The Story Behind Disney's FROZEN (formerly The Snow Queen)

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Man by Belle Histoire.

So this story begins at least back in 2002 when a retelling of The Snow Queen was first whispered to be in the works, or at least in the lineup. Then in 2003 famed animator Glen Keane stepped away from the project, apparently devastating its production.

There is a wonderful rundown of the earliest stages of development at Always Animated blog. Here are some key quotes:

In 2006, Disney's famed in-house composer Alan Menken was writing a stage musical version of the story but news of the project also halted.

Various names have been attached to the project over the years including the Brizzi brothers, Dick Zondag, and Dave Goetz. News has been spotty at best. The feature was finally proclaimed dead in the water by Disney fans when no more news emerged in several years.

In October 2008, concept art was shown off by Don Hahn at an event promoting his new book The Alchemy of Animation. However, no explanation of its status was given.


Whispers concerning this film's status have never ceased. Many a Disney animation project have come and gone in silence, however the exact status of "The Snow Queen"'s production has remained a popular debate in forums. The most recent rumors being that Mike Gabriel (co-director of "Pocahontas", "The Rescuers Down Under") was directing for a 2013 release and it would be traditionally animated. Dean Wellins (screenplay of "Rapunzel") has also been on-again, off-again reportedly attached to the project.

Seriously though, go read through that post for the nitty gritty. It is fascinating stuff and I certainly don't want to steal his thunder here. Speed up to 2009 and you have the official confirmation of the movie.

In this brief article in December 2009, it was officially revealed that The Snow Queen was back in action (along with some other, sadly now defunct, projects). It was slated to be the next hand-drawn animated feature, following Disney's Winnie the Pooh movie, after the apparent "revival" of hand-drawn animation starting with The Princess and the Frog.

The excitement built up for a few months quietly behind the scenes. People who had been hoping to see this project come to life for years were finally getting their wish. That is, they got their wish for about three months, until rumors seemed to be confirmed that The Snow Queen had frozen again.

Some hope remained, until the axe fell with the announcement that Tangled would "be the last fairy tale produced by Disney's animation group for the foreseeable future."

And this was announced right after Tangled was headlined as Disney's biggest opening ever, and had just made the top 10 highest grossing domestic animated features of all time.

Yes. You may pause to digest that teensy bit of contradicting information.

Something to do about pegging themselves into a niche or not appealing to boys or something. Because Tangled didn't do that, either, of course.

Then.... Nothing.

For a very very long time. It was as if the final nail had been laid in this story's coffin.

I was here actively for this part, ever since the official announcement The Snow Queen would be a hand-drawn animated feature. I remember the announcement that Disney would be doing no more fairy tales and you could not imagine how stunned I felt. So yes guys, between here and the next announcement was a long time time in coming. Almost two years of silence.


And then a new announcement came, one that changed everything all over again. At the end of 2011 it was declared The Snow Queen had come back to life, but now it was now going to be in 3D and was Snow Queen no longer, but Frozen, getting the Rapunzel-to-Tangled treatment in both respects.

There has been no official art since the change, and no trailer released at this point, but there is now a plot synopsis -

When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, an amazing and comedic snowman named Olaf, Everest-like conditions and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.

It is both curious and disheartening. It seems "loose adaptation" is quite an apt phrase here, and there is so many complex aspects that could be mined from this story. Kirsten Bell will play the title character Anna, and Idina Menzel (of the Wicked "Elphaba" fame) will step into the role of the Snow Queen. I will be waiting with quiet and hesitant anticipation to see just what they have done to adapt this story after all these long years. It comes out November of this year. *knock on wood - goodness*

The concept art you see is from Harald Siepermann's blog, which covers 25 years of his animation career (and includes such projects as Tarzan, Roger Rabbit, Mulan, and a ton of others. It's cool stuff).  All save for the settings, which are done by Paul Felix. All of this is for the earlier 2D animated Snow Queen, remember. Still, it is pretty stuff. It will be interesting to see what has changed. So there you have it! The SCOOP of scoops on a Disney feature. :)


Deborah Julene said...

I've been closely following this project as well. I think I read an article a few months ago saying that they had songwriter. I believe it's the person who wrote the music for "The Book of Mormon". Should make for an interesting movie...

Steph Su said...

I hope that having Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell as voice talent will be a sign of how good this adaptation will turn out to be. I'm not sure either how I feel about Disney's new direction regarding loose adaptations, but I enjoyed Tangled well enough. Retellings seems to be the new cross-media rage these days, which is a good thing for the revival of this project.