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Korean artist behind icy magic of ‘Frozen’

May 21, 2014 - 20:02 By Korea Herald
The long, turquoise blue dress of Queen Elsa from the movie “Frozen” seems to be the hottest fashion item among kindergarteners in Korea, months after the film finished its wildly successful run here.

But few know that the shimmer and glitter of the famous gown is the work of a young Korean artist, who, many years back, was just a typical Korean teenager playing the computer game StarCraft for hours on end.

“It took one and a half years just to complete (the effects on) the dress,” Yoo Jae-hyun, a visual effects artist at Walt Disney Studios, said Tuesday. He was in Seoul attending a forum organized by the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency. 
Yoo Jae-hyun, effects artist at Walt Disney Studios (Korea Creative Content Agency)

Yoo joined the U.S. filmmaker in 2012 after a three-year stint at U.S. game maker Blizzards. At Disney, he took part in the making of works like “Wreck-It Ralph,” but the highlight of his career was, without little doubt, “Frozen,” in which he was in charge of depicting the heroine Elsa’s icy powers.

In the movie, which opened in January and attracted more than 10 million viewers here, Elsa has magical powers to turn everything she touches into ice. There is beauty in it, but also danger.

“Ice is solid and it glitters. I wanted to make her magic into something of a misty one. Like a glittering mist,” he explained.

At Disney, arguably the world’s top animation studio, there are artists specializing in facial animations, landscapes and others. Yoo mainly works on natural effects such as fire, water or ice.

“What I do is to create my own little world with fire or water. I can make them move in a way that I want, which is not necessarily in accordance with the rules of nature,” he explained.

“That way, I could create Elsa’s magical world. You see, in Elsa’s magic there’s fire even in the ice,” he said.

The artist believes that Korea’s animation sector has advanced technology and strong manpower compared to the U.S. industry. What’s lagging is the investment.

“Typically in Korean studios, directors would refrain from changing the plot, once animation works are almost done, because that would mean all the time and money is just wasted,” he explained.

“But at Disney, it happens routinely and we, artists, start over and over again, but that’s just part of the process. I can’t help but say that quality equals budget,” he said.

By Lee Sun-young (