The Evolution of Disney: Frankenweenie Part II

Last time we explored Frankenweenie’s puppets and animation process behind the scenes. This time it’s all about the overall design — the production and costume design that is, which will give you an idea of just how extensive a stop animation feature is to make.


The look of Frankenweenie, like the story, was inspired by Tim Burton’s childhood, specifically the town of Burbank, CA where he grew up, as well as old horror movies and common Gothic motifs. Frankenweenie takes place in the town of New Holland which shares characteristics of Burbank around the 1970s with its classic cookie cutter idea of suburbia. Executive producer Don Hahn refers to the style as ” Transylvania meets Burbank”.

The production design was spearheaded by Rick Henrichs, who has worked previously with Burton on other films; he and his team studied 1970s architecture of the southwest, featuring tract-house style homes and other post-war periods to bring Burton’s vision of New Holland to life. The designer also based the fictional world on the original live-action short borrowing the expressionistic style and Gothic style of the black and white film to expand upon the look of New Holland.

After massive research, the designing began in November of 2009 in an L.A. studio before moving to the London studio to actually begin the long process of constructing the models, props, sets, and other decor.

The main challenge with stop motion or any feature using miniatures is finding the proper scale for the characters and sets they inhabit.  Out of all the sets, New Holland presented the biggest challenge for designers having to construct a whole town from scratch and Victor’s lab which required a lot mechanical wiring and hand lighting installations.

In total, about 200 sets were created for the film and the overall color scheme was a black and white to grayscale monochromatic look.

While you will notice the film uses many classic horror motifs such as the Windmill on the hill — which also had to be hand engineered — and the cemetery.


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Frankenweenie set (Walt Disney Pictures)
















Costumes and hair are a completely different beast in stop-motion, not only because of the scale but because like the sets — you have to create everything from scratch.  You can’t buy or rent clothes for production and hair can’t be styled or wigs purchased. Instead, it is a highly detailed process done by hand. For example to create the hair for each puppet someone must push individual strands of hair with a special needle into the puppet’s head to create a full wig. While the process of the costumes involves selecting fabrics and then making mockups for approval by the director before being hand sewn to size for each character.



Of course when your working with that many objects on such a small scale repeatedly things are likely to receive some wear and tear between shots. That’s why on set there is a “hospital” where it is someone’s job to make the puppets or sets brand new again. Kind of cool.


Here’s also a look at some of the concept art and sketches from the film.


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For more art and behind the scenes check out the visual companion book

( Images copyright of Walt Disney Pictures)


The Evolution of Disney II: Brave

The New Disney Animation

The new era of Disney 3-D Animation where girls are fearless, carefree, and fun, yet real is the new  direction of the family company. Mainly moving away from the typical princess to bolder heroines like Merida in Brave and Anna in Frozen — which I briefly discussed last time in our series.

Began back in 2010 with Tangled, a few years before the smart and ballsy Brave ever appeared.

188560_1_b23_10bpub_pub16_170_R1_CMYK.jpg_rgbBrave was a departure of sorts for Disney and Pixar primarily based on the director and writer’s children. The plot follows princess Merida’s protest to accept her traditional role and be a lady, preferring to shoot bow and arrows and frolic in the Scottish hillside.  So  she devises  a plan that seems simple: use a witch to change her fate, but changing her fate is not as simple as it seems.

The film originally called The Bear and the Bow at one point is unique from previous Pixar films as it is the first female protagonist.

Overall it is a great story with excellent character development and artwork, some of which I have included below. While it never ceases to amaze me how much detail Pixar or Disney puts into their films and this carries over into everything they do, even the merchandise and parks.

Art of Brave


brave concept art

Concept Art




Concept Pixar

Here are also a few sketches from pre-production.

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Also this film is great to look at VFX and 3-D techniques that achieve accurate realism. My favorite is Merida’s hair.








(All images copyright of Disney & Pixar)

Evolution of Disney: Part II


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In continuation with the Evolution of Disney series this week I’ll look at Disney’s 3D Animation, made with a new generation in mind, that moves away from its traditional roots, but still maintains the basic foundation and traditional methods of Disney Animation.

In recent years, Disney known especially over the years for its 2D animated features, has produced increasingly more and more 3D animated films, usually in conjunction with Pixar — a company who started the 3D animated revolution with Toy Story and  created other films like The Incredibles, Monsters Inc.,Tangled, Brave, and Finding Nemo among others. Often portraying characters that are fresh, yet familiar to previous character designs with a wide-eyes, robust personality, and eagerness that is irresistible to both kids and adults alike.



Of these, their most recent sensation, Frozen, has caused quite a stir forever changing the way we envision animation.

Personally,  I think Frozen is quite similar to Lion King(but people).

The 3D camera moves beautifully to create the feel of  a live Broadway musical harkening back to Disney’s classic animation age where music was front and center.  Meanwhile Frozen, unlike most of Disney’s other animated films isn’t about the princess finding prince charming so much, but instead  focuses on the power of love and fear and more importantly the relationship between two sisters.


