How "Frozen" Became The Most Beloved Animated Movie In 20 Years

Frozen is breaking records and warming hearts all over the world. Star Josh Gad explains how this unlikely sister act ignored all the rules and rewrote Disney’s animation playbook. posted on

Walt Disney

By this point, you’ve either contributed to Frozen’s $864 million global box office haul or you know someone who has. Chances are equally high you’ve heard the Oscar-nominated movie’s omnipresent, and also Oscar-nominated, anthem, “Let It Go.”

The extent to which the Disney movie has captivated the youngest of moviegoers was indisputably on display at Los Angeles’ El Capitan theater on Sunday, where 300 children belted out the hook of the instant classic at a sold-out screening of the Frozen Sing-Along as fake snow fell from the ceilings and an Elsa stand-in twirled around a stage.

And the audience not only sang along with the words, but also the character’s intonation.

When young Anna (Kristel Bell) mumbled, “It doesn’t have to be a snowman” through Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) keyhole, the crowd mumbled. When Anna sang with a chocolate-stuffed mouth, the crowd mimicked her insatiable sweet tooth. And when the aforementioned flurries fell during “Let It Go,” children actually wept with excitement.

Frozen is not about the prince and the princess for once,” Los Angeles native Emma Chaney, who brought her costume-clad daughters to the screening, told BuzzFeed. “It’s not a traditional story between a man or a woman; it’s the sisters who represent true love at the end and that’s an excellent message for my girls.”

Disney

 

And Josh Gad, who voices snowman Olaf in the film, echoed that sentiment before taking the El Capitan stage to introduce the movie. “In Frozen, the idea of true love is explored through the arc of a relationship between siblings,” he told BuzzFeed. “And siblinghood is something that resonates in a very profound way.”

Disney’s films have historically portrayed sisterhood in a negative light (Cinderella being the most venomous example), so Anna’s unwavering devotion to Elsa (who, in turn, exiles herself for the safety of her sibling) is one of the many reasons Gad considers the film to be thoroughly modern. “It takes all the traditional elements of what we’ve come to know and love about Disney’s animated movies and, in a way, throws them on their head,” he said. “Thematically, it’s taken all of our expectations and presents them to us through a new prism.”

Gad added that screenwriter Jennifer Lee made an excellent decision to contemporize the humor without injecting era-specific references. “There’s been a lot of ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ movies that modernize fairy tales, but Frozen doesn’t rely on any current pop culture references, so it’s created an entirely new subgenre in many ways that I think makes it timeless.”

Walt