Okay Tumblr, I see that this gif has caused a little bit of commotion by pointing out that Elsa’s braid “phases” or “clips” through her arm. Some people say that this is lazy while other’s justify it. However technical people get they ignore, from the posts I have seen anyway, addressing the possible reasons why the animators at Disney let this to the final cut of the movie.
Okay, the “phasing” or “clipping” of the hair is intentional. It wasn’t a mistake. Nor was it a product of lazy animators and directors. When looking at things like this you need to think of animation as a magic trick. It’s not real.
The first clue is how they position her shoulders when it happened:
Right before the dirty deed is done, Elsa is turned so that we can’t see the her hair flow through her shoulder while shooting arrows into the sunset.
The exact frame that her hair is in view, it has already performed its trick.
See? That’s the first clue.
The second clue is a bit more in depth and requires to look at the flow of animation and color closely.
We start out with:
Her head is just off center of the screen and is really bright compared to everything else. Naturally drawing our eyes to that spot.
Her hair bounces up making sure that our eyes focus on Elsa face and in the next few frames, her hands.
The hair is intentionally dropped behind the arm so our eyes don’t follow it and we REALLY focus on her face. Because right now it is the most important thing on the screen.
I wish I could style my hair this easily.
Here we are again! Take note that we have been basically following her left hand in our even if we can’t see it. It derives most of the focused motion in the shot.
Elsa’s left hand moves behind her head leading our focus back to her face. Having her also open her eyes at the same time also makes us want to look at her face and away from the trick that is happening.
And the magic trick is over. It is also important to note how her head has slowed down significantly and Elsa’s eyes lead our focus to her hand which stretches out to transition us to the next shot.
All in all, this must have been a carefully laid out shot that to be able not only look excellent but draw our notice away from a little trick/shortcut, and in the end made it a more powerful lead into the next shot.
I took my time to break this down because knowing the reason why Elsa is animated this way will give us a greater appreciation of the work. Because it really is fantastic.
Animation is a magic trick. Being the person who points out the misdirection doesn’t make you superior or smart. You just ruin the magic for everyone. Teaching the person the illusion shows respect and could lead to greater magic in the future.