Walt Disney animator Becky Bresee ’93 brings fairy tales to life.
By Carol Marcy
When you wish upon a star, do your dreams come true? Yes, if you are Becky Bresee ’93. As a young girl, she loved The Walt Disney Company’s fairy tales. She dreamed of the characters’ lives — royalty in castles and imaginary places — and one day creating these worlds herself.
“I wanted to be a princess!” says Bresee. “I loved the characters, the hopeful stories set to music. To me, it’s magical — and to many other people as well.”
Millions adore the magic of “Frozen” and “Frozen 2.” Super fans boast they’ve seen the films 100 times. Kids — and parents — sing the songs by heart. Bresee, the girl who imagined being in such worlds, helped bring Elsa and Anna to life.
Bresee was one of the two heads of animation for “Frozen 2,” which has become the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Bresee was also the animation supervisor for the character Anna in the original “Frozen,” which happens to be the second-highest-grossing animated film ever.
“The joy of my job is to bring characters to life that people can relate to,” says Bresee. “It is also really nice that the ‘Frozen’ movies have been watched by so many around the world, but this is just an added joy for us.”
On “Frozen 2,” Bresee and her colleague Tony Smeed ensured the director’s vision was realized and oversaw five supervisors with approximately 75 animators on their team. They made sure the characters stayed “on model,” so they look, act and gesture as if they were animated by one hand.
For Bresee, bringing animated characters to life is about studying life — including her own. She often refers to her family for important character animation research. Bresee had her two daughters act out a scene for the young Anna and Elsa characters, observing their movement and facial expressions. When Elsa sings with her mother, Bresee invoked memories of her own mother to add emotion for the scenes with the song “Show Yourself.”
“You’re taking these little truths that you find in your reference and you’re putting them into your work, and that’s what breathes life into the characters,” says Bresee.
Bresee’s path to becoming an animator began as a studio art major at Geneseo. It was a wonderful foothold, she says, to learn good posing and line of action. Her drama classes taught her acting. “I was having a lot of fun learning a lot about everything,” she says, “life as well as being a college student.”
At night and during the summer, Bresee took animation classes at other schools. Her break came as she worked as a waitress after graduation and saw an ad in The New York Times seeking Disney computer animators. Armed with her portfolio of sketches and animations, Bresee was accepted into the training program.
Bresee has risen from trainee to assistant animator, to animator and then a leader in the animation department. Twenty-four years later, she’s still obsessed with Disney stories.
“I like to think that by referencing my own life for my work, I sort of get to be that princess,” she says. “I feel so blessed that I have been able to work in this art form and add to the legacy of art that Disney has created.”
Walt Disney always said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Bresee dreamed of animating for Disney and feels lucky she is living her dream. “My dad would say, ‘No, Becky, you’re not just lucky, you’ve worked very hard for this.’ But I do think that there’s a little pixie dust involved, too.”