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Animation All-Stars
"I think there's something about hand-drawn animation—where the animator's really expressing himself almost directly through his hand, through the pencil onto the paper—nothing else matches that. It's fun for a lot of these animators to be returning to their roots.” ~Peter Del Vecho, Producer

The filmmakers began the long journey of creating "THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” by considering what artistic talent would be required to make a new Disney animated feature. "It really is a great crossroads in the medium, and an opportunity for everyone here to do something that nobody else in the world is doing, and something that, to a certain extent, no one else can do,” producer Peter Del Vecho says. "Everyone on this project deeply cares about it.”

The filmmakers discovered that favorite animators who were doing well in digital animation were willing and eager to return to hand-drawn animation. There was also a whole new generation of artists who had grown up watching the classic Disney films, and those films that directors John Musker, Ron Clements, and their colleagues had made. Many of the new recruits for "THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” had seen films such as "The Little Mermaid” and "Beauty and the Beast” as children, and were equally as excited and enthusiastic to join in the production.

"We're trying to reinvent everything,” says art director Ian Gooding ("Chicken Little,” "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”). "It's so hard to just pick up this animation style again—it's not like it was in the freezer and you just thawed it out. There are lots of challenges—there's a lot of training and…trying to figure out where to buy paper from again.” "It has been a very interesting process,” Del Vecho says. "Fortunately, we have a lot of collective memory here, so we know how we wanted to do it, but since we are starting from scratch, we also had to think about how we want to do it going into the future. So we talked about doing paperless hand-drawn. But, since technology hasn't quite caught up to that ability yet, the best thing to do for now was to animate on paper. I'm really glad we made that decision.

"It is a process that is akin to laying the track as the train is going down the line,” Del Vecho continues. "It's not easy, and it causes a fair amount of anxiety, but we're trying to only pay attention to the things that matter. We're putting our efforts into what gets up on the screen. To us, it's all about what the audience ultimately sees.

"We brought back to the Studio the best of the best,” continues Del Vecho. "If you think about the animators we have on the team—it's almost like we're bringing back our modernday version of the Nine Old Men; they all get to collaborate on one movie together, they're at the top of their form.”

"I think this film benefits highly from the skill level of all the artists,” says supervising animator Bruce Smith ("Home on the Range,” "Tarzan”). "I can't recall a film outside of ones the Nine Old Men did where there was such a concentrated group of talent in the animators' positions, and it really shows up on the screen. It's sort of a baseball cliché of everybody leaving it on the field, but it's like that. I think everybody's really pouring their guts out on the screen. You're really getting some great performances.”

"One of the things that John Lasseter brought in is this idea that our communication could be more open,” explains supervising animator Randy Haycock ("The Lion King,” "Hercules,” "Tarzan”). "We can be passionate about it. We don't have to be afraid of somebody getting freaked out because somebody's passionate about an idea. It's passion and it comes from the same place that everybody else's passion comes from—a desire to make this movie great.”

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