Let’s play a game! If you win, you get a high-five.
Ok, what is the one thing that’s the same in each of these classic Disney Animation clips?
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Did you get it? It’s actually pretty tough to see if you aren’t looking intentionally for it. That’s because it’s something that you probably haven’t noticed in either The Jungle Book or Frozen before!
Well, if you look really closely in each sequence, the background in each clip is actually static, meaning that there is no actual movement of anything in the shown clips aside from the character’s performances. It never occurred to me that it was the case for every single Disney animated film (and any animated film for that matter) since forever!
If it hadn’t occurred to you either, you are like me and find that small details like that would ruin the overall experience of enjoying the film. Nevertheless, Disney animators are known for their attention to detail, so they set out to “fix” the static nature of animation.
It took over 90 years, but the next Walt Disney Animation Studios film Zootopia will have what no other Disney animated film has: non-static backgrounds! In the example I was shown, animators were able to point out multiple quick scenes that had tree leaves rustling in the wind.
It might not sound too exciting or worthy of acclaim, but it’s actually really difficult to make this all happen. Still, Disney animators and technologists created a software program called “Keep Alive” that allows small details in the animated world to react as if they were in our real-world.
Leaves were just one example of how animators who worked on Zootopia used Keep Alive. They also incorporated it into the fur of some of the characters, including Nick Wilde, the daring fox lead character.
While you’ll only get a few seconds to glimpse at both fur and leaves in motion when you see the final movie, Disney animators truly believe that detail will make you believe the story even more.
“It has always been our focus to make these small enhancements invisible,” said Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner at a press day we attended last year. “Our work is always meant to support the story.”
You’ll get a better understanding of what Matthias and I are describing when you see Keep Alive in action with Zootopia. It’ll just be another reason why the 55th Disney animated film will be something to look forward to because it’s really something that we haven’t seen be-fur!
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