News Column

The Making of the new animated juggernaut, Frozen 3D

December 9, 2013


Dec. 09--We visited the Dubai International Film Festival to learn about good, evil and nose picking from the directors of Disney's brand new animated creation, Frozen 3D

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION Studios' latest film Frozen 3D has received anything but an icy reception since its US release last weekend -- pulling in $67.4 million in its first three days amid red-hot reviews.

The musical film, a modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen, follows royal sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). After a childhood accident, Anna is unaware of her older sibling's supernatural ability to create ice with her bare hands -- a hazardous power which she can only control by keeping gloves on at all times.

When the kingdom of Arendelle discovers Elsa's secret, she exiles herself and unknowingly plunges all the land into everlasting winter. It's up to Anna, mountain man Kristoff, his loyal reindeer Sven and talking snowman Olaf to save the day.

The family flick screened on Saturday afternoon at the Madinat Theatre as part of the 'Cinema for Children' segment of the 10th Dubai International Film Festival (running from now until December 14).

Attending the showing were the movie's co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck. Jennifer, who co-wrote the screenplay to last year's Disney hit Wreck-It Ralph, also penned Frozen's script, while Chris' background is in animation with credits in classics from The Little Mermaid to Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

City Times sat down with both to learn more about the making of an animated blockbuster.

Whose idea was it originally to provide a Disney update to The Snow Queen legend?

Chris: It was an idea that I pitched about five years ago. There were so many elements to it that I liked -- one of which was that Disney had never done a full-length feature in a snowy and icy environment, plus the Snow Queen herself was such an interesting character.

Jen: We wanted to explore the theme of love versus fear. In the original story, there are two kids: Kai is cursed with negativity and kidnapped by the Snow Queen and Gerda sets out to save him armed with love. Our Snow Queen, Elsa, has Kai's negativity and fear, and Anna has Gerda's love but no magical powers. We felt we had to make the strongest story we could, and we took liberties where needed.

Chris: I thought of Pinocchio (1940), which is my favourite animated movie. In the very first chapter of the original book by Carlo Collodi, after Pinocchio listens to a little advice from Jiminy Cricket, he squashes him. I was inspired by Walt, who took the liberty of keeping Jiminy alive.

Modern storytelling tends not to draw a clear-cut line between good and evil. Were you conscious of that while making the movie?

Jen: Definitely. Disney has done a wonderful job of looking at good versus evil in its films, and there are many elements of Frozen 3D which are classic Disney, but what makes it modern is the characters. They're not one-dimensional -- they're very complex and flawed. It's very hard to surprise modern audiences, but you can do that when you have realistic characters who are unpredictable, rather than being all good or all bad.

Anna has two potential suitors in the movie, which made us think there might be a love triangle in the mould of Twilight or The Hunger Games...

Chris: (Laughing) Like Team Kristoff and Team Hans? Actually, one of the ideas I originally pitched for this movie was the idea of romantic love versus real love. Hans represents romantic love, which is pretty much perfect with the love hearts and candy and all that, whereas real love is a little messier. You have arguments, you work things out and you get to know the real person. That's Kristoff.

Jen: Anna's journey is about going from the naive version of love, which we all have at some point, and her journey is about learning the highest form of love, which is sacrifice. She's learning about both family love and romantic love along the way.

As co-directors, how were your tasks split?

Chris: I think because of both our backgrounds, we bring different things to the table. My background is in animation and I bring that aspect to it, while Jen's background is more in writing. Plus we have the male and female perspectives, which gave the characters a nice, rounded feel.

Jen: We were able to stay together about 70 per cent of the time. Animation is a very long process and you work with upwards of 600 people. Chris and I had the same vision and we complemented each other.

Do you think there'll come a time soon when someone will be able to create a decent animated film in their bedroom?

Chris: I think absolutely. Walt was the first to embrace innovation and he kept pushing the art form. If you take his lead, the sky is the limit. Who knows what's possible? You just have to embrace what's new, but at the heart of it is telling a great story, whether it's one kid in his room or a whole group of professionals.

Jen: I think from a technology perspective, the tools are just going to keep growing. But never underestimate what it takes to make a film like this. People are working 12-hour days, and our crew are worthy of the jobs they have, but I also love the idea that a kid could make an animated film in their home.

At one point in the film, Kristoff tells Anna that every man picks his nose and eats it. Whose idea was it to include that line in the story?

Jen: That was my idea. I just assumed! I put it in because it's something Kristoff would think, because he doesn't know many people. But we got more notes from men in the studio saying that's not true! -- than we did with anything else in the movie. It was interesting, but we kept it in anyway. But we put a disclaimer at the end of the film!

Chris: She wrote it and I loved it, even though I don't necessarily do it!


(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

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