Skip to Content

I'm a Disney Animator! Check out my experience Rigging Olaf!

Sharing is caring!

The facade of the walt disney animation studios building with a sorcerer's hat on a sunny day.
Who here loves Olaf? Raise your hand. Okay, i'm sure that everyone in the entire inter-world is raising their hand because he is truly a fun, happy, adorable, and cuddly character. He is definitely one of the favorites in our house. Last month, when I had the opportunity to visit the Roy E. Disney Animation Building, I had the awesome opportunity to visit the Training Lab.
Handwritten sign reading "training lab" on a wall above a doorway.
What  happens in the Training Lab, you ask? This is an educational space where artists can learn the tools and how to's in Rigging. We were able to learn in this space from some of the top artists of disney.
 
A presentation in progress with three individuals observing and a slide reading "without character rig" displayed in the background.
 For us, we went into the Training lab to meet with CG supervisor Frank Hanner,  and Character TD Supervisors Greg Smith and Keith Wilson to learn about Rigging. What is Rigging? The Rigging is what constructs everything to allow characters to move. For example, it gives you the details of shapes on a face, like the arch of brows, or corner of mouth movement. 
 
Here is a great way to look at it:
 
A rigger is like a puppet control maker, with the animator being the puppeteer. A rigger will build and design the armature or skeleton that defines how the puppet moves. They create controls for the face and the body that allow the animator to create an emotive performance through movement and gesture, both in the body and in the face.

 

 

Presentation on character, cloth, and hair rigs, with audience and presenters in view.

In the movie Frozen, we learn that there wed 312 Character Rigs, 245 Cloth Rigs and 63 Hair Rigs. We were told that this was an incredible feat for them as something this grand has never been done before. You could imagine how much time and attention would go into 245 unique simulated costumes. This was double the amount of cloth Rigs that they had previously done.
 
A man presenting beside a screen displaying images of the animated character elsa from the movie frozen.
 
I was very impressed with the many hair styles of Anna and Elsa, look of their hair and even the "craziness of the Anna's hair". (you know what I mean):
A man presenting beside a screen with an animated character displayed.
 
Did you know that Elsa had a lot of hair. I know, I know. You watched the movie and you saw that she had an impressive, beautiful head of hair. But guess exactly HOW much hair she had.
 
420,000 strands.
 
To give you an example to show you just how incredibly impressive this is… remember Rapunzel? Yeah, the one with the impressive head of hair! 🙂  She only had 29,000 strands!! Crazy, huh! An average person has 100,000. Elsa had 4 TIMES an average person!
 
Man giving a presentation with a slide showing various dress designs and patterns.
As mentioned above, they had 245 Cloth Rigs in the making of Frozen. When watching the movie, there are a lot of of characters in crowd scenes and all of their outfits need to move naturally. Riggers make it so their outfits move like cloth would move and would react to both the character, the environment or physical phenomenas such as wind or gravity.
A person observing various sketches of an animated snowman character projected on a screen.
Its Olaf! 🙂 These are Character sheets that the artists receive. They give the Rigger the information needed  to designs rigs so that can create these poses.
 
Two computer monitors displaying animation software with a 3d model of a character on the left and its texture or rigging map on the right.
Here is where the fun starts. Here is my workspace. Out of all the things that I did at the Disney  Animation studios, I think that Rigging Olaf was my favorite. It was was fun to learn the basic controls and make Olaf come to life. I wish that I could have had more time in this lab and been able to learn more.
 
Digital animation interface showing a character rig for facial and body manipulation on a computer screen.
  In order to Rig a specific part of Olaf, you would click on the point of his body that you wanted to work with on one screen, then you would use the other screen to make the changes. There was more to it than this at first, specific controls that you would use and buttons that you would press that would make this happen. 
 
Here is some of my work. Amazing, I know...
Computer screens displaying various angles of a 3d model of an animated snowman character in a modeling software environment.
 
Here is a little video about my experience. As you can see from the video, I was REALLY good. They'll probably be calling me and offering me a job. Very soon. 🙂
 

YouTube video


I'm a Disney Animator! Thank you again Disney for the amazing trip to LA where I could learn all about Frozen and spend time in the Rigging Lab. All opinions expressed above were my own. 

Sharing is caring!