‘Frozen 2’ animator captivates audience with talk
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
From “Steamboat Willie” to “Coco” and Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” Disney has been captivating generations of viewers for nearly a hundred years. In anticipation of Disney’s “Frozen 2,” Grand Canyon University animation and film students got an inside look into the film from Supervising Animator Justin Sklar.
Sklar, who has been working for Walt Disney Animation Studios for the last eight years, has worked on Disney films “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen,” “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia” and “Moana,” to name a few. Throughout his time working on “Wreck-It Ralph’s” sequel, “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Sklar helped with the animation of the title character Ralph and was one of the minds behind the VES Award-nominated “Ralphzilla” character.
In “Frozen 2,” scheduled to be released this week, Sklar’s team was responsible for character favorite Kristoff and new character Lieutenant Matthias. Students from around campus flocked to Ethington Theatre on Friday morning to learn a little bit more about their favorite “Frozen” characters and hear from an industry professional what a career in animation is like.
Sklar’s nearly one-hour presentation confirmed the return of the original cast from the first movie as well as the additions of Sterling K. Brown as Lieutenant Matthias and Evan Rachel Wood as Anna and Elsa’s mother. Sklar also shared sneak peeks of some of the new songs and looks into scenes from the film and provided “Frozen 2” posters.
Sklar shared tips with aspiring animators on what studios such as Disney look for in terms of interns and employees.
“Know what you want to do as a job,” Sklar said. “It’s also knowing what that studio does. That doesn’t mean that every decision you have to make is like, ‘OK, I’m going to Disney. I’m going to gear every choice toward Disney.’ But if you’re saying, ‘I want to work at Disney, I want to work at Pixar, I want to work at Dreamworks,’ the reels for those companies look different because the kinds of movies that they make are different.
“We are very acting-focused when we look at reels, so making the choice to figure out what exactly that studio cares about will give you an edge.”
Not only was it Sklar’s first time on GCU campus, but it was also one of his first times witnessing an audience’s reaction to the film.
“It’s weird for me actually because I have only ever seen these clips with basically other Disney people and we don’t react to anything because we’ve seen it a thousand times, so it’s cool to be in an audience where people are audibly gasping at stuff,” he said. “Everybody seemed super excited, which is great.”
Over the years, the College of Fine Arts and Production has brought in prominent Disney animators from films such as 2017’s “Coco” and 2018’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” It is an experience that Department of Digital Film Director Lisa Tervo enjoys providing to students.
“It’s really exciting to see that kind of light bulb moment for them that this is very attainable,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work and it takes networking, but they absolutely can get a job that they love, in an industry they love, if they’re willing to put in the effort.
“We provide a lot of theoretical (training), and all of the instructors here try to share a lot of their personal work experiences. And I think when we can get somebody in from the industry to come talk about their professional experiences, it helps reinforce what we teach but also gets them excited about this idea that what they’re learning has real world application. It gives them an insight into how their careers can take shape.
“I love the fact that they get to witness that.”
The Digital Film Department is made up of more than just animators, but Tervo believes presentations such as Sklar’s can be beneficial for filmmakers of other genres as well.
“With digital film, there’s so many different avenues for our students to take, and I think having guests from Disney and Pixar can be exciting because it shows the students that writing wise, they could write for animation, they can write for live action, they can write for industrial. If they want to do production, they can do production for an animated film or production for a live action,” she said. “Some of the skills that they’re learning, whatever avenue they want to take they’re learning skills that are kind of transferable.”
Throughout the presentation, students were engaged and eager to learn as much as they could from Sklar. Animation student Rylee Cunningham said she enjoyed getting to see some clips of the film before it comes out.
“It’s really awesome because being able to meet people is so important,” Cunningham said. “In this industry you have to network to really get in anywhere, so having the opportunity to meet people who are actually doing the top tier of what you want to do is really awesome.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]