Justin Tennant

Frozen 2 - Elsa and Anna walking into the Unknown

Frozen 2

Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film – worked on crowds pipeline, support & bug fixing, and more as an Assistant Technical Director.

Frozen 2 is the first feature film I’ve had the privilege to work on, and I am immensely proud of what our crew accomplished to produce this stunning visual magic.

On Frozen 2 I worked as an Assistant Technical Director, performing a mixture of scripting, tools development, and problem solving for our artists & their workflows. As a member of the Technical Director department, I represented the intermediate between our artists and software engineers, working as a “steward of the pipeline” to ensure our artists could accomplish their artistic visions with the technology we craft them.

Background🔗

A little context about how I got to work on Frozen 2:

I joined Walt Disney Animation Studios through their Talent Development Program as a Technical Director Trainee in 20181. After 3 months as a trainee, I was cast to Frozen 2 as an Assistant Technical Director and assisted nearly all the production departments on producing and rendering this film.

Besides it being my first film to work on at Walt Disney Animation Studios and my first credit, Frozen 2 holds a particularly special place in my heart for another reason: the first Frozen movie motivated me to enter the computer graphics industry. Specifically, the A Material Point Method for Snow Simulation2 publication from the film’s technical development was a defining point of inspiration during my years as a college student. To have worked on its direct sequel, at the studio that produced it, is a true honor and a highlight of my career.

Frozen 2 - Teaser shot
The gang overlook the enchanted forest. From the Frozen 2 Official Teaser Trailer.

But enough gushing! Here’s a glance at some of the stuff I worked on for this production:

Crowds (and their luscious locks)🔗

Frozen 2 had a lot of crowd characters, and all of them needed to appear presentable – groomed hair, fitted clothes, the works! Ensuring the best tailored look across all the crowd body types and head shapes was a necessity.

To accomplish this, we used a refitting process that propagated data along our crowd asset hierarchies (described in Luceno Ros et al. 2021, p. 23). I worked on the part of that process that refit the crowd characters’ hair grooms to different head shapes.

Frozen 2 - Crowds
Frozen 2 - Crowds
Some examples of the crowds pipeline in action. Look at that beautifully groomed crowd hair! From a Frozen 2 trailer.

Bug fixing & production support🔗

No film ever completes production without some occurrence of technical challenges.

Part of my responsibility on the show was triaging the many issues that arose from artists: Elsa’s hair blowing up, disappearing props and sets, crazy render times, you name it! As an Assistant Technical Director (ATD), the expectation was for me to pick up any issue from any production department and do my best to solve it.

I also had a hand in touching a number of software products and artist tools for bugfixes that came up during production.

Optimizations🔗

The Technical Director teams also share a responsibility of optimizing our shots when needed to get them through the pipeline. Below are a few behind-the-scenes highlights of shots I had a hand in optimizing:

Related publications🔗

Along with the beautiful artistry crafted for this film, our technical teams went all out to refine our tools and workflows. Here are some publications released by our studio that illustrate the awesome partnerships of art and science on Frozen 2:

Frozen 2 credits
Hey, it's me! This is my first film credit.

All images in this post are courtesy of and the property of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

References🔗

1

The Trainee & Apprentice Program at Walt Disney Animation Studios is a 9-to-18 month mentored training program for recently graduated/early career artists and technologists. If you’re interested in this opportunity, I recommend checking out “Open Positions” on Disney Animation Careers and look for “Talent Development” roles for your focus of interest.

2

Alexey Stomakhin, Craig Schroeder, Lawrence Chai, Joseph Teran, and Andrew Selle. 2013. A material point method for snow simulation. ACM Trans. Graph. 32, 4, Article 102 (July 2013), 10 pages. disneyanimation.com

3

Alberto Luceno Ros, Kristin Chow, Jack Geckler, Norman Moses Joseph, and Nicolas Nghiem. 2021. Populating the World of Kumandra: Animation at Scale for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon”. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2021 Talks (SIGGRAPH ’21). Article 39, 1–2.