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Look at that Hair!

Hair is difficult. Whether you have straight hair, curly or hair in between, it is not easy to work with. Long, medium, short, they all have their own difficulties. The same can be said, probably even more so, for animated hair. Pixar had this very problem when tyring to animate Merida’s hair, the main character for their Movie Brave.


Pre-CGI hair


Pre-Pixar and the modern CGI era animation was nowhere near close to getting the hair right for the movies because the technology just was not there. Ariel from the Little Mermaid for example was supposed to have curly hair however, the technology back then wouldn’t allow it so instead they got her a flowy red blob that was more of a singular mass than individual strands of hair. Overall the ‘90s Disney animation hair was just the smooth, big, flouncy weird hair we all remember and love.


Early CGI


Then CGI came! It looks so much more realistic. Looking at the characters in Final Fantasy’s animation then took my breath away. They now had the ability to animate each and every strand and that made the characters look so much realer. With power however comes great responsibility. Things can get too real. The brain is weird and when you make a character too lifelike the brain no longer reads it as good animation but as reality with something wrong about it. It’s the uncanny valley.


In general though, CGI has helped animators give their characters more character. Take Tangled (my favorite Disney movie of all time) for example. The heroine is literally half hair. With CGO they were able to render 100,000 strands of hair to make it as realistic as possible.


CGI and Curl Perfection


Curls are naturally harder to draw than straight locks. Pixar had to invent a whole different type of animation to get the texture and bounce of the hair right. To get the right look, they had to use more than 1,500 hand-made strands, some more twisted than the other.

Video Link


  1. rlacy wrote:

    This was a cool read. I never really thought about the process or tech needed for animated hair. Another crazy pixar character that had a lot of hair is Sully from Monster Inc. I think they had to draw almost every one of his hair on his body.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  2. keike wrote:

    Interesting post! It’s amazing what special effects look like now in comparison to the old. Animation is so intriguing, and I respect anyone who is involved in these movies. The level if detail to make it appear real is insane.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  3. ohulver wrote:

    I was actually just thinking about this the other day. I was watching a clip of Moana and wa amazed by the details in their hair. Its so detailed and you can almost see every strand.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  4. malam13 wrote:

    This is a very interesting read! Never really thought about the process and time that goes into animation. Thanks for bringing this topic up, I will probably look very closely to all that characters hair from now.

    Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink