Creating Moana’s Ocean

Hopefully by now you’ve had an opportunity to see Disney’s film Moana. Fluid dynamics play a central role in the movie, and Disney’s animators faced the challenge of hundreds of shots requiring special effects to animate water, lava, waves, and wind. Science Friday has a great segment interviewing a couple of Moana’s animators, in which they discuss the process of turning the ocean itself into a character. 

Because the physics of fluids is so complex, scientists and animators differ in the way they approach simulations. Scientists usually try to capture a full physical representation of a flow, simulating every detail to the smallest scale and time step. Animators, on the other hand, are interested in capturing a realistic feel for a flow. For an animator, the simulation should be exactly as complex as necessary to make the water move in a way a person believes it should. With Moana, animators had the extra challenge of melding the ocean character’s actions with appropriate water physics–think bubbles, drops, and splashes. The results are impressive and exceptionally fun. (Image credits: Disney/Science Friday; via Jesse C.)

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