Wonderful New Research to Help Animators Create Better Curly Hair

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Photo: Disney/Pixar

Curly-haired characters are sadly under-represented in animated movies. Because ringlets have a more complicated texture than straight hair, animators tend to avoid them: Apart from the Brave princess's corkscrew mass (a twisty revelation!), boring, bone-straight hair dominates animated film.

But, thanks to fantastic science, everything could change for the curly-haired cartoons waiting to be rendered. Researchers at MIT — bless them — have created the first detailed model for a 3-D strand of curly hair. Wavy hair for all! Flinging ringlets for each and every animated boy and girl! 

Though they were studying the effects of curling for engineering purposes, they report that a fun incidental of their 3-D curl modeling could help animators. One of the study's co-authors, assistant professor at MIT Pedro Reis, said that their work "characterizes all the different degrees of curliness of a hair and describes mathematically how the properties of the curl change along the arc length of a hair." Great work, smarties. It sounds complicated and useful.