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While walking the red carpet with celebrities makes this a pretty good gig, much of my excitement was with our tour behind the scenes; talking with the development team and the designers and, in general, the people that take the movie from just a few talented voices giving life to a character to a visually stunning final product that is Disney’s Frozen.
A huge part of any film’s success are those that bring the ideas to fruition, from concept to finished product. Frozen’s writers and directors Chris Buck (far left) and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho seem like the most average, down-to-earth people, but give them a pen and paper or a completed screenplay and they create Disney magic!
According to Lee, a movie like this, from inception to completion, takes about 3 to 4 years. Surprising to me, considering the amazing detail and the changes that were made from the original story.
Says Lee about the writing process, “It was really interesting because in the original story she is a villain, she’s just pure evil…. we kept her a villain for a long time and it wasn’t resonating with us; it wasn’t the story we wanted to tell.”
It was Buck who pitched the concept of making the story more about love instead the traditional good versus evil. During a meeting, someone suggested that the two main characters, Anna and Elsa, be rewritten as sisters and the everything clicked for the team after that.
Buck also shared with the group how their animators were able to draw such realistic details for the film from everyday life. “We had a crew go to Cheyenne, Wyoming – and we got all our animators – they wore big skirts with corsets, both them men and the women, to walk through deep snow to understand what it means.”
Now that’s dedication to the craft! They wanted the animators to understand the movement of walking through snow, not just on top of it, and it seems that the corsets helped. The team also gathers with other directors and writers and screen the film’s progress every 12 weeks to monitor what’s working and what isn’t.
About the dynamic between the characters in Disney’s Frozen: “Romantic love is the hearts and roses and the six months, you know, that. And then the real love kicks in. And it’s dirty and messy and hard and, you know, but it’s- it’s worth it, you know, it’s that real stuff. So that’s where that kind of idea came from too.”
Giving animators a run for their money
After taking a shot at the animators desk, I think it’s safe to say that their jobs are safe. Yikes. It’s not as easy as it looks, but learning about the process from computer screen to the big screen was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity.
The voice over studio is where I thought I’d shine as I’m quite comfortable in the spotlight. Because our process was backwards – we matched our voices to the animation whereas the actors voice their character before any animation begins – it proved to be quite difficult. Here’s the final result of my voice over of Frozen’s Olaf the snowman:
Not so bad, right? I think it’s safe to say that the original voice of Olaf, Josh Gad, has job security.
We also spoke to Disney’s Frozen lead animator Lino DiSalvo who was verbal about his love for these characters.
“This film is very much an example of the perfect actors playing the perfect parts… just the right shots. That kind of collaboration is like stars aligning; when everything just works out,” DiSalvo said about the film’s collaborators.
Animator Beckys Bresee shared her unique approach to animating Anna: “I go into [my office] and I film myself on a little camera at my desk.” She uses the film as reference to facial movement, reactions and other movement to help her realistically animate the character over which she is lead animator.
From the moment of concept, to the process of animation, giving the characters voices and to the final product, it’s obvious that each team member that helped produce Disney’s Frozen put every piece of themselves in it, and it shows.
Disney’s Frozen opens in theaters Wednesday November 27th!