15 Awesome Disney Animation Secrets You Probably Never Knew

BuzzFeed recently went to a Disney animation panel at San Diego Comic-Con and learned some amazing facts about some of our favorite childhood movies.


The “Animators Celebrate Disney Anniversaries” featured animators Floyd Norman (Sleeping Beauty), Jane Baer (Sleeping Beauty), Kathy Zielinski (The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Nik Ranieri (The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog, Hercules), and Dave Bossert (The Lion King, The Little Mermaid).

Here’s everything we learned:


Because Sleeping Beauty was a completely hand-drawn film, it took approximately 600 artists and six years to finish it.


For Jane Baer, one of the most difficult and time-consuming animations she worked on was Aurora’s eyes because they were so “itty bitty.”


The animators who worked on Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty were known at Disney as “The Fairy Unit.”


Sleeping Beauty took so much time and cost so much money that apparently Roy Disney told Walt “no more” extravagant feature films. So the next movie, 101 Dalmatians, was made “on the cheap” for half the money and in half the time.


According to Floyd Norman, animator Milt Kahl (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and countless more) loved Mad Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone so much that he would laugh at his own animations when he watched it on screen.


Meanwhile, Nik Ranieri had a really hard time drawing Ariel from The Little Mermaid because of the placement of her eyes on her face, so he eventually got moved to a character he was more suited for: Ursula.


“Because of the way Ursula is designed, there’s a lot more connective points — it’s sort of symmetrical — you can figure out where the eyes go based on where the cheeks are.”


Kathy Zielinski studied many octopuses and tentacles so that she could learn how to animate Ursula. (She loved animating Ursula because there aren’t many characters that are a combination of animal and human.)


For Kathy, the scene of Vanessa transforming back into Ursula was partly inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Disney, Universal Pictures


The “Poor Unfortunate Souls” scene used to be a little bit longer, but it was eventually cut down. Not many people have seen the scene, but Kathy animated a sequence where Ursula and Ariel do the tango.


Kathy is known to have a leaning towards animating evil characters, which is why she was assigned to Ursula and then Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


The hair sniffing scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame almost got the movie a PG-13 rating, so they shortened the scene down so that they could keep it at PG.


During the pregnancy of her first child, Kathy’s water broke while she was animating a scene in Aladdin…but she kept working because she didn’t want to go to the hospital.


“Everybody was nervous, like, ‘Kathy, shouldn’t you be going to the hospital?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I gotta finish my scene.’ So I finished my last scene of Aladdin, and then went to the hospital.”


The Lion King was around the fifth or sixth Disney film that started to integrate CGI into hand-drawn films. For example, the wildebeest stampede in the movie was actually a lot of CG work.


Floyd views his early days as an apprentice at Disney as an “animation boot camp” that trained him so well that he could make it at any studio in town.


And finally, animators at Disney used to say, “We never finish a movie, we only release it.”