A Blizzard of Effects
HeHere are a few factoids about Frozen’s mind-bending technical and vfx achievements:
Elsa, the Snow Queen, is one of the most complex Disney characters ever. According to character CG supervisor Frank Hanner, Elsa has about 420,000 hairs on her head. “Just as a point of comparison, one of our last famous Disney leading ladies, Rapunzel, only had 27,000 hairs,” says Hanner.
Cal Tech professor Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, a.k.a. Dr. Snow, offered advice about snow and ice formations to the vfx team. The effects group created a snowflake generator that allowed them to randomly create 2,000 unique snowflake shapes for the film. “Whenever you see any snow falling in this film, if you stop in on a frame and you zoom in, it’ll be one of these 2,000 different snowflake shapes,” says effects supervisor Dale Mayeda. Overall, 23 different types of snow flurries were created for the movie.
One of the biggest challenges for the effects team was creating believable variations on ice, snow and frost, using these new sim techniques. Presenting the team with hours of hard work was the task of creating “ankle-deep to knee-deep and waist-deep snow,” says Mayeda.
Another key innovation was using special cameras that are equipped with LED lights that can track motion. This helps put the effects animation in the virtual world, using camera rig setups with motion sensors. This sytem system allows smooth movement frame by frame and provides natural movement.
According to Hanner, about 312 character rigs were created, more than any other Disney movie to date. Frozen also required 245 cloth rigs—more than
all the cloth rigs created for the studio’s movies combined!