There is a lot to be said about Disney films pushing their franchise further and further by releasing more media content to the masses. It makes you wonder, do we really need more side stories about Frozen?
Well, with Disney+’s digital short, Once Upon a Snowman, it proves that we really do.
In the new short by Walt Disney Animation Studios, the film follows Olaf’s first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle. All of this happens in Frozen, right after Elsa uses her powers to create her ice castle and unknowingly brings Olaf to life. Of course, Olaf has no idea what to do with himself and hilarity ensues.
After working as animation supervisor for Olaf in Frozen 2 and having worked on Olaf in Frozen, co-director Trent Correy knew he wanted to tell more of Olaf’s story.
“I started as a crowd animator during the first Frozen and my very first character to animate was Olaf,” Correy explained in the virtual press conference last week. “I was very lucky to get to animate Olaf for the rest of the show and I very clearly remember seeing Chad Sellers animator shot during ‘Let It Go,’ while I was a trainee and Elsa meets Olaf and it’s beautiful and then she just walks away. She creates life and she walks away and I was like, there’s got to be a story there.”
Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer to Walt Disney Animation Studios, called up co-director and writer Dan Abraham, who famously storyboarded “Lost in the Woods,” Kristoff’s solo in Frozen 2 to team up with Correy on telling Olaf’s story.
“The two of us just kind of went arm-in-arm from there. We had a ball,” said Abraham.
Creative consultant and producer Peter Del Vecho, known for his work on many award-winning Disney animated films such as Hercules, The Princess and the Frog, and the two Frozen films, was excited to come back to the Frozen family.
“Well, I’m sure Trent, Becky, and Dan can attest when you make these movies, you get to know these characters really well,” Del Vecho shared. “It becomes a family. And as hard as the movies are to finish, it’s also hard to step away. So I think the fact that Trent and Dan had this story ready to go, we could build on that enthusiasm of having finished the first movie and bring all that skill and the momentum that we had as you finish a movie, bring that right into the short. And, I think it was a nice way almost to celebrate, to continue to celebrate the finish of the movie.”
Becky Bresee, head of animation, worked on the previous two films and was ready to continue the stories of the people of Arendelle.
“Well, like Peter said, it really is not often we get to revisit characters,” said Bresee. “And so when Frozen 2 came up, it was just, we were like, “Yay! We get to visit these characters again.’ And then to continue on with this story that’s very special and ties everything together from those first moments of Olaf, it’s a really unique way to revisit the scenes and think about the people who animated the scenes on the movie and then how it all ties in. “
Olaf, played by Josh Gad, has been a fan favorite since the first Frozen movie. With his charming wit and kookiness, it’s hard to not fall in love with the snowman.
Bresee says it’s Olaf’s overwhelming optimism and sincerity that has him being a favorite to many, “It’s something that we all sort of aspire to and sometimes fall short. But Olaf is always there charging ahead with just this eternal optimism and sweetness that I think is a part of all of us, but maybe we wish we had more of. And it’s sort of aspiring.”
Of course, Gad ups the humor in Olaf with his improvisation that the creative team fully encourages. Remember “Samantha”? All Gad.
“When you get Olaf and Josh Gad together, [there is going to be] all the little improvisations of laughing, giggling, [and] screaming,” Correy laughs. “He makes the script come to life. He makes the short come to life.”
In the film, we learn just how this little snowman came to know about a little season called SUMMER.
“Well, he is obsessed with summer, yet he doesn’t know he would melt,” Bresee explains. “How does that work? How does he know what summer is? He was just created and stuff.” So, there was a very logical explanation for that. And we see it in this little short. It just, it kind of wrote itself, it made sense that it would be in there.”
Of course, the short is also filled with fun Easter eggs from the previous films as well as other Walt Disney Animated films like Moana and Tangled. So be on the lookout!
Once Upon a Snowman will debut exclusively on Disney+ on October 23.