Walt Disney Animation Studios’ next film is heating up anticipation, and for all the right reasons. Frozen could very well be the next game-changer for the animation house, if any of the footage or singing I caught today at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA, suggests its value.
John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, concluded the three-hour arena animation presentation with this film, which he described as a very special project. How special? Very much so.
Kristen Bell, the voice of the “funny,” “quirky,” and “magicless” sister Anna. Bell charmed the audience with her natural sharpness and down-to-earth sense of humor. She was that kid who sung Little Mermaid songs on the boombox, always dreaming of being involved with Disney. Now she has that privilege, voicing a character with effortless charisma and sweetness. She “wears her heart on her sleeve,” as the directors described, thus making for some awkward situations.
One scene depicted Anna meeting Prince Hans in a canoe on a dock, leading to some tricky introductory chit-chat as they fall into one another’s arms.
On the other hand, Anna’s sister Elsa, who has the dangerous talent in shaping ice and snow, is less warm and fuzzy. She’s cold, or rather distant, as she has shut the world out after locking their home kingdom in an eternal winter. Anna longs to be in touch with Elsa again, as they were as young children, but Elsa has closed herself off. Elsa has hidden her powers and aims to “let go.”
[Disney’s Frozen image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios. Used with permission.]
Idina Menzel voices the role of Elsa, and provides the singing, too. Menzel concluded the presentation with a show-stopping performance of “Let It Go.” I first heard an earlier version of the song at the Destination D event last August, hinting it would wow, and it sure did! Menzel hit it out of the park, releasing her being into the ballad’s lyrics.
Josh Gad, the voice of huggable snowman Olaf, whom we first saw in the somewhat-disappointing teaser trailer, was fantastically funny on both screen and in person. Gad appeared at the Expo, hitting jokes with ease, and shared a clip of Olaf, when he first meets Anna and mountainman Kristoff. Their first encounter is rather awkward, with Olaf’s head being tossed around by the pair, and then he shares his dream of experiencing summer.
Here comes a song. We were shown the entire musical sequence sung by Gad’s Olaf, full of smart lyrics and one-liners. It’s tongue-in-cheek, as there are many humorous touches on snow contrasting with the summer heat, and the audience loved it!
Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee hammed it up before showing scenes from the film. Buck showed his vintage Eeyore stuffed animal, snatching it out of the back of his shirt. He described this as an important part of his childhood.
“At least it’s not Pooh,” Lee retorted, generating massive laughter and a nice play on words, too.
Needless to say, the humor and great care from the directors and stars come through in Frozen, which I suspect may have moviegoers returning back to the theaters again and again!
In “Frozen,” fearless optimist Anna (voice of Bell) teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (voice of Gad) in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa (voice of Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. In theaters Nov. 27, 2013.
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