Disney Animation paper artist Brittney Lee on creating this year’s Arendelle Yule Log
We first met Brittney Lee when she helped create the visual development art for “Frozen” back in 2013. In the years since, she has made a greater name for herself in her specialized art form: cut paper. With her complex and beautiful paper art, Lee has a cultivated a devoted following of over 200,000 followers on Instagram.
She’ll now expand her audience exponentially with her newest project for Disney having created the now annual iteration of the Arendelle Yule Log. Now in its 3rd year, the Yule Log tradition continues through Lee’s unique art work.
We had the opportunity to chat with Lee about the project recently. Please enjoy our conversation below! (And please note that our interview was edited for clarity and continuity.)
DE: How did this project come about? And how did you get involved?
BL: The folks in our creative legacy department at Walt Disney Animation Studios were thinking about idea for how to update the Arendelle Yule Log for the third year. Our visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings randomly pitched the department on having me do the Yule Log as a cut paper piece. They were very excited and then came to me and asked if I could get involved. I said yes immediately because I jump at any time I get to revisit the “Frozen” world.
DE: This was meant to be a filmed piece. What were some of the challenges in doing something like that with paper?
BL: It was a ‘big question mark’ upfront. There are challenges involved in this in that it needs to be reimagined since cut paper is a static piece of art. But everyone was very supportive of us going for it and experimenting with doing it. For example, I typically don’t put any lighting in my pieces, but for this, I wanted to do something that was backlit. We tried photographing it, and found so many visual cues that we ended up not using and some we did use. It was a lot of asking ourselves “how?”
DE: How long did the process take to go from concept to reality?
BL: We started thinking about it in late spring of this year (2021). And cut paper piece was fully built by the end of August. Post-production happened in September. Actual studio time building the piece was 60 hours total. It was a quick turnaround time compared to other things we do at the studio.
DE: How large is the cut paper piece?
BL: It’s about 3 feet wide and 18 inches tall, so this is a large piece for me. I typically don’t make things this large, but it was what was needed for this production. It’s also in separate pieces to give illusion of depth, so I can’t really stand it up by itself unless it has support.
DE: Why do you think that people love your take on art with paper so much? Can they do this at home?
BL: I think it’s something that I don’t think of too often. People love beautiful things, so I suppose they like the beauty found in my art. Cut paper can be something that brings the same level of emotional connection that any other art form does when consuming it, so I’m grateful that the studio and the people who follow me really embrace it all. I hope people see what I do and are very much inspired to do the same! Cut paper art is less prescriptive and more exploration, so I think if people just try, they may find their art just by trying.
The Arendelle Yule Log by Brittney Lee can now be viewed exclusively on Disney+.
Our special thanks to Brittney Lee for contributing to this story! You can follow her on Instagram.