back to the whole process of rigging. We walked in and sat down at a station with two computer screens, a keyboard and a mouse. As soon as I sat down I could tell that this process was not an easy one. One of the screens had points to click on that controlled different parts of Olaf that was on the second screen. The mouse worked on both screens and I am sure the keyboard did as well. We listened to a prepared presentation from three members of the Frozen Rigging Team: Frank Hanner, Greg Smith, and Keith Wilson. They then let us play with Olaf and we got to animate him ourselves. I got mines to dance briefly and then I flipped his head inside out. It was so much fun but I’m glad I don’t have to do this full time, it’s hard work.
First Frank Hanner shared with us that without a rig you would just have a character statue that wouldn’t be able to move. “Riggers are responsible for building those characters skeletons, they begin by building their structures, they find a way to attach the muscles and skin to that skeleton, and then they build a set of animation controls, so the animators can really control them” Frank shared.
He went into telling us about how riggers also creates the faces of characters. They get very detailed with the sculpting of the shape, details of the brow, cheeks, and the movement of the mouth. They bring out how those features work so they are natural and it doesn’t look like a bad lip sync. Bringing Frozen to life was no easy feat, the movie had 312 character rigs, 245 cloth rigs and 63 hair rigs. Frank said Frozen’s kingdom had more character than any other CG movie they’d created at Disney. That’s just for the auxiliary characters in the movie. Then there was the hair of Elsa. That alone was a record in of itself.
Boy is that a lot of hair. Yes, Elsa has 400,000 strands of hair on her head, the average human has about 100,000 strands of hair. Greg Smith talked with us about his teams effort in making the film. One of them is Flourish Overlaying, this feature helps saves animators time when doing things because they set the movement ahead of tine and just apply the flourish overlay to the character. It was used for making Olaf’s hair (twigs) bounce and move a little with him. They also used it on some of the horses and other places in the movie.
Keith talked with us about the clothing in the movie Frozen. He shared that they researched clothing from the Norwegian region. Each dress had full gear that people in that era would actually wear.
All characters also had a detailed call out that would have specific type of materials, types of silks, broaching, the number of pleats, it needs to be very specific so that they can get the creations they want.
We learned quite a few things about rigging on the trip and I have a lot of respect for anyone in this profession because they do put a lot of work and effort into the project so the final product is one we can enjoy and love. You can see some of the things we learned from a video Silvia of Mama Latina Tips created when her group was in the lab. I also want to thank Susan of Susan’s Disney Family for allowing me to use some of her photographs.
Here’s some photos of some of the bloggers on the computers rigging their own Olafs.
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