Apparently Walt Disney himself was forever keen on bringing the renowned Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen to the big screen – and with various failed attempts, at long last Disney have finally adapted the story – and HeyUGuys were fortunate attendees at a preview footage screening of Frozen, where we were given a fascinating insight into the development of such a big children’s animation.
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and hitting our screens this winter, tying in conveniently with Christmas, Frozen is a CG production, featuring a voice cast consisting of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Josh Gad – and producer Peter Del Vecho (who was in London to oversee this special presentation) spoke of the decision to cast various stage actors in the feature – deviating away from the huge Hollywood A-listers we so often seen in films such as this.
“First and foremost we wanted to have good actors and it’s really important we have actors who have appealing and likeable voices and that quality comes through and all our cast have that,” he said. “We also have songs so it’s important they sing and a lot of them have a background on Broadway. The other quality is having them blossom by bringing their own personality into it and ad-libbing a lot, which is important – particularly the comedic characters.”
Talking of comedic characters – if there is one thing for certain from the footage we were shown, is that the character of Olaf the Snowman is bound to be a sure fire hit with kids and adults alike – as we also saw one of his musical numbers, where he sings about what he naively desires most in the world: summer.
“Olaf, without question, will be a stand out character as he is so funny. Not only is he funny but he carries a lot of heart in the movie, so clearly he’ll be stand out, but it’s a great ensemble cast.
“We had to find something unique about him – what would his ‘ I want’ song be? What if we took it to the extreme and made his ‘I want’ something that would make him melt? We thought it was a brilliant idea and had a lot of fun with it.”
Despite the comedic aspects, there does seem to be a dark side to this tale too, and that’s something that had put off various filmmakers in the past. But Del Vecho believes such an undercurrent can actually aid this movie, and provide it with more depth.
“If you go to the original Hans Christian Anderson tale it’s a pretty dark tale and doesn’t translate into a film and there have been several projects in development over the years trying to tell this story and I think for us the breakthrough came when we tried to give human quality to the Snow Queen,” he said. “This film has a lot of complicated characters and relationships in it.”
Meanwhile, we were encouraged to see that the two leads of the piece are female, as, following on from Disney-Pixar’s Brave last summer, yet again young female characters are taking centre stage. With our lead, Anna, portraying your typical Disney princess (but with a bit more bite) – another traditional aspect to this film is the use of songs, as this musical feels like a throwback to old, classic animations. However Del Vecho is not quite so sure…
“Is it a musical in the classic sense of the word? No. Musicals in the past have had fairly simple plots, this is a very complicated, big story and the songs are interwoven into driving the plot forward and driving the characters forward. So we actually think of it as being bigger than that. “
Del Vecho clearly hasn’t seen West Side Story – but that’s besides the point. Nonetheless it was simply fascinating to see how an animation is brought together, as some of the scenes we were shown are not yet finished, as we viewed them in sketch form rather than the finished, computer animated production. It looks incredible, and it really shows off just how much time and effort is put into films such as this. So much so, the production team even took a trip to Norway…
“Wee had a very short time schedule for this film, so our main focus was really to get the story right but we knew that John Lasseter is keen on truth in the material and creating a believable world, and again that doesn’t mean it’s a realistic world – but a believable one. It was important to see the scope and scale of Norway, and important for our animators to know what it’s like,” Del Vecho said.
Whatever trips that were taken seem to have worked, and although Disney have been on a relatively disappointing run of films – what with both The Lone Ranger and Planes not quite as exciting as one would have hoped, it seems a return to form is on the cards, as what we witnessed at this event points towards a classic – if somewhat conventional – Disney film, and one we’re very much looking forward to. A sentiment shared by Del Vecho – who even managed to compare the forthcoming project to one of the all time classic pieces of cinema…
“There is a real feeling of Laurence of Arabia scope and scale to this,” he finished. Well, perhaps that’s pushing it a bit far.