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Special Feature: Inside The Animation Design of Disney’s THE PIRATE FAIRY #PirateFairyBloggers

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“Christian Siriano was a huge influence in the design of Zarina’s Pirate Fairy Costume, and it was a wonderful collaboration,” explains Character Designer Ritsuko Notani, a Disney vet and longtime member of the Disney Fairies Team, whose credits date back to series’ such as DARKWING DUCK and QUACK PACK in the 1990s. “For the first time in the Disney Fairies series, we’ve been able to show some of the most iconic locations of Never Land,” she continues, sharing insight on the creation of both Young Captain Hook, and the new fairy, Zarina, in the new film, THE PIRATE FAIRY (out now on Blu-Ray and DVD).

It’s never easy dropping a new character into an established series, and while THE PIRATE FAIRY presented challenges in creating a prequel scenario to 1953’s PETER PAN and being respectful to that world, it’s also a sequel to recent Fairies’ films such as TINKER BELL AND THE LOST TREASURE and SECRET OF THE WINGS, and that put the team at DisneyToon Studios in a position to bridge the gap by opening a new world for the Fairies by entering the world of Hook and the gang. 

Zarina RiggingBack in February, I attended a press day at DisneyToon Studios (on Mickey Mouse and Dusty Crophopper’s dime) for an advance screening of THE PIRATE FAIRY (since reviewed here on THE ROCK FATHER), and to sit down with Notani, along with Animation Supervisor Yuriko Senoo (TANGLED, BOLT) and Head of Story Ray Shenusay (DINOSAUR, SUPER MARIO BROS. SUPER SHOW!) to take a look at some of the animation and design elements that went into crafting the look of the film.

While the DisneyToon folks work on Maya, their platforms for rigging and additional software are a bit different than those used by their big brother company, Walt Disney Animation Studios (see how Olaf from FROZEN was rigged here), though the fundamentals are the same. In creating Zarina, design was everything, and going back to the concepts provided by Siriano (Fourth Season Winner of PROJECT RUNWAY), the Pirate Fairy herself would receive a few looks in the film as she moved from her Pixie Hollow “Dust Keeper” look, and into the more rebellious look she adopted onboard the Frigate that Flies. 

Zarina Designs

piratecoatCasual viewers may not notice at first, but much thought went into the design, making sure that Zarina’s Pirate costume (created after her self-imposed exile from Pixie Hollow) would be fashioned from items that she’d be able to find onboard a ship.

From swords crafted from a thimble and needle, to a full-length coat re-worked from the cuff of a human’s jacket, the detail is impressive. Add to it flourishes of environmental change like messy hair and smokey eyes, and the animators were able to visually convey the emotional change that Zarina experienced during her time away from her Fairy friends.

Shenusay, who looks quite comfortable inhabiting a Pirate Costume of his own at DisneyToon (which he claims was actually his “Halloween costume from last year” –  I was unable to confirm), was excited to explore the works of Disney Artists from the past while examining artifacts from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, in addition to visiting real-life tall ships for inspiration. “Doing THE PIRATE FAIRY was a great excuse to find all of that stuff and pull it out to look at it,” he says. “People love that stuff.”

Pirate Treasure, indeed.
 PIRATE FAIRY animators

The Pirate Fairy LA Press Day at Disneytoon Studios. Pictured (L-R): Ritsuko Notani, Yuriko Senoo, Raymond Shenusay. Photo by Kayvon Esmaili.

Disney’s THE PIRATE FAIRY is available on Blu-ray and DVD via (my affiliate) Amazon:




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