A Happy Snowman: In Defense of Frozen’s Olaf

If you had insomnia last night, I hope you were on twitter. Around 1am, our favorite internet rapper Adam WarRock took to the web and sent out an epic string of tweets about the animated film Frozen.

Needless to say, Adam — like most of the world — is a big fan. In fact, I tweeted that someone needed to get him a “Let it Go” instrumental right away because I want a WarRock song about Elsa and her ice powers. One thing he’s not a fan of, however, is the snowman sidekick Olaf. And this is where the two of us part ways in our Frozen fandom.

First off, Sven is pretty great — reindeer(s) are better than people, after all — but I feel like I need to speak up for Olaf though. Early on in the film’s marketing, this goofy-looking snowman took front and center, and plenty of folks weren’t happy with it. Including me. I remember seeing this display early last year at my local AMC theater and thinking, “yeah this is going to be dumb.”

The first teaser that came out in the summer didn’t help either. Despite my early reservations about the movie — including the fact that it could’ve easily been a movie about girls of color — when Thanksgiving weekend rolled around, my daughter and I were first in line. And along with the rest of the movie-going world, I was completely taken with the flick. (While I’m not going to go into all the reasons why the movie is awesome, Joanna at Pajiba has a pretty definitive list). Since that screening, our household has been subjected to the soundtrack on constant loop (which we don’t really mind, honestly, sorry Queen Bey) and it was pretty apparent that my favorite character in the film ended up being Olaf. Go figure.

What I appreciated the most about the character was what he represented for both Anna and Elsa. The first glance we get of Olaf is actually in the beginning of the movie when the sisters are still toddlers.

This version of Olaf, though, is just a plain old snowman (no one-liners or slapstick comedy here). For Anna, this snowman also represents the last time the two sisters were actually happy (before the dark times; before the empire — oops, wrong movie. For fear of too many spoilers, let’s just say the sisters’ relationship gets a little icy). It’s also the same snowman that Anna proceeds to bug Elsa about building for the next decade.

Later on, eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the walking-talking-Josh-Gad-sounding snowman from all of the movie marketing is created during the showstopping “Let it Go” sequence (expertly sung by Broadway’s Idina Menzel) that is everyone’s favorite part of the movie.

She’s doing it on a whim and not aware that she has just given life to an inanimate object. Olaf’s entire existence is not shoe-horned but totally representative of just how powerful Elsa really is. She’s not just creating giant castles and glistening gowns out of ice, she’s creating sentient beings! Elsa isn’t a Snow Queen; she’s a Snow God.

And I have to admit that I kinda loved Olaf’s “In Summer” song. It’s probably my second fave of the whole movie (behind “Let it Go,” of course). It’s a great show tune (rekindling some of that Book of Mormon magic between star Josh Gad and the songwriting Lopezes) and also references one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems. Also, Olaf is really, really funny (thanks to Gad’s knack for improv).

Basically, Olaf is more than Disney’s typical comic relief sidekicks. He’s the movie’s heart. He’s a symbol of Anna’s innocence and Elsa’s power. Similarly, Olaf gives Anna strength when she needs it most and his creation harkens back to happier times for Elsa.

I dunno, your mileage may vary when it comes to talking snowmen. As for me, I’m Team Olaf all the way.

9 thoughts on “A Happy Snowman: In Defense of Frozen’s Olaf

  1. I’m obsessed with this movie, as is my nephew. When it first came out, it snowed out here shortly after, and he sang to us about making a snowman.

    Olaf’s song about summer cracked me up, and I almost wanted to smack Christoph for wanting to break his little heart and tell him about summer! I think Olaf is adorable; the movie wouldn’t have been the same without him in it.

  2. I love Olaf too! In fact, I think he was the saving grace for me, because unfortunatley, the movie was too hyped up before I saw it and I was a bit disappointed. It’s a refreshing movie though! Although I feel like Elsa deserved a little more (or maybe it’s because I’m an eldest daughter and I relate more to her!) 🙂

    Anyway, go Team Olaf! Let’s not forget he was the one who defined what was true love too!

  3. I had no idea there had been backlash against Olaf! I thought he was a stupendous character – funny and very moving (“Some people are worth melting for” – sniff!) He may be my favorite Disney “sidekick” character, and it’s cool that he has an unconventional dream and yet still gets to see it fulfilled. A fantastic character in a fantastic film – thanks for this defense of him!

  4. I adore Olaf and he is now my favorite of all disney characters…..I don’t think I would have watched the movie as many times as I did if he was not in it! he reminds me of my innocences. We all miss being kids! When life was simple and I hope he gets his own movie.

Comments are closed.