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Creating Digital Art-Effects for Disney Frozen

“It was one of the biggest kind of FX films that we’ve ever done here.” Marlon West, effects supervisor.

Creating Digital Art-Effects for Disney Frozen

Effects Supervisor Marlon West, Principal Software Engineer Andy Selle, Animation Technology Manager Evan Goldberg and Effects Supervisor Dale Mayeda. Photo by: Rich Polk. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved

When creating the digital effects for the Disney film, Frozen, the team had to create a character that could create snow and ice out of thin air. This was a big challenge for the team, and they used specialized custom software tools to make it happen.

“We really wanted to support the art direction and storytelling through her magic.” Marlon West

When creating the snow that the character Elsa creates in the film, “If you look really closely, it’s not just pixie dust, like we’ve done in earlier shows, but the snowflakes grow, like they do in real life,” said West.

“One thing that is unique about our studio, is that we have a rich history of hand-drawn animation.” Marlon West

A lot of the team that worked on the film “Frozen,” started their careers doing hand-drawn animation. While they were working in the layout department, they would do some hand-drawn FX to help learn how the characters would act and behave in the film.

Disney Frozen

Photo by: Rich Polk. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved

“We used the snowflake generator to generate about 2,000 different snowflake shapes.” Dale Mayeda, effects supervisor.

When creating a magical world that needs to feel believable, the team had to do a lot of research before working on the film. When they were getting started on the film, the team had a professor from Cal Tech, Dr. Ken Liebricht, known as Dr. Snow, come to speak with them. When they learned about how every snowflake is unique, “We ended up creating our own snowflake generator,” said Mayeda.

“When a new film comes up, the question is, What new technology would really make this film better?” Andy Selle, Principal Software Engineer.

“The reason why snow was so hard on this film, is that there was a lot of interaction,” said Selle. They created a snow simulator for the film, specifically called Snow Batcher, that was developed by Dale Mayeda. The Snow Batcher would allow them to preview where the snow is going to be on every shot, so that FX animators can go in and add the secondary detail.

They then developed another software called the “Matterhorn,” that would take away the effect of snow looking “like packing peanuts,” said Selle. “We had to capture the ability for the snow to pack, compress and stretch apart.”

The art-effects in the film Frozen give the film life and magic like never before in a Disney film. Disney Frozen will be in theaters on November 27th.


We attended a press event at Disney where we learned about the digital art effects. Photos are courtesy of Rich Polk. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved

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  1. Directors of 'Frozen' Bring The Disney Animated Film to Life - OC Mom Blog | OC Mom Blog - […] want the characters walking on top of snow, we wanted integration,” said Lee. The effects team built special programs…

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