How Disney FROZEN Characters Come to Life with Rigging

Last month, I had a once in a lifetime experience going behind the scenes of the award winning, Disney FROZEN movie at Disney Animation Studios.  I was able to see first hand how the geniuses there turn a concept into the characters that we all love and adore.

I received an all expense paid trip to L.A. to learn about the upcoming home releases of three fantastic movies. I’m excited to share with you what I learned!

We met with the rigging supervisors in a rigging lab filled with large screen monitors and powerful computers. Before this, I didn’t know what rigging even was. Basically, rigging is what breathes the life into characters, it is what makes the characters move realistically. Without rigging, everything is choppy and unrealistic.

Frank Tanner was the character CG supervisor for Disney Frozen. He explained how rigging constructs the characters to look as though they have real muscles, skin, and hair. For Disney’s FROZEN, the rigging team had to create 312 characters!

FROZEN Rigging team (3)
To be inline with the setting, the hair became very important as they wanted to reflect traditional Norwegian hairstyles such as braids and buns – that all the girls are going crazy for now! The hair in FROZEN was stand-out! See below how Anna’s hair went from sketch to movie!

FROZEN Rigging team (4) FROZEN Rigging team (5)

Another interesting fact: Elsa has 4X the amount of hair of an average person who only has 100,000 hairs. She has even more than Rapunzel who only had 30,000 hairs on her head!

Keith Wilson was the character simulation supervisor for Disney Frozen. Keith explained in detail how the clothing is rigged in the movie. The team created 245 simulated costumes for the characters and more than 63 hair rigs.  The clothing in Disney FROZEN reflects the mid-1800’s in Norway.

FROZEN Rigging team (6) FROZEN Rigging team (7)All of the dresses have foundation garments too like pantaloons, petticoats, under skirts, over skirts – layer after layer and each highly detailed.

FROZEN Rigging team (8)Watch this video to see how lack of rigging makes Ana dancing around in her dress look silly. The dress kicks up into her face, gets stuck on her and has unrealistic shapes. With rigging, she is free to spin, twirl, and run around like she is alive and breathing.

Greg Smith was the character rigging supervisor for Disney Frozen. Greg showed us before and after rigging for Olaf. Without rigging, Olaf’s hair (sticks) would just lay there, with rigging, they have bounce.

FROZEN Rigging team (9)
From here, we were able to try our hand at character rigging with Olaf! We learned how to make Olaf smile, frown, wave, and move with simple clicks of the mouse. The huge monitors were super fun to use as well – I think I need at least one of them in my office!

FROZEN Rigging team (1)
Here is a short video I took of me rigging Olaf – in very simple ways with only a few minutes of practice.

It was so, so neat to see Olaf come to life, expressing himself by moving his eye brows, mouth, jaw, and cheeks. The software allowed us to manipulate Olaf however we liked.

FROZEN Rigging team (2)

I was having a lot of fun and asked who kind of degree is required to start working in the rigging department at Disney.  They said that people from different backgrounds get into rigging from having a BFA in Film Animation to Computer Science to Art and Film backgrounds – all require very artistic abilities.

You can buy FROZEN on Blu-ray and DVD everywhere March 18th! Preorder FROZEN (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy) on Amazon and receive it on the release date! Or download FROZEN digital copy now from Amazon.

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You have the chance to win your own copy of Disney FROZEN DVD!
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This was not a paid post. I received an all-expense paid trip to L.A. to visit Disney Studios and gifts. My own opinions were used based on my perceptions and experience. Thank you to Allied – THA  who provided the DVD for the giveaway.

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Founder and Lead Blogger at Akron Ohio Moms
Cindy is the top Akron Blogger with her own take on awesome brands for families, where to vacation for families, a beat on local activities and family fun, a knack for getting moms to share , and a house that is always 2 weeks away from a complete remodel!
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