3D animation has changed a lot about animated films, including the overall look and the level of detail and movement that films are able to achieve. Although 3D animation makes a lot of things easier or more easily repeatable than the days of 2D animation, there is at least one facet of animation that is extremely challenging in 3D. That facet is none other than animating hair, at least according to the crew who put together Disney's Moana. Here's what head of technical animation Carlos Cabral had to say about the matter:
Hair on this movie was one of the biggest challenges, but also the most fun.
Considering many of the main characters in this movie are human, or are demigods who frequently resemble humans, there's a lot of hair to animate. Moana herself is unlike a lot of other Disney characters. Like Mulan, she's often messing with her hair, sometimes wearing it in a bun and sometimes allowing it to get drenched or blow in the wind. That's a lot of different types of hair to animate, too, making the process even more challenging.
So, why was the hair such a major issue during the production process? Senior software engineer Maryanne Simmons elaborated further on the Blu-ray release of the film, noting that with 3D animation if you want to move hair, you have to move each piece of hair individually. This isn't a real possibility, but the team behind the movie developed software called quicksilver to help with the process. Still, she wouldn't call the way the hair came together easy.
The overarching goal is to give the artist the same freedom that they had in 2D, where the hair was actually an important part of the character, look at Ariel from Little Mermaid or Pocahontas and just see the beautiful shapes. We have a lot of power with the 3D tools, but some things are actually harder.
Moana's animation as a whole is really beautiful and features a lot of movement, from water in the ocean to the fiery lava demon Te Ka. The 3D animation looks really great, but it's actually sort of nice to know the work that goes into the process of bringing films like Moana to life on the big screen. If you'd like to learn more about how they rose to the challenge and created the hair in the film, check out Walt Disney Home Entertainment's Moana Blu-ray release, which is currently available on Blu-ray and Digital. Learn more about the release here.