Cheryl Hansen is a mom of two, wife of one (!) and a writer for The Walt Disney Studios, writing about the movies and the people who bring them to life. She spent a day in May with the directors of “Frozen” in an effort to figure out how they do what they do and is sharing some of her insights this week.

Ever notice how people with cool jobs always seem to be smiling—even just a little? It’s as if they’ve just discovered the secret to eternal youth, which actually makes sense, if you think about it, because they have, in a way, found eternal youth.


The thought occurs to me every time I encounter someone who works in animation. I mean, seriously, do jobs get any cooler? As a Disney writer who covers animation, I get to meet the people who make it happen and see the passion every now and then. Their enthusiasm is catchy. Take, for example, Ruthie Tompson, who was a painter back in the days of Walt Disney himself, or Milton Quon, an animator on “Fantasia” and “Dumbo.” I had the honor of meeting them and several of their Disney Legend colleagues last week when Disney Animation marked 90 years with a “Frozen” screening and unforgettable reception. Retired for longer than I’ve been working and, in at least one case, more than 100 years old—each of the former animation employees I met had a light from within that I wished I could bottle.

My fascination with these people might explain my own job shift earlier this year. As Mom to two kids under age 5, I watch a lot of animated movies. Repeatedly. I can quote lines from “Tangled” better than most guys quote “The Godfather.” (“Frying pans … who knew, right?”) But despite more than five years’ animation experience—both professionally and personally—I realized I had a lot to learn.


So I became a stalker. My target? Directors. Specifically, the two directors of Disney’s “Frozen,” Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. I followed them for a full day while the movie was in production, and I checked in with them over the course of the next few months to see them in action.

I wasn’t sure what directors did all day, but I imagined something magical—with epic music playing in the background and classic characters like Mufasa peeking over their shoulders. And it was like that. Only more intense. Seriously. I was exhausted. After three hours. But I was the only one. I’m sure they all were tired—they work hard—but you’d never know. There was such a passion surging through that place, fueling the people inside to think of better ways to do something that was already good—it was pretty neat to witness.

In fact, during one meeting, I heard something I (unfortunately) don’t hear often (ever). “It’s too perfect.” The directors were reviewing the scene in which Elsa unleashes her magic and builds her way-cool ice palace. They were discussing the look of the snowflake-inspired chandelier, watching a three-second clip of the imagery over and over. Apparently, with all the advantages computers have contributed to the world of animation, there are some things only humans can do—and imperfection is one of them (now that’s something I can relate to). Ice has frost, cracks and bubbles. Without them, it looked like glass. Too perfect.

"FROZEN" Elsa's ice palace. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The resulting image, by the way, is pretty perfect, after all. Now most of us would approach a film in which everything gets slammed with ice and snow with the idea that there would be a lot of white. Not this team, who found a way to incorporate big, bold colors in an ice palace. They studied ice and how it reacts to light and managed to make it all seem completely natural. In the end, it turns out, it is all about the light (in more ways than one).

"FROZEN" Visual development. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

I’ll be sharing more of my adventures this week via a few of our favorite blogs. Tomorrow, learn how it all comes together. Check it out on MOMLUCK and in the meantime, I’d love to read your comments on my first official blog post and to hear your thoughts on FROZEN. How many times have you seen the film so far?


The following two tabs change content below.
Toni is a professional lifestyle blogger living on the sunny Florida Gulf Coast. She has a passion for Disney, Travel, Fashion, Cooking, Tech, Family Fun Ideas, Reviews, Giveaways and loves being able to share that with her readers!

Latest posts by Toni Patton (see all)


  1. 1

    I got to meet the directors too! I learned that there was so much more to animation than I ever realized.

  2. 2

    What a cool job YOU have! So fun! We LOVE FROZEN! Have seen it twice with my boys and I saw part of it on a trip to the animation studios. It’s one of my favorites! 🙂

  3. 3

    I so agree with you! What a cool job to have. Actually I think working with the most magical company in the world, doing most any job, would bring a smile to my face. 🙂 Great post! Frozen is an awesome movie!

  4. 4

    It’s always so cool to get a little insight behind the scenes of movies!!

  5. 5

    I have yet to watch Frozen but am really looking forward to it. You really get to appreciate the amount of work and magic that goes into these films when you meet these folks!

  6. 6

    Meeting the folks involved with the production of any movie is an amazing opportunity and adds so many extra dimensions to the viewing of the movie!
    I was also lucky enough to meet these folks, their enthusiasm becomes contagious as well!

  7. 7

    I absolutely LOVE Frozen!! I just love hearing some of the behind the scenes. What a great adventure! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  8. 8

    I 100% agree with you that if you love your job, it does not feel like a job, and you will live a lot longer!! I got to see some of the movie before it was completed, and saw all the work involved. It truly is magical what they can create. We have already gone to the theater twice to see Frozen, and we will go again this week!! Best movie of the year!! Great post!

