Life in the Hot Seat with the Official “Disney Mom” Cheryl

A mom of two, Cheryl Hansen works for Disney as a writer, covering films like Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen.” She spent a day with the directors of the film during production and wrote about her adventures in a series of guest blogs this week. (Yesterday’s story appeared on and Monday was on

Oh what I would do with superhero powers. I’d fly over LA traffic. Sprint off 10 … or 20 pounds. And I’d have the ability to become invisible in high-pressure situations—like whenever someone reviews something I’ve sweated over for days.

Kristoff Sven Disney Frozen

However, within the walls of Walt Disney Animation Studios, where I spent a day following the directors of “Frozen,” becoming invisible is not an option. Instead, the animators responsible for bringing Elsa, Anna, Olaf and the whole chilly crew to life on the big screen presented their work to the directors from a bright red chair called the hot seat.


Hot Seat Disney Frozen

Animation dailies happened—well … daily—often twice daily in a big, dark room filled with black directors’ chairs, and a lot of incredibly creative people, including head of animation Lino DiSalvo. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee sat down in front and within seconds, the first animator was beckoned to the hot seat, where he or she sat and reviewed with the directors a shot that likely had been considered and reconsidered hundreds of times in its making. Sometimes the directors were seeing the shot for the first time, sometimes it was something they’d already critiqued and was up again for review. Either way, I was nervous.

But I was the only one.

Filmmakers Disney Frozen

The critiques were specific. Buck, Lee and DiSalvo considered every detail: Is his mouth moving like it should, considering how he’s feeling? Could we add some movement in her eyebrows to reflect the emotion?  Let’s show some breathing there since the character’s been running around.

And when everyone was pleased, when the shot was just as it should be—the directors would ring a bell. Seriously. A tiny bell (the tech animation team used a cow bell) that triggered applause, hoo-hahs (a technical term) and some figurative and literal pats-on-the-back from the team. It was so kind and celebratory that I wanted a bell in my world. I wanted to hear that gentle jingle each time I made a healthy meal for my family or wrote a good caption at work. We all like to hear “Atta boy!” every now and then, and the people at WDAS have—not surprisingly—turned it into an art form—the very best superhero power ever, if you will. Ding!

My adventures with the “Frozen” directors continue tomorrow with a little insider look at the music in “Frozen.” (Hint: it takes some cool people to write those songs.) Check it out at

Did you notice the attention to detail in “Frozen”? Or did the quality just allow you to get wrapped up in the story? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Character Lineup Disney Frozen

19 thoughts on “Life in the Hot Seat with the Official “Disney Mom” Cheryl”

  1. I’m ringing my tiny bell (heck, I’m pulling out the cowbell!) for the official Disney mom. Having lots of fun reading this series and getting the inside on Frozen. Keep ’em coming!!!

  2. It’s amazing how detail oriented the creator are – and good for us to sit back and enjoy it! I haven’t seen Frozen yet but will be doing so over the holiday break with my kids.

  3. well gosh, i want an attaboy bell now too!!


    we haven’t seen frozen yet. i have plans to go to a matinee monday with the kiddos since its not the holiday yet but we are off school 🙂

  4. Those animators have such amazing talent! We LOVED Frozen – my kids are begging for the movie for Christmas, although they don’t quite understand that it is not out on Blu-Ray or DVD yet. I think their attention to detail allowed me to get totally wrapped up in the movie. Although next now I will pay more attention to the detail, or try to at least! 😉


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