Friday, August 7, 2015

Making of: Frozen

By Brittany Bell

Editor's Note: Friends, I am so excited to welcome Brittany Bell as our newest contributing writer here on Disney Avenue. Please join me in welcoming Brittany to the Disney Avenue family!

- Keith Mahne

And now, here's Brittany...


Since its release in November 2013, Frozen has taken the world by (snow) storm. It is now one of the highest grossing animated films of all time, taking in over $1.27 billion worldwide, surpassing that of Toy Story 3 and The Lion King. The presence of Frozen in the Disney universe took off seemingly overnight, and now one can’t experience anything Disney without finding themselves humming to “Let It Go”. But, before it warmed our frozen hearts with its tale of sisterly love, Frozen was imagined to be a much different story than it is now. Let’s take a look at how Frozen came to life in this new Making of article…

Disney’s Frozen is based off the story The Snow Queen by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (AKA the same writer who penned The Little Mermaid). In Andersen’s tale, an evil Snow Queen kidnaps a young boy, Kay, who has been injured by an evil mirror. A broken piece of the mirror punctures his eye, allowing him to see the imperfections of the world; another piece punctures his heart, turning it to ice. Kay’s friend Gerda sets off to rescue him, but finds him in the grasps of the Snow Queen, completely transformed into an ice statue. Gerda begins to cry, and the warmth of her tears melt the frozen Kay. The story ends with the two friends returning home with the arrival of summer.

Even with just a summary of the Andersen tale, it is quite easy to notice the parallels between The Snow Queen and Frozen. One big difference between the two, however, is the nature of the Snow Queen. In Andersen’s story, she is an evil witch; in the film, she is a scared and misunderstood character. The Elsa we all know and love wasn’t originally supposed to be this way, though. In the original drafts of Frozen, Elsa, like the Andersen character she is based off of, was planned to be the antagonist of the film.

It wasn’t until composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez began working on songs for the film that Elsa’s entire persona changed. The husband-wife duo started writing “Let It Go” based on the feelings of a girl who has lived in isolation for almost her entire life. Their final product became the catchy, yet powerful, message of Queen Elsa letting go of the loneliness and suppression that has ruled her life.

Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez

When Lopez and Anderson-Lopez performed the song for the filmmakers, they realized that they not only had a hit song, but that they also had to rewrite the entire movie. The overwhelmingly positive message of “Let It Go” became the new inspiration for the storyline of Frozen, and the idea of a film based on sisterly love was born. From that moment forward, Elsa started to shape into the character that we all know (and love).

In the animation phases of the making of Frozen, the animators had to do extensive research to create Disney’s first ever film set entirely in the snow. Since Southern California doesn’t exactly get much snow, they had to set out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to study the movement of snow and how people and objects move in the snow. For two days the animators spent time playing in the snow, building snowmen, sliding down hills, and even trudging through mounds of snow, all in the name of research. What they learned especially helped with designing the character of Olaf: from his snowy skin to how he moves. Some of the animators even took on the task of walking through snow in a large dress to help with the animation of Anna.

Another important element in the animation stage is clothing. The animators made decisions for each character’s costume based off of their personality. Anna’s clothing is reflective of her cheerful personality, with vibrant colors and floral patterns. For her winter outfit, the co-Director of the film Jennifer Lee said that “Anna’s travel outfit is made of heavy wools and velvets since they live in a northern climate.” For Elsa, her dresses express her inner feelings. At the begin of the film, her clothing is more restricted, a nod to the fact that she’s hiding her power. Then, when Elsa declares her freedom, her clothing opens up as she does. Her snowflake dress is a concrete representation of Elsa not holding back anymore and allowing her powers to be free, just as she. Kristoff’s fur clothing is based off that worn by the Sami, the indigenous people of Norway. The Sami are also known for their herding of reindeer, which explains why Kristoff’s best friend is Sven, the reindeer.

In the final stages of making Frozen, the filmmakers still struggled with creating flow throughout the movie. As of February 2013, the beloved song “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” was still on thin ice, as they felt it took away from the fluid progression of the film. As a result, the song was cut from the film. However, composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez continued pushing for it to be included. They reworked the song, and tried it in different places throughout the movie. In the later screenings of Frozen in which “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” was not included the movie, the viewing audience (full of Disney executives) asked why the song had been cut from the film. This happened in multiple instances, and due to the high demand for the song, “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” found itself a permanent place in the movie.

Through all of the details and work put into the film, Frozen became a wild success. It has already had a mini sequel, Frozen Fever, and a full-length Frozen 2 was recently announced. In addition to new movies, Frozen is now making a permanent mark on the Disney parks, with its own brand new attraction and meet and greet in Epcot’s Norway pavilion scheduled to open in 2016. Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have also had special themed events for the summer, with a plethora of attractions and activities all based on the film. It is without a doubt one of Disney’s biggest hits as of recent and our love for the movie is an open door. And, if you still haven’t seen it, it's time to let it go, melt your frozen heart, build a snowman and watch Frozen for the first time in forever.


Brittany Bell grew up in Lewiston, Maine, about 45 minutes away from Portland. She is currently studying Public Relations and Journalism at Boston University, and hopes to one day work for the Mouse himself. She grew up in a Disney-loving home, and would watch Sleeping Beauty on repeat as a little girl. Her first trip to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 2000, at four years old. Ever since then, Brittany and her family take annual trips to the World, and have no intention of vacationing anywhere else. Her favorite places in Walt Disney World are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. She can’t go without seeing Fantasmic! at least once each vacation, even though she chokes up a little at the final scene. Brittany is fascinated by how one man’s dream became an empire—one that makes dreams come true every day.

Before she became obsessed with Frozen and Queen Elsa, her favorite Disney characters were Princess Aurora and Mulan. She loves everything and anything Disney, from the parks, to the movies, to the Broadway musicals. In the near future she hopes to participate in the Disney College Program and work as a “friend of a princess”. 

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