  9. 9

    Frozen was amazing! I cannot wait to buy it. It sounds like you have an amazing job and I loving hearing your view of onset reactions. Disney really does put a lot of thought into what they do down to every single;e little detail. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! 🙂

  10. 10

    What an awesome experience Toni! I can only imagine what goes into the animation we get to see at the end of their hard work and dedication. I also always wished I worked for Disney. What an awesome, yet tiring but fulfilling job to have! Thank you again for sharing. Frozen definitely is movie 1 of many, yet 1 of a kind.

  11. 11

    I’ve had one opportunity to meet some behind-the-scenes folks in animation (for Planes) and it was amazing. It brought the movie to life for me even more than before.

    We’ve had the chance to watch “Frozen” once so far and it was beyond amazing. It was the first movie that my 2-year-old happily say all the way through at the theater. She can’t wait to see it again, and often starts singing the “Let It Go” song around the house. Love it!

  12. 12

    I took my 3 1/2 year old to see Frozen, when the credits started she started crying and asked to see it again. She loved it!

  13. 13

    I’ve only seen FROZEN once, but loved it. My kids also really enjoyed it. The music is so. I especially love Olaf singing about what frozen things do in summer! lol Thanks for the fun behind-the-scenes!

  14. 14

    How cool that you got to do that! Such an awesome opportunity!

  15. 15

    This is such a fun post – I love getting to know more “behind the scenes” of my favorite Disney movies!!

  16. 16

    What a great opportunity. As a writer, I would be really honored to follow in the footsteps of someone like this for a day. Or even half a day to see what they do. There are a lot of opportunities for bloggers out there, all you have to do is ask. If it’s not Disney, then there are plenty of other writers would would be happy to allow you to interview them and hang out with them.

  17. 17

    Like most things in life, we have no idea how much work goes into making something magical. We just sit back in our chair at the theatre or sofa at home and enjoy the finished product. We get to laugh & cry, ride the roller coaster of emotion without even considering the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into these unbelievable films. We have no idea the effort it must take to tug at the heart strings of a three year old the same way it touches a 75 year old. I think it would be amazing to hang with the animation team and see things come to life. I love this article! Cheryl you have a gift when it comes to writing. You are exactly where you were meant to be. Continue be amazing girl!!! Excited to read your next post!

  18. 18

    I loved FROZEN I don’t know how many times I have sung the songs in the past month or so, but it is quite a lot! Getting a behind the scenes look at FROZEN has been amazing. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  19. 19

    I completely agree, if you love your job, you’ll always be smiling! I can’t imagine being a Disney animator – so cool! My son has seen Frozen twice and I’ve yet to see it – I can’t wait! Thanks for this awesome post and I look forward to reading more!

  20. 20

    My family loves Frozen! My boys even deemed it better than Brave, which I didn’t think was possible! It is amazing how much work is involved in animation!

  21. 21

    beautifully written and I have to agree with you on the passion of all the people who work for Disney. I think I had a permanent smile on my face too just visiting and talking to directors on past films that I’ve had the opportunity to report on. Enthusiasm and passion for all that they do is catchy!!! I whole heartedly agree.

    YES the lighting is so significant one could never imagine and I love that you show that in your photos of the different scene’s pictured above. It truly is a masterpiece in it’s self.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  22. 22

    I love Frozen! I was a part of this day as well. I had a wonderful experience and I’d be smiling too if I worked there. 🙂

  23. 23

    What a great experience! I’m fascinated by the talent and hard work that goes into film making. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about Frozen. Hoping to take my girls over the holiday break.

  24. 24

    What an amazing opportunity to be able to follow them–even for three hours! Great content. Thanks for sharing.

  25. 25

    Cool article. Isn’t it fun to learn the magic behind Disney?

  26. 26

    It’s always great to hear people talk about how much they love their job, and that it’s not really a “job!” Love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m planning to follow my dream job in the new year, it’s great to read your inspiration. 🙂

  27. 27

    Animation really DOES seem like a super cool job. I loved Frozen and the animation it was amazing.

  28. 28

    Wow, I have to agree you have an amazingly cool job. My family and I have seen frozen, and we loved it. We just may have to see it again this weekend!

  29. 29

    What a fascinating job! My daughter wants to work in animation, and loved Frozen so much. She saw it twice the week it came out, and then watched it twice on our Disney Cruise last week! Get A Horse was absolutely amazing, too!

    I can’t wait to read more about your adventures! Thanks for sharing the magic!

  30. 30

    Thanks for such a great article. My family LOVES Frozen, and I applaud people that have a love and passion for what they do. working with Disney as a blogger has been one of my favorite assignments since beginning my blogging career. Great insights into the film and what it is to work in the Disney Animation Studios 🙂

Powered by Lagniappe Custom Development