Lately, half of the anticipation for seeing Disney movies in theaters has been for the bonus feature that pre-rolls before the film. After Walt Disney Animation Studios outdid themselves with lovable Paperman, my expectations were high going in for Frozen. Get A Horse! totally blew me away with an old school Mickey Mouse flair, and what looked to be a simple animation turned out to be a highly involved process spearheaded by director Lauren MacMullan (who is Disney‘s first ever solo female animated film director. How’s that for an achievement?). I had the chance to learn how Get A Horse! was made, and how 2D style met 3D animation in this unique short. *SPOILER ALERT*
MacMullan: “I came to work in story on Wreck It Ralph. I actually was a TV director for many years, like on The Simpsons and King of the Hill. I was part of a wave of ex-Simpson directors who came to work on Wreck It Ralph, and Rich Moore, the director, also from The Simpsons and Futurama, said hey, they’re looking for ideas for their classic characters, especially Mickey. And so I immediately started to think, all right, Mickey Mouse. What can you do with Mickey Mouse?”
Bringing Mickey Mouse to the big screen hasn’t been done commercially in almost ten years, so his revival required more than a chuckle and entertaining plot. Spoilers: Mickey would need to go 3D. Classic 2D animator Eric Goldberg (who worked on a few small films, such as Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Hercules) began using 1920s cartoons to draft the base of Get A Horse! While he’s trying to escape meanie Pete, Mickey is flung out of the screen and into our reality. Working with CG animator Adam Green meant Mickey would need to build dimension, but not in the way we know now with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. In order to transfer from 2D to 3D seamlessly, Green used the same structure of Mickey’s silhouette and simply brought in the depth (or rather, not so simply). Since CG provides such lifelike animation and real geometric bounds, what would otherwise be a simple hand sketch suddenly becomes a distorted ear-mohawk to appear as the classic Mickey shape.
Green: “Some of the things we wanted to sort of figure out in [CG tests were] first off, how are we gonna handle Mickey’s ears? It may seem simple. They’re two circles. But in CG, this is very difficult to do, because his front ear is his back ear, but when he turns his head the other way, his back ear becomes his front ear. In CG, his ears are sticking off in space. In 2D, you just draw them as circles. But in this world, well, they always have to be facing the camera, otherwise they don’t look [right]. So we had to figure out how are we gonna be able to turn his head ,because it doesn’t work physically. And the trick is you slide his ears along the top of his head. So if you watch closely you can see whenever he turns his head left or right, uh, the ears actually slide along the top.”
The best part? While all of the animation is completely original, the voice of Mickey Mouse comes from archived footage performed by Walt Disney himself. Unfortunately, the word “red” couldn’t be found in sound bites, so the phonetic sounds that make up the word were spliced for a seamless pronunciation. A perfect ode to Mr. Disney.
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Thank you Disney for the use of art from Get A Horse! and for hosting me at the #DisneyFrozenEvent. All opinions are 100% mine.