Creators of Disney’s FROZEN Sought to Re-Define True Love: a Q&A with the Filmmakers

FROZEN has won two Oscars (Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song for “Let It Go” and earned over $1B worldwide (nearly $400M domestically and over $600M overseas).  This post (first in a series of three about the making of FROZEN) brings you into the hearts and minds of the Directors and Producer of Frozen.  Peter Del Vecho (producer), Chris Buck (director) and Jennifer Lee (director) sat with us for a group interview, allowing us to fire questions at them, one after the other.  Rather than give you the Q&A in dialogue format, I’m going to share the information with you the way I captured it myself.  Follow this link for my spoiler-free review of Disney’s FROZEN.

FROZEN's Peter Del Vecho, Jennifer Lee, and Chris Buck

(L-R) Peter Del Vecho (producer), Jennifer Lee (director), and Chris Buck (director) of Disney’s FROZEN

The story of the making of Disney’s FROZEN began about five and a half years ago and continued to evolve up until the actual filming began.  The basic concept, however, has stayed throughout – they wanted to redefine true love.  The idea that it would be sisters came later in the development plan, but was embraced wholeheartedly.  They were able to connect the idea with the already-hoped-for adaption of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” creating a whole new world (see what I did there?) out of snow and ice.  In the end, the movie becomes Anna’s story (which is true, though, for me, the story is really about Elsa and her lonely struggle with her talent and her fear).

FROZEN

“FROZEN” (Top to Bottom) ELSA and ANNA. ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

 

Although the film was always intended to be a musical, the music changed everything, especially the tone.  The movie had to be rewritten almost from scratch, when Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez came on and started putting the music together.  “People don’t sing for no reason; you need hope and drive to make the characters sing.  Singing is so emotional.”  The title FROZEN was chosen because it applied to so many of the themes in the movie, especially loneliness.

The World Premiere Of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Frozen"

Musicians Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez with their children Annie and Katie at the World Premiere Disney’s’ FROZEN at El Capitan Theatre. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

 

In order to accurately create the world of snow and ice, the art director, Michael Giaimo, was sent to the Ice Hotel in Canada, because, as a Californian, he had no experience with snow and ice.  The art director and the lighting artists were then sent to Norway to research the effects of light and dark on snow and ice.  Further research included the Sami (the indigenous people of the Arctic area in Scandinavia), whose influences can be seen in the clothing, music and customs of the people of Arendelle, particularly in the color and design aspects.

FROZEN Suite Hotel de Glace

FROZEN Suite at the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, Canada

FROZEN exhibit at Epcot

“Norsk Kultur: Inspiration for FROZEN” exhibit at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion in Walt Disney World. Photo by Dave Parfitt

 

A favorite scene that didn’t make it to the movie was the introduction of Kristoff.  He was originally going to appear as an adult, but that scene was cut (which means, in the animation world, it was never animated, so we may never see it – in favor of the ice-cutting scene at the beginning of the movie.  [Fingers crossed the storyboards of that scene make it into the Extras feature of the FROZEN Blu-ray/DVD!]  There may be a book coming!

FROZEN

(L-R) KRISTOFF (voiced by Jonathan Groff) and SVEN ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

 

In our initial post about this trip to the Walt Disney Studios, we asked for questions from younger viewers of the film.  Because of the group Q&A, I was only able to pose one of the questions.  I chose A Funk’s “Why did the guy in the store have an accent?”  I hadn’t even noticed that Oaken (the character’s name) had an accent, while no-one else did.  Here is the response:  Chris Williams (co-writer and co-director of BOLT), was a storyboard artist for FROZEN, and he made a scratch recording (a practice recording to give the filmmakers an idea of how it’s going and help them determine who to cast for voices) for Oaken, creating an accent blended from his own and his Norwegian wife’s accents.  Other actors auditioned for the part, but Chris had so charmed them during the scratch recording they came back to him and asked him to do it.  Can you blame them?  Oaken steals that scene!

FROZEN

Oaken (voiced by Chris Williams) ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

 

What struck me most about this session was how much these three people cared about this project.  They might as well have been discussing their families – you could hear the love and respect in their voices for the characters, actors and crew of the movie.  I think that’s why Disney films are so heart-grabbing – they put their own hearts into the films to speak directly to ours.

Q&A with FROZEN creators

As we posted about previously, Adventures by Daddy was invited to Hollywood (where temperatures were not FROZEN, a welcome break from the Polar Vortex ravaging New York!) for behind-the-scenes access to several Disney films (FROZEN, THE PIRATE FAIRY, and SAVING MR. BANKS).   In the next two FROZEN posts, we’ll share our rigging and voice-over experiences.

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Disclosure: Disney Home Entertainment has invited Adventures by Daddy on an all-expenses paid press trip to Los Angeles, California to tour the Walt Disney Studios and learn about their upcoming home releases.  Disney has provided for transportation, meals, and lodging, but all opinions expressed are those of the author.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.