Rose Ibiama ’05 has heard the Frozen soundtrack hundreds of times, as have we all.
But for Ibiama, the music reminds her of an interesting and enjoyable time as a character technical director for the wildly popular, Oscar-winning animated Disney film.
“I had the opportunity to do technical animation on all of the main characters in Frozen,” she said. “Many of them had numerous garment changes and other accessories. I touched each character in the film—Elsa, Anna, Sven, Olaf and others.”
Ibiama uses computer animation to clothe and simulate hair to each character—and also to keep those “digital garments” looking accurate as a character is in motion. She is responsible for the right hairstyle and accessories—down to shoes, socks, necklaces and rings.
“Frozen was the most complicated project I’ve worked on,” she said. “But it was also the most fun. The story was great, and I love musicals.”
The complexity came because the characters wore period clothing, so there were multiple layers of garments and accessories to meticulously create.
In the course of working on the film, Anna became her favorite.
“I love Anna as a character,” Ibiama said. “She’s funny and awkward, but fun and fresh, too. I was sad to have to leave her.”
Ibiama has worked on other major animated films, such as Madagascar 3, Epic and most recently the Oscar-nominated Big Hero 6. She likens her work to being a “digital tailor” because she’s responsible for the clothing and fit of whatever is adorning the animated characters.
“We’re at the beginning and end of the production pipeline,” she said. “We create pants, shirts, dresses, hair and the like for the characters we’re assigned. And we run simulations to match animation and how the characters are moving in the shot.”
Ibiama works on a movie project for as long as the production lasts. Frozen was a year in the making; Madagascar 3 was a two-year stint.
“After working on animals for two years on Madagascar, I was ready to go back to humans,” she laughed.
Ibiama came to Calvin because it was a Christian liberal arts college with smaller class sizes. She had ideas about her major, but wanted to take a variety of coursework.
“I went from engineering to pre-architecture to information systems to computer science,” she said. “And I learned from all of them—plus I loved art and literature classes. They all came together for me.”
Her Calvin degree is in computer science; she went on for a master’s in visual effects at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Then it was on to her first animation job at DreamWorks Animation, and from there it has been from film project to film project for a number of different studios.
“You get hired on contract by a studio for however long the production takes,” she said. “Then you put the word out about your availability for another film. You may freelance for a short time in between.”
Ibiama enjoys living in the Los Angeles area and hopes to call that home, even though other projects may be located elsewhere.
“I have a wonderful community of friends and supporters in LA,” she said, “and many of them are friends from Calvin. They keep me spiritually positive and sane. It is important to have the right people around you.”
Having just completed Big Hero 6, Ibiama is taking time off to see family and friends in a variety of places. Then it will be time to hire on for the next animated adventure.
“I’m already doing my networking and have a number of possibilities emerging. We’ll see where I am led next,” she said.
Rose at work
Watch "The Making of Disney Short Film ‘Feast’" in which Ibiama appears (at 0:27).