The Frozen franchise has grown into a bonafide cultural phenomenon over the past decade, with the story of Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), and the characters in their orbit charming viewers of all ages. This weekend, fans will get to see the latest extension of the franchise with Once Upon a Snowman, a Disney+ exclusive short film. The short will chronicle the previously-unseen early moments of Olaf (Josh Gad), from when he is created by Elsa to when he properly meets Anna and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) in the events of the first Frozen. The short helps shed a light on a previously-unseen corner of the franchise -- and according to its creative team, it was a no-brainer bringing the story to life.
"This idea came from... I started as a crowd animator during the first Frozen and my very first character to animate was Olaf," co-director and co-writer Trent Correy told reporters during a recent virtual press conference for Once Upon a Snowman. "I was very lucky to get to animate Olaf for the rest of the show. I very clearly remember seeing Chad Sellers animator shot during "Let It Go", while I was a trainee. Elsa makes 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.'"
"I love Pinocchio, I loved Bambi, and I'm like, 'I want to see what Olaf's first steps are like,' and we don't see them for another 20 minutes in the film," Correy continued. "I actually found sketches last week, when I was moving, of original ideas from 2013, little deep boards and writing and ideas of Olaf taking his first steps and learning about who he is. Cut to last year, Jennifer Lee, our fearless leader, stood on stage and said, 'We're going to be partnering with Disney Plus.' And I thought right then that this is the perfect opportunity to have this short come out eight years later."
In the eight years since the first Frozen debuted in theaters, Olaf has grown into a sort of pop-culture icon, who both the young and young at heart have grown to appreciate. As the creative team put it, Olaf's enduring popularity stems from a very wholesome place -- his optimistic way of looking at the world.
"I would say that Olaf has this overwhelming optimism and sincerity about him. And that just never gets old," Head of Animation Becky Bresee explained. "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 inspiring."
"I grew up on Disney movies in the '90s," Correy echoed. "I loved Aladdin, by far my favorite movie. And the genie was my favorite character. And I think what I loved about the genie was that he could be hilarious and change shapes, but he could also be sincere. And from an animator's point of view, Olaf's just everyone's favorite character to animate because he can be very emotional. Like Becky mentioned, he's connected to the sisters. But he's also fun to just break apart."
"And I think we can all relate to his sort of innocence as a child," creative consultant Peter Del Vecho added. "That's a slightly naive look at the world, but in doing so, I agree, Trent, he can really hit on some profound, emotional things. You can zero in on things that maybe, as adults, we miss."
Once Upon a Snowman will debut exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, October 23rd.