Later tonight, at 8:00 pm ET/PT, the ABC television network will air ‘The Story of Frozen: Making an Animated Classic,’ an hour-long special that promises to go behind-the-scenes of what Disney refers to as the most successful animated film at all time.
ABC has provided us with a screener of the television special and we are pleased to report that it was (for the most part) an absolute joy to watch from start to finish. Narrated by Josh Gad (voice of Olaf), the special incorporates interviews with stars Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa) and Jonathan Goff (Kristoff/’Sven’) along with co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, character lead animators Becky Bresee (Anna), Wayne Unten (Elsa), Hyrum Osmond (Olaf), Brittney Lee, producer Peter Del Vecho and John Lasseter.
The good news is — the really good news is — that this is the Blu-ray bonus feature every one was hoping to see. From start to finish (and beyond), the special expertly explores the creative process involved in making the film. Behind-the-scenes footage (much already released as B-roll footage) of the voice actors split-screened with the respective film scenes, watching Elsa build her castle in various stages of animation (according to the special, that sequence alone took 9 months to complete), extensive footage of research trips to Norway and Wyoming and much, much more. Significant time is even paid to how the story evolved, from Anna being a stranger to Elsa, seeking a favor, to the suggestion they were sisters and how ‘Let It Go’ completely changed the Elsa character, forcing Lee to re-write the script to conform to allow Elsa to no longer be the film’s lead villain.
In addition to research footage, the animators also share a lot of live action reference footage, most of which I personally have never seen, including some interesting surprise inspirations that will have to be seen to be believed, though Bresee’s self-footage as Anna is only topped by the imagery she used of her own two daughters acting out some of the scenes.
The special also dedicates time to the music of the film, primarily ‘Let it Go’ and its phenomenal success worldwide, as well as ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ which almost didn’t make the final cut, as we first reported last November. As this clip from the special explains, the filmmakers didn’t feel that the song’s sequence was beneficial to the pacing of the film, but it was at the insistence of the Disney ‘rank and file’ that it be put back in at the near last-minute:
The special also includes some great behind-the-scenes footage of Katie Lopez and Agatha Lee Monn (the daughters of the Lopezes and Lee respectively) performing their parts as Anna in ‘Do You Want to Build A Snowman?’ Though the special doesn’t mention it, Katie’s younger sister, Annie Lopez, also has a role in the film as one of the trolls (though Annie does inexplicably show up for a brief second in the ‘Snowman’ segment — well, the reason is it’s adorable). Here is a recently released clip featuring the filmmakers’ daughters singing for Anna:
The special then turns to the observation of the film’s success, relying heavily on many, many, many YouTube videos. At least seven minutes had to be dedicated to showing clips from YouTube videos of kids receiving Frozen, singing Frozen and more, and — in one case — not children, but U.S. marines:
John Lasseter, who previously noted the shared anguish of Elsa and his son, Sam, added that this video of a girl painfully having a splinter removed turned to Frozen to get herself through it:
And so after all that, what’s the reason behind Frozen‘s success? Nobody really seems to know, though Lee does comment that she can’t wait for the current generation of kids to grow up so they can tell her.
What wasn’t included in the screener, but is expected to air on ABC, are the sneak peeks at Disney’s Big Hero 6, the upcoming season of ‘Once Upon A Time,’ and ‘the future of Frozen,’ though the Sing-Along DVD and Disney’s Frozen on Ice did get honorable mentions (approximately 10 minutes were missing from the screener), so any news of a sequel — be it the books or otherwise — or rumored theatrical shorts and the like will have to wait until the show airs tonight.
Despite harping a bit too much on the YouTube videos rather than sharing more inside information, ‘The Story of Frozen: Making an Animated Classic,’ was a joy to watch and it should be a no-brainer for Disney to release it on DVD (maybe bundled with a 3D Blu-ray? but we digress).