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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Life + Arts

Animators dish on new film

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Disney’s upcoming The Princess and the Frog marks the studio’s return to traditional hand-drawn animation. | Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Disney artist Michael Surrey described the creation of the film The Princess and the Frog as being “like a high school reunion” Wednesday in a roundtable interview with press.

Surrey and Mark Henn animated characters for Disney’s upcoming traditionally animated feature film, the first entirely 2-D film to be released by the studio in five years.

Both artists were thrilled to be a part of the revival.

Henn was responsible for bringing animated heroine Tiana to life, drawing from his experience as the animator of other Disney princesses such as The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle. Surrey animated Ray, a love-struck Cajun firefly.

Surrey candidly recalled his nervousness when he found out late in an already-hectic production schedule that his character was going to get a song — one of many traditional dance numbers in the film.

Both animators fondly recalled traveling to New Orleans for inspiration, watching their characters’ songs get scored and struggling to return to traditional animation.

“There was still some skepticism,” Henn said about the decision to revive the animated Disney musical tradition. “We just had to get the tables back and stock some paper.”

The studio used scanners and computers to place hand-rendered drawings onto digitally painted backgrounds. Surrey said that Ray’s wings were digitally animated, and that computers were used to help create the illusion that the firefly was hovering.

Henn said that the belief that computer animation is easier or cheaper than traditional animation is a myth, and that computers bring their own unpredictable challenges.

“At worst (with traditional animation), I have my pencil break and I can buy a new pencil,” Henn said with a laugh.

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