49. Kathy Zielinski

Kathy Zielinski is the second woman to have ever earned the credit of supervising animator on a Disney film. She actually was supposed to be the first when she was originally assigned to supervise Lefou in Beauty and the Beast but she left the studio during the film’s production and by the time she actually got a credit Ellen Woodbury had beaten her to it.  However there is much more to Zielinski than her gender. She loves to animate dark stuff and is a great draftsman. This has gotten her spot 49 on our countdown.


            If you study Kathy Zielinski’s work you’ll notice it’s very complicated to draw and her characters have several lines. While supervising Frollo many of the animators complained about drawing his hat to the point that it’s randomly absent in many scenes. Paired with this is her great ability at knowing how to move that complex design to make the scene read. Take a look at a Kathy Zielinski scene frame-by-frame and you’ll notice there’s a lot of strong movement and the drawing is very dynamic. She is very intrigued with doing darker characters and villains are one of her specialties. Not only did she supervise Frollo in Hunchback but she also did almost all the footage of Jafar as a beggar and serpent in Aladdin and was a key animator under Ruben Aquino on Ursula for Mermaid. My favorite Kathy Zielinski scene to study is the shot where Ursula says “Life is full of hard choices. Isn’t it?” My affection comes from the scene because you’re seeing a woman really being sarcastic and mocking, not just a woman pretending to be. That’s what great acting in animation is all about. The caricatured lip-sync is very nice as well. Another great scene of hers to study frame-by-frame is the scene where the beggar Jafar gives a huge cartoony but disgusting smile. You feel the pain in the shot so much. Once I told a joke to my dad “That’s the most disgusting shot in a cartoon not directed by Ralph Bashki.” In a complimenting way of course.


            Zielinski’s impact on Disney films comes not only in her being a woman but in being a part of bringing back dark animation to Disney. Only Andreas Deja had more overall to do with bringing the dark side back to the films.  Frollo’s song “Hell Fire” is probably the closest a Disney animated film has ever been to having a PG-13 rating. Although Hunchback doesn’t have the story and heart of most classics it certainly has power and that’s largest do to Kathy’s animation of Frollo. You feel his presence, not just acknowledge he’s there. Too bad she left after the film to go to DreamWorks. 

  Probably the way Kathy Zielinski has most inspired and influenced me is by the power and dynamic drawing that’s in her animation.  Anyone who knows me knows that dark stuff is not quite my alley in any aspect of life but I do like to be daring and powerful when I draw. Someday I want to animate characters that make the audience feel their presence, not just make them appreciate the drawing skills intellectually. I also try really hard to master making my drawings dynamic and have depth to them. Animators like Zielinski are a primary way I learn how to do this skill.

Zielinski’s Work

Mickey’s Christmas Carol-  Assistant Animator

Great Mouse Detective- Animator

Oliver and Co.- Animator on Georgette including part of the song

Little Mermaid- Animator on Ursula including most of the second half of Poor Unfortunate Souls and parts of the climax

Rescuers Down Under- Lead Animator on Frank the Thrill Lizzard and Animator on Joanna

Aladdin- lead animator on Jafar as an old beggar and as a cobra

Hunchback of Notre Dame- supervising animator on Frollo


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