Simply put, this film stands out above the rest for so many reasons, like the music which is superb, plus the fun and relate able characters. It’s definitely a can’t miss film, especially for Disney fans. Trust me you’ll be singing  “Let it Go” by the end.

Stay tuned for more 3D Disney soon and don’t forget to check out my tumblr@cinematictruths Minute Review of Frozen!



Last time, the Evolution of Disney: Part I focused on the upcoming film Maleficent and the costume design. This week I will focus on the makeup design and look that inspired Maleficent before it hits theaters Friday.

The look from both versions is really quite similar and they did an excellent job of translating it into a live-action film.







Maleficent (Walt Disney Pictures)


In like fashion to the costume design, Angelina Jolie contributed to the finished look of the character Maleficent, bringing a strong sense of what the character should look like and represent. The look is based off of her vision in collaboration with special effects artist Rick Baker, her makeup artist Toni G, and special effects artist Arjen Tuiten and was inspired by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.

The creature elements required three hours to apply and about an hour to remove each day. Along with quite a few prosthetics that were applied on Jolie’s cheeks and nose, in addition to goat-like contact lenses which were specifically created and hand painted to match her eyes and add a little sparkle. There are even some false molars, ears, and crazy nail art to create the look of the villain.


Angelina Jolie as maleficent(Walt Disney Pictures)


While her hair was mostly braided or in a bun to support the horns.

Overall the makeup department was going for a subtle makeup look with a few enhancements to Jolie’s already beautiful features, which can now be replicated with MAC’s new Maleficent collection inspired by the film. The lipsticks she wears in the film are the exact same colors in the collection’s palette and are meant to be compatible with all complexions.





The Evolution of Disney Part I: Maleficent


By now we’ve seen the stories that made us cry, that shaped who we are, that made us laugh. We have seen the impossible become possible; that dreams really do come true; that there is always something bigger or better; and that some, yes, live happily ever after. This is the magic of Disney, that brings us back every time.

The magic that found its roots in traditional animation, learned to embrace 3D animation, and changed fairy tales into live-action adventures; quite unlike anything ever seen before.

Over the next few months, I will explore the evolution of Disney, providing a closer look inside the films — from present to past — and possibly what else Walt Disney Studios has in store for the future.



Enchanted(Walt Disney Pictures)


PART I: Live Action

The Walt Disney Studios has a long history with live action films, which began in 1950 with Treasure Island, followed by the beloved classic Mary Poppins, and other features like Honey I Shrunk the Kids, The Mighty Ducks, and recently Pirates of the Caribbean. So venturing into live-action features is nothing new for the studio. However, adapting their animated classics into live-action films is relatively new and it all began with the success of the film Enchanted.

Enchanted, was a new endeavor by Disney released in 2007, based on the idea of happily ever after crossing from fantasy to real-life. The success of Enchanted allowed Disney to explore other fairytale adaptations for a new generation, leading to the current slate of upcoming films for release including: Into the Woods, Maleficent, and Cinderella.

For this part 1 series I will focus on Maleficent, which hits theater May 30, so be sure to see it!






Everyone knows and possibly loves the story of Sleeping Beauty, but what about the story of one of Disney’s greatest villains Maleficent. Was she really evil? If so, what turned her heart to stone? This is what the new film will hopefully finally answer for curious fans craving a twist on the beloved tale.

But alas we must wait …so until all is revealed on May 30, I will focus on the costumes which in my opinion are just as iconic as Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman or Charlize Theron’s queen in Snow White and the Huntsman.

The costumes designed by Oscar nominated Anna B. Sheppard, who has worked on such films as Schindler’s List and The Pianist, based the costumes on medieval and renaissance period history and art, in addition to the original Disney designs by animator Marc Davis from the animated classic. From there Sheppard and Angelina Jolie, who plays Maleficent, created the look of the character alongside a brilliant team of designers.

You may notice that the costumes for Maleficent are very sculptural and reminiscent of Lady Gaga — one of the designers actually created pieces for the artist in the past.

As for the fabrics, they are a combination of “floaty” and heavier textiles including some furs, leathers, and feathers.

In short, this was a massive collaboration by a very talented group of designers, including Justin Smith, Rob Goodwin, and Manuel Albarran. The headwear was designed by milliner Justin Smith, with Jolie’s input and was inspired by turban or head wrap styles, animalistic elements, and rope knotting. Altogether there are six different headpieces seen throughout the film.

While the footwear was constructed by Rob Goodwin, who added reptilian and scale like influences into the designs. As for the accessories, collars, and final fight scene costume they were designed by Manuel Albarran who designed the spines you will see on Jolie’s character in the film.

Their work collectively created the dark, yet hauntingly beautiful, and elegant Maleficent, that will surely be remembered for years to come.