On the face of it you may not immediately see the connection between Frozen 2, Pocahontas and Moana, but there is one.
Malerie Walters, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com in our Disney+ Live Q&A, opened up about working on Elsa’s animation for Disney’s Frozen 2.
Walters appears frequently in the Disney+ docu-series Into the Unknown: Making of Frozen 2 as she animates key scenes like Elsa reaching out in Into the Unknown and the reindeer in Lost in the Woods.
Walters said the former was a challenge.
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“For me, it was just my animation skill at that point was very tested, I had never animated a character running and I rely very heavily on my reference, so when I was animating to my reference it was very clumsy because I’m clumsy,” she said. “My running isn’t as graceful as Elsa’s should be.”
In the docu-series we see Walters getting her boyfriend to record her running while he skateboards alongside her.
Showing her animation to co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee she is told to make a few changes and is tasked with coming up with a more graceful run, smoothing out a slight jump and trip. That’s when Walters turned to Disney’s back catalogue for ideas.
“I actually had to go back and look at the reference. I looked at Pocahontas because Pocahontas does a lot of really beautiful runs in that movie and that really helped me learn how to create…just more elegant [runs],” she explained.
Walters picked a good point of reference – Glen Keane was the animation supervisor behind Pocahontas. If you recognise his name it’s because he’s Disney stalwart having worked on Tarzan (which Buck also directed), Tangled, Aladdin, The Rescuers as well as Beauty and the Beast.
But it wasn’t just the 1995 movie Pocahontas that inspired Walters; she also looked at the more recent movie Moana .
“I looked at Moana, Andrew Feliciano [another Disney animator] did some amazing runs of Moana while she’s singing,” she said. “I went and asked him what his workflow was like for that.”
Walters also admitted that working on Frozen 2 – when she hadn’t animated Elsa before – did prompt another challenge.
“I felt the whole time that I wasn’t going to do it good enough, I was really hard on myself the whole time,” she confessed. “That was the hardest challenge. ‘Am I going to be able to make this as good as it should look?’
“It feels like jumping off a cliff every time you’re animating something new because you don’t know if you can do it or not. That fear never really goes away, it’s part of what makes this job so exciting and terrifying anytime…
“It’s almost scary when I start to feel the confidence come back because I’m like, ‘Uh oh, I’m going to get schooled really hard and have a big lesson here!'”
You can watch Walters explain her process on our Disney+ Live Q&A with co-director Chris Buck, animation supervisor Wayne Unten and animator Malerie Walters.
Does Disney use other Disney movies as a reference?
Walters was inspired by Disney’s other movies, but Disney recycling animation isn’t unheard of. Walters just used Disney’s movies as a reference, but other older movies have gone one step further.
Dumbo used a moment from The Country Cousin to draw the mouse leaning against a bubble and the crows have popped up a few times elsewhere too.
The Jungle Book and The Sword and the Stone also echo each other in places but one of the most famous is The Jungle Book and Robin Hood. Scenes in these movies were recycled and fans often point out like-for-like shots.
Maid Marian dancing echoes Snow White clapping along with the dwarves and the cat and musicians encouraging Robin and Marian to dance echoes the Aristocats.
Baloo and Little John are of course doppelgangers. In many cases, movies just inspire others, but Robin Hood is famous for being the lowest budget movie Disney ever made – one cost-saving measure was to use scenes from The Jungle Book.
Wondering what movie to watch next? Check out our guide to the best movies on Disney+.