It is a rare treat indeed to get a chance to peek into the future. But that’s exactly what happened when MiceChat was invited to visit the hallowed halls of Walt Disney Animation for a sneak preview of Walt Disney Picture’s upcoming film, Frozen.
The film, whose initial teaser preview depicts a battle of wits between a large reindeer named Sven and a doughy snowman named Olaf, initially provoked a collective groan from the Disney fan community as it seemed to resemble the zany Scrat Cartoons from Dreamworks Ice Age.
While comical, the initial trailer you’ve all seen wasn’t the best example of what the full film is really about. A little voice deep inside told us that there was a lot more to this upcoming film than trying to ape another studio’s franchise. We are glad to report that the trailer above was but a flake of snow from an avalanche of rich creativity and story telling that was soon to be shared.
As we entered the base of the large, blue sorcerer’s hat entrance to Walt Disney Animation we noticed the walls were decorated with amazing character studies from the new movie. Life size standees of the new Snow Queen and her sister Anna stood along the hallway. They depicted not only their characteristics but allowed a close look at the stunning detail in the costume designs. Further down the hall a massive snow creature loomed. Highly detailed, granulated snow made up the surface of this wild creation. The details and true character emoting from these mere pieces of static art gave us pause. Would Frozen live up to the Disney name?
We were to be treated to approximately 25 minutes of footage from the new film. Set in the fjords of Norway, in a fictional kingdom of Arendelle, sisters Anna and Elsa grow and play together. Elsa’s magical gift for snow is kept secret until one fateful day when an accident sends her running into the nearby mountains for exile. It is then up to Anna to reach her sister before Arendelle is consumed by a never-ending winter.
The thing that was most striking in the footage that we enjoyed was, most importantly, the emotion. The storyline earns the emotional notes it tries to reach and pulls you in with real substance instead of pandering to audiences for cheap laughs.
The other notable feature of the film was the seemingly endless frozen landscape. Snow covered pines bathed in cool tones of blue and white painted so convincing a picture that you could practically feel the ice-cold air on your face. This was not the plasticine rendering ability of a lesser studio. This was the clear ability of Disney’s Computer animation division finding its technical footing after creating films like Tangled and Wreck-it-Ralph. They were using their technological savvy to convey the story’s sense of place rather than dictate its limitations.
This wasn’t Tangled on ice. But rather a fully realized story with an emotional drive, and an attention to detail that enhanced story.
After the footage we were then invited to meet the film makers behind the movie. Leaving the screening room we made our way into the hive of creativity. We learned all about the look of the film, and why certain elements were chosen. We also got to meet the animators to ask them how they give life to a computer rendering. We also got to spend a large amount of time with the technical crew that developed the engines and systems behind the convincing snow effects. They offered us a little treat.
A short animation, to be sure, but one that demonstrated the physics of snow, how it falls, how it clumps and how it behaves. The thought that is put into each and every detail on a film like this is , to be honest, overwhelming and very impressive.
But what do these artists do to learn how to animate the seemingly boring details of snow? What is their research like. Who dictates how long to spend on an animated snowflake and why is any of this important? We will share the answers in our next article on Disney’s Frozen.
Suffice it to say that, after visiting the studios and seeing the awe-inspiring work behind this film, we are eager to see the rest of the movie.