Frozen: From sketch to movie

frozen07Amazed by the end result of Frozen, I wanted to explore how the movie came to be.

While not being in the field of animation myself, I love to learn more about the process behind the production of Frozen and give readers a little bit more know-how in how animation movies come to life.

frozen01The idea of creating a fairy tale inspired by The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen, wasn’t a new concept for Disney. In the 1930’s and 40’s Disney experimented with adapting this story, but the magical tale wasn’t easy to animate. The amount of work it would require and with the other projects for Disney, resulted in a halt for the Snow Queen project.

In the year 2008 the idea for The Snow Queen was brought back to life, but with a Disney style of storytelling. Disney shifted towards the story of two sisters who get separated and through personal journeys find themselves again.

A story doesn’t necessarily have to be a full reenactment of an existing piece or something completely original. An existing concept can be the drive in creating something unique.

frozen02A classical fairy tale focuses on a princess finding her perfect match. The team of Frozen decided to tell a story of two sisters and their bond. The bond between them would be the emotional drive for the story.

Shaping your characters and giving them emotions means you have to explore why they do certain things. Why does Elsa take refuge in a self created ice palace? Is her emotional state a result of her powers? Questions that shape a story and build an emotional background for the characters.

After that the story and ideas take shape as the writer makes its first drafts. The story crew reads it and brings in ideas to improve the story. A storyboard is created by story artists to fit the concept and create a look and feel for the movie. This process is repeated multiple times to make a convincing storyboard that captures the emotional drive and shapes the narrative.

Painting digitally makes it possible for the crew to swiftly adjust and implement ideas. In the early day of animation a lot happened traditionally, it had to be hand drawn, lengthening the production process.

frozen03Development doesn’t stop with creating characters and making drafts for the story. A world has to be created in which the characters live and interact. Just like with Tangled, the Disney crew is send to different locations to get a feel for the theme of the movie and make pictures.

The setting for Frozen was Norway and the artists were send over there to capture characteristic elements of Norway. This would help the artists create a credible environment for Frozen. A lot of elements such as buildings in Frozen can be recognized in the reference material.

frozen04When the outline for the story is done and the stage is set for the characters, the building of characters can take its next step. The characters are worked out in detail by the designers. Creating character designs and costumes, befitting for the story and design.

Characters have their specific way of moving and interacting. This is where designers and animators work together to capture the initial emotional feel from the drawings and bring it back to life in CG.

CG brings challenges as the character comes to life and designs not always work. In the artbook of Frozen one of the crew members states that the eyes in the initial drawn designs didn’t work animated. Animators find other challenges than traditional designers.

The haunting beauty Elsa gave the animators a lot of room to play with as she had a lot of emotional development. From introverted and secretive towards opening up and releasing herself. This brings tremendous opportunities for creating different settings and mature a character throughout the movie.

frozen05A true Disney production isn’t without singing and Frozen proceeds elegantly with musical tradition. Disney tries to make the singing as much part of the story as possible, making sure the songs blend in nicely and don’t halt the plot.

Two of the most popular songs from Frozen ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Do you wanna build a snowman’ gave the story emotional background and a song to sing to for the audience. Those two songs defined key moments in Frozen and at the same time progress the story.

frozen06This post was a very brief description of the making of Frozen and I want to adress that a lot of processes work parallel. An animator will closely work together with designers throughout the development and so do other departments within the animation studio. It’s a crew that works together, adjusts and improves.

I created this post with information from the Frozen artbook and for those who would like to know more about the details of the movie, I would recommend purchasing the book at the bookdepository. It’s worth the buy and you support the creators.


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