Infiltrating Disney Pt. III:The Pirate Fairy #piratefairybloggers

Part of my plan when I visited Disney Studios a few weeks back was to uncover ALL of their movie-making secrets.  Pick the brains of the makers of ‘Frozen’. Check.  Sneak into their recording studio and create my own voice-over. Check. Finagle my way into their animation vaults and peruse original artwork from the early days thru now.  Been there, done that.  Only one rock remained unturned: get the scoop on their latest home video release ‘The Pirate Fairy’.

One thing I’ve loved doing since I was a kid is drawing, and I’m actually pretty good at it.  Granted, I can only draw something if I’m able to see it, say based on a picture . . . and I’m not good enough to take any creative liberties.  So whenever I see an animated film, I’m fascinated by the HOW of it all.  It takes a very specific and impressive set of skills to animate, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask the animators of ‘The Pirate Fairy’ about what the process was like for them:

On Story Development

We basically create a series of drawings that are kind of like rough animation. We make thousands and thousands of them and kind of make a mock up of the movie which we then give to the editors and we add voices and music and basically use it as a test.  We screen it to the producers and others and get notes: what’s working what’s not working and we take it all apart.  This happens again and again and during this time we’re kind of tweaking the drawings.


With this film we had to create Zarina who is the pirate fairy; the biggest challenge with her is that she had to be appealing but she also had to make some pretty big mistakes and do some new things.  We had to create somebody that the audience would care about and also someone who was believable.

On Character Design

This film required the creation of some new characters such as James and Baby Croc along with some of the pirates. In our original version of Zarina she was shorter than Tink, with a rounded shape – John Lassiter (producer) said she looked too sweet. In the final design of Zarina her facial shape is angular; she has an athletic figure and is a little bit taller than the other fairies.  She wears organic clothes like the other fairies, however we made her hair unkempt and tangled because she is mischievious.  For her pirate look, we consulted designer Christian Siriano for design direction.


I for one had no idea that animators go so far as to consult fashion designers for inspiration – and their attention to detail is evident!  Each character is fully developed, and now I understand why it is that animated films can take up to several years to create.

‘The Pirate Fairy’ is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download!


  1. Janet W. says

    That is so neat to see the drawings of the film. It’s amazing all the hard work that goes into making films like this!

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