To celebrate the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD release of Disney's Frozen, we are delighted to bring you a clip of Idina Menzel's Academy Award winning song 'Let It Go', as well as an interview with Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee below.
AN INTERVIEW WITH FROZEN DIRECTORS CHRIS BUCK AND JENNIFER LEE
Frozen is an epic tale of adventure and comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the film, fearless optimist Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey to find her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna teams up with a rugged mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to battle the elements in a frantic race to save the kingdom.
With the award-winning film about to be released on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD, we chat with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee to find out more.
How many years has it taken to bring Frozen to the screen?
Chris Buck: I first pitched the movie five years ago, but there were only four years of production. It’s a long process, but that’s always the way with animation.
How do you keep the momentum going on a project that takes four years to finish?
Chris Buck: I always refer to it as running a marathon because you have to pace yourself. When you’re in early development, that’s similar to your second mile in a marathon. You think, ‘OK, we’ve still got another four years and many miles to go.’ You have to be patient. The phrase that’s always thrown around is, ‘Trust the process.’ Things will change, but hopefully it’s all for the better. You just keep going and keep moving forward.
Jennifer Lee: When you’re working on the story and the production at the same time, you spend your days going from meeting to meeting to meeting, and then you still have to find time to write. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming schedule, but the thing that keeps you moving along is the fact that you’re watching the project grow and evolve – and you’re seeing new aspects of the production all the time.
How exciting is it to watch this evolution take place?
Jennifer Lee: It’s incredibly exciting. We saw the finished movie with all the sound and final color a few weeks before it was released, and it was like seeing a brand new movie. Everything builds slowly with an animation. At one stage, you’re seeing the animation but the cloth is not done. Then the cloth is done but there’s no lighting. Then you see the animation with the lighting and it blows you away – and then you have the sound. You always experience a thrill that keeps you going because of the potential of what the movie is going to be.
Frozen was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen. How much of the original story made it into this film?
Jennifer Lee: The original fairy tale is very ethereal and symbolic. It is wonderful to read as a story but it’s not necessarily cinematic, so we tried to pull the best of aspects that we knew we could dramatize. What’s interesting about the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is the fact that it’s a coming of age story, but the character of the Snow Queen isn’t deeply developed. You don’t know her wants or fears, and the story is more about the effect she has on two characters named Kai and Gerda, who are a little girl and a little boy.
How much has the story of Frozen evolved during the filmmaking process?
Jennifer Lee: We like to make our own stories at Disney, so our tale definitely evolved while the film was in production. However, we always had the ending. Back in 2008, Chris pitched this ending and we always knew that we wanted it to end this way. At first, our story was closer to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. We had Elsa as the Snow Queen; she was more ethereal, symbolic and not fully drawn. And Anna was our main character. Then we decided to take Kai – the little boy from the original story – and give his journey to Elsa. Then Elsa and Anna became sisters because we thought that would be really compelling. Gradually, our story came together.
How long did you spend on the first draft of the story?
Jennifer Lee: The first draft probably took eight weeks, but there were many more drafts to come. Every draft was really fast because Chris and I worked closely together. We do our outline and we create rough scenes, which we give to story artists who start fleshing it out. Then they come back to us and we rewrite it or tweak it. It’s a fun process.
What can you tell us about the design process for the characters of Frozen?
Jennifer Lee: Out of all the characters in Frozen, Elsa took the longest.
Chris Buck: Anna hasn’t changed too much. She always had braids and she always looked similar to the final design, but Elsa has changed considerably. She definitely went through an evolution.
Jennifer Lee: It probably took a year to finalize Elsa’s look. Maybe a little longer, but it’s hard to tell.
Chris Buck: The truth is we never truly finish the design until we start animating, and even then things still evolve.
How would you describe the casting process?
Chris Buck: We work closely with the casting director, and we would always show everything to John Lasseter. A lot of the time the actors will come into audition, but we won’t look at them performing in front of us; we’ll look at drawings or images of the character instead. Actors can be really charming, but you may be seduced by their charm as opposed to their voice. I always tell them, “I don’t want to appear rude, but I’ll be looking down at these drawings while you’re saying your lines, so just do your thing.”
What makes Kristen Bell perfect for the role of Anna?
Chris Buck: We went through a long casting process trying to find the right Anna. Kristen was the first actor we saw, and she was it. Our casting director wanted me to meet Kristen; he thought she’d be perfect for one of our roles – and he was right. I immediately fell in love with Kristen’s voice and her spirit. She’s amazing.
Jennifer Lee: Kristen Bell was a fantastic collaborator on Frozen. She really knew how to bring the character to life. We’d bring in pages and say, “Play around with this.” She was just spectacular.
What makes Idina Menzel perfect for the role of Elsa?
Jennifer Lee: Idina Menzel was a dream to work with.
Chris Buck: She is an amazing actress with an amazing voice.
Jennifer Lee: I don’t think anyone else could be Elsa. Idina has a very powerful voice, but she’s reserved and shy. The character is a superhero, and yet she’s also vulnerable. Idina has everything and more.
How did Josh Gad get involved with the project?
Chris Buck: Everybody thinks that Josh Gad [who starred in The Book Of Mormon on Broadway] became involved with Frozen because of his connection to Bobby Lopez. Bobby wrote The Book Of Mormon and he’s one of our songwriters on Frozen, but Josh was one of the first people to come in for the role of Olaf. In fact, it was way before Bobby joined Frozen and it was way before Josh worked on The Book Of Mormon. Josh had a great innocent charm that was always there with Olaf. He did the first table read as the character, and he’s been fantastic.
How much input do the voice actors have into their characters?
Jennifer Lee: We get the voice talent involved as early as possible, and we shape the characters with them. When it comes to Olaf, we knew roughly who the character was and we knew that he had a specific innocence to him – but Josh Gad really brought his voice and personality to life. It’s the same with all the actors. We went back and forth on many drafts, and we began to know how to write for them all, and they would know how to ad-lib.
Frozen is considered to be classic Disney animation. How much have Disney films evolved over the years, and how much have they stayed the same?
Chris Buck: I love Disney films. I grew up with them, and even though their style has somewhat changed, I think what hasn’t changed is their appeal. No matter
what movie it is, the appeal of the designs and the characters is always there. It was something that Walt Disney himself was so instrumental in; the creation of these characters that the world would find appealing. There’s a certain design sense that I think we try to keep alive. It’s something we definitely tried to do with Frozen, and I hope it’s something that everyone can see and enjoy with the movie.
On a personal level, how would you describe your relationship with winter? Are you fans of frosty weather and snow?
Chris Buck: I grew up in the Midwest, so I love the snow. My parents always knew that I was a little different after I made a snow dinosaur instead of a snowman in our backyard. It wasn’t a really tall dinosaur; it was a stegosaurus, but I was really proud of it. Now I live in California where the weather is much warmer, but I miss the four seasons and I miss snow. I take my family skiing just to see some snow, but I do appreciate being able to get back to the warm weather afterwards.
Jennifer Lee: I grew up in New England and I lived in New York City, so winter has always been a big part of my life. One of my very first memories was the blizzard of 1978 in Rhode Island where the snow was piled 10 stories high. For two weeks, everything was shut down and it felt like we were getting away with something special because my mom wasn’t going to work and we were all together. I’ve always been a fan of snow.
What does the frozen snowy backdrop add to the movie?
Chris Buck: Even though we have magic in this movie, snow makes everything magical on its own. It really does. The snow and the ice add a truly magical look to the movie. It’s beautiful.
FROZEN IS OUT NOW ON BLU-RAY, BLU-RAY 3D AND DVD.