Visiting Walt Disney Animation offices in Burbank is always a treat, but for Movie Fanatic our visit to check out 30 minutes of Frozen was especially incredible. The footage we saw, teased in the Frozen trailer, was incredible. As visually stunning as it was emotionally powerful, the film -- loosely based on The Snow Queen -- will easily charm audiences worldwide when it debuts November 27.
While there, we were granted an exclusive interview with Frozen directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck. More on the footage we saw later today, but for now, we bring you the inside scoop about the film that stars Kristen Bell as Anna and Idina Menzel as Elsa. Elsa has a gift, or as she sees it, a curse. Everything she touches turns to snow and ice. She hides that as her royal subjects revere her in the largest of ways… and so too does her sister Anna. When she inadvertently turns her kingdom into a permanent winter, she goes into hiding.
Not far behind is her sister Anna, who heads out in search of her sister who she believes she can still save. As the world readies to meet Disney's latest characters in Frozen, directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck tell us about the magic of Bell and Idina as well as the song that we guarantee will be Disney’s next popular culture sensation.
Movie Fanatic: The story will resonate with audiences in many ways. How did it most resonate with you that you would devote years of your lives to making Frozen?
Jennifer Lee: For me, it resonates in so many ways. For me, the big thing is it's timely and timeless in how many choices we make in life, and what if we could make those choices based on love, what would we be able to do? And, it’s not in a preachy way. It’s just a curious thing. It’s something we haven’t done as a theme. The minute we felt that was the theme, simply stated, every character elevated and everything fit. I feel like I’m still seeing new things in it because of that.
Chris Buck: It will resonate with everyone and with me, I love the Elsa character. I love this person who people perceived one way and then she had to hide who she really was. She just comes out and “This is who I am.” She can learn to accept it and that her sister always believed in her. That’s one of the biggest things. I love Anna, this character who will not give up on her sister… no matter what.
Movie Fanatic: Seriously, as we saw in the footage you showed us, she heads out into the frozen winter under the threat of death to save her.
Chris Buck: [Laughs] She’s got to!
Jennifer Lee: Elsa represents fear. Anna represents fearlessness, and not just love. I have this thing where I love stupid courage… It’s that thing where you know you shouldn’t, but you do it anyway. I love characters that do that.
Movie Fanatic: Just because someone is a great actor, doesn’t mean that they’ll be great at voice-acting. But, in the scenes we saw, Kristen Bell as Anna is astounding. As her directors, when she was first in the booth with you… what hit you the most?
Chris Buck: She’s so natural. Anna is Kristen. There is so much of her in there, we just tapped into that.
Jennifer Lee: I have to say too, she’s brilliant. To be that funny, that real compassion, and she knew exactly what was going on in the subtext of everything and how much she cared. She is one of the most professional and talented people I’ve ever met.
Chris Buck: She made the smartest choices and picks up on things right away. We’d give one note and she’d nail it.
Jennifer Lee: When you hear her singing, it’s the perfect voice for Anna. It’s all sweet and warm, everything Anna is and then you have Idina who is power. And the two of them, you couldn’t ask for voices that fit the personalities better.
Chris Buck: And we didn’t want to just rely on the sidekicks for the humor. We wanted to have our leads be funny too, and again Kristen brought so much to that.
Movie Fanatic: I’ve loved Idina’s work for years. She’s a Disney movie away from huge. The fact that it is in this picture allows this once-in-a-lifetime voice to be heard by the world. What was it like to be so close, working with such a bright light?
Chris Buck: I said in that first session, "I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t know what it is, but you're so perfect for Elsa."
Jennifer Lee: I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who could have been Elsa but her. To have that power and vulnerability, it’s breathtaking. She also loved how complex Elsa got over the course of the movie, feeling the quivering beneath the surface that you have to have for that character. She is the Snow Queen.
Movie Fanatic: And that song you guys showed us, Let it Go, for me, just give you guys the Oscar for that.
Jennifer Lee: She loved that song and it is one of the hardest songs she’s ever had to range. She even came in and asked if we could do it a half step higher. Higher?!
Chris Buck: She knew her sweet spot!
Movie Fanatic: That song will have a life beyond this movie like so many Disney classics.
Chris Buck: It’s one of those things with songs from Disney movies, to create songs to speak to so many people on so many levels, that they take away and make it their own.
Jennifer Lee: We were just playing with the characters when Let it Go came in, and we knew that the entire feel of the movie had to change because of the power of that song. It did.
Chris Buck: We had to earn that song.
Movie Fanatic: Josh Gad is everywhere now and I know with animation you start years ago. What did you guys first see in Josh that now everyone is discovering in The Internship, Thanks for Sharing and Jobs? He's so amazing, you've given him his own Frozen Olaf trailer!
Jennifer Lee: There’s an impishness to him that is perfect for an innocent snowman. But, there’s also a charm and sincerity. He’ll go all in. We have a lot of material for him and he was willing to try everything. I had so much fun when he’s in the room, it’s infectious.
Chris Buck: He started with us. He was at the first table read. He’s been there since the beginning.
Movie Fanatic: Your first memory of animation… what was it?
Jennifer Lee: Mine was Cinderella. It started as the book when I was two. I was obsessed with it. When I finally saw it at eight or nine, I was crying. I know every frame of that movie.
Chris Buck: It was Pinocchio, I saw in a theater… a re-release. The whole thing was unbelievable to me and the fact you could do that! It’s what Disney movies are all about. They tell kids how to get through these tough times. If you can go through it in a movie, you can do it in life.