To The Sun: Lino Disalvo

Saturday November 9th and I’m just a few miles into participating in my first Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. Our group converges with two riders out for a morning ride. Both are lean and kitted in fine style. Both ride very nice bicycles. I sense a potentially dangerous situation. These two local hotshots will know about the day’s RGR and they will be on a mission to take down the flyboys from Rapha. They’ll feel us pull wheel to wheel and turn it up a notch. Our guys will return the serve and we’ll soon be strung out in a tight line and flying. All the while I’ll be burning the precious few matches I’ve been able to train into my legs for this big day… But almost immediately I come to realize I have nothing to fear as our two groups find a steady, similar pace. We ride two-up on a straight road for a good stretch and to my right for those few moments is Lino DiSalvo.


We met on the road just a few minutes before 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning in November. What did you think about our group at first? We must’ve seemed a little odd in that we had coordinated outfits.
I was out riding with my teammate Rob Stotts, we race for a Southern California team, OTR Racing. We’re a category 2 and 3 road racing team. We do plenty of racing during the season so when we meet new people out on rides during the off-season we’re not interested in racing them. When we saw you guys, we knew you guys were with Rapha, the kits were a give away.

Did you know at that time what a Rapha Gentlemen’s Race was?
Yes, in fact I participated in one a couple of years ago in Santa Monica. I really dig Rapha – simple and comfortable. The bad news is I lost a bunch of weight and most of the Rapha jerseys and bib shorts I’ve purchased over the years don’t fit anymore. I went from 205 pounds, barely able to climb the smallest of hills, to a racing weight these days of 150 pounds. I’m able to hold my own in the hills now and podium some of the most difficult road races and crits in the area.

Our ride was an eight-hour affair, how long were you two out for?
It was a short day for us, just two hours, Rob was racing ‘cross the next day so he did a few leg openers. I just chilled and did an easy ride, low heart rate, steady and slow. I’m in terrible form right now, between working long hours on a film we completed at Disney, Frozen, and having a newborn in the house, I’m not getting much sleep.

Was this a regular route for you? Describe your favorite weekend morning ride.
I love to climb so anything that involves 4000 – 6000 feet of climbing is fun. I also love to ride with my team and I’ve grown to love flat and fast as well. The Montrose Group ride during the summers and The Simi Ride during the winters is fun. During the off-season, it’s mostly low intensity. My Coach Rob Kelly from Training Peaks Coaching keeps me in check. Thank you, Rob.

I nearly fell off my bike when you told me what you did for a living. What does it say on your business card, Lino?
I’m the Head of Animation on Disney’s animated feature Frozen. I’ve been here for about 15 years, it’s my dream job. Disney hired me out of school and the rest is history. I’ll never forget coming home from a day of classes at Vancouver Film School to hear the message of a Disney recruiter saying they got my portfolio and wanted to interview me. That moment is still so fresh in my head. If I can do it, anyone can.

For an animator, that’s got to be the equivalent of being the GC favorite on the big team? You’re Christopher Froome, you’re Fabian Cancellara.
I don’t know about that, but thank you, though. It takes about 600 artists, working tirelessly, to make a Disney animated feature.

What is life like as an animator at Disney? How does it feel to join a team with such tradition and expectation?
Growing up watching films like Lion King and Beauty & the Beast and then to be working on a film like Frozen is pretty amazing. Yes, there’s a very high bar set by past films, it’s all about quality, truth in acting, truth in emotion – we are creating characters that will live forever. It’s an all-star team of artists here at Disney, everyone is so talented that you have to bring your A-game every day.

Speaking to expectation, how do you manage the pressure to perform at such a high level. Not only for yourself but for the team of animators working for you?
Making Frozen and having people immediately comparing it to Beauty & the Beast and Lion King is pretty crazy. The process of making an animated film is extremely collaborative; the people make the journey very special. My favorite memories of being here are the moments that I share with other artists. I love that a group of artists set out to make a film, go on that journey with many ups and downs, and then deliver it to the world. There is so much talent here at Disney Animation that you find yourself being pushed artistically every day and learning so much on every film.

Let’s talk technology, you ride a nice road bike. What do you look for in a bike? Are you critical about gear or is the bike generally invisible to you?
I’m very critical about the bike and it’s performance. I’ve got two bikes, a Wilier SuperLegera Cento1 for hilly road races and a Giant TCR advanced SL0. I’m a Campagnolo guy, Super Record, you can’t beat it. Both race bikes have the same set-up, same saddle, pedals, power meters, bars, etc. I have Zipp 404 tubualrs for racing, I love those wheels.

What are your dream rides? Where would you like to take a bike and disappear for a few days?
I love doing the Death Ride up in Tahoe. Between the people and the awesome roads, it’s a must do for road riders. I dream to ride in the Italian Alps…

Are there any connections between your job and your riding? That is, do you use time on the bike to problem solve work or do you keep work a safe distance from the saddle?
It’s a pretty separate thing for me. The bike is part of my morning routine before I get to work. Once I arrive at the office I get to straight to work, I’m ready to go.

When can we expect to see a Disney prince or princess on a road bike?
I’m working on it.

Frozen premiered Friday November 22, 2013 setting box office records and gathering worldwide critical acclaim. The film was recently honored with a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.