Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
At the end of 2013, there wasn’t anywhere you could go without hearing someone reference FROZEN. Not only did the animated feature film do boffo blockbuster business at the box office, the songs went viral, inspiring many to put their own unique spins on such classics like “Let It Go,” and “Do You Want To Build A Snowman.” The groundswell of popularity was tremendous.
Looking to recapture a similar lightning in a bottle is the burgeoning franchise’s first animated featurette, OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE. Directors Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, along with producer Roy Conli, wanted to create a story about all kinds of different traditions that are celebrated during the holiday season. Ever the curious snowman that he is, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), who doesn’t have any holiday traditions of his own, goes on an adventure to find how others celebrate the season. Meanwhile, back at the palace, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) are busy uncovering the history of their family tradition. Once again we get a story filled with heart and humor, but also four new, outstandingly catchy songs of which to sing along.
Here’s a clip where you can see the charm – and hear a snippet of the song, “That Time of Year.” Fun fact: Gad improved the “please let me finish” line:
Landing on the story line came about organically. Deters began saying,
Our first challenge was looking at Olaf as a character. He was designed as a supporting character in the feature. He’s guileless and loves everybody. As storytellers, we were like, ‘Oh gosh. How are we going to create a nice dramatic story centering on a character like that?’ We realized he was a bit of a child and that was our doorway into it.
Wermers-Skelton said the fact this was a holiday-themed “short” helped set the parameters.
When you think about the holidays, traditions was one of the things you think about. That seemed to segue so nicely into the fact that Olaf is brand new and wouldn’t have traditions, so the girls wouldn’t have any either because of what happened in the first movie. It seemed to fit right out of the gate.
“That Time of Year,” a song that has Olaf knocking on townspeople’s doors to find out their celebrated traditions, was whittled down out from a pile of ideas and sketches. Deters stated,
[Songwriters] Kate [Anderson] and Elyssa [Samsel] came out for a week. We kind of just said, here’s a pile of sketches and a pile of ideas and they came back with that amazing song. We sat in the story room and we had broad plot points where we thought, ‘Okay. Let’s talk about where the songs could go. Where can we economize storytelling?’ It was a very collaborative effort. We feel as strongly that the best idea wins. It’s about making ideas stronger. You have to be ego-less in the story room. It’s a vulnerable place, but you put it all up there and see what works. Everybody has the same goal in mind.
Josh Gad saw these new tunes as a continuation of the iconic, melodic earworms from the original.
I remember Kristen, Idina, Jonathan [Groff] and I all got together shortly after we heard the songs. All of us could not believe how good the songs were. We were like, ‘Have you heard what they did?! These are really good songs!’ It’s hard because you have such iconic music from the original film. Especially “When We’re Together” – I can’t shake that song. Good luck, parents, because that’s going to play a lot in your households.
OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE plays before COCO, opening November 22.
Feature Photo: WHEN WE’RE TOGETHER –Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” features four all-new original songs, including “When We’re Together”—a song in which Kristoff, Anna, Elsa and Olaf realize that being together with loved ones is the best part of the holiday season. Featuring the voices of Jonathan Groff, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Josh Gad, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” opens in front of Disney•Pixar’s original feature “Coco” in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017. ©2017 Disney. All Rights Reserved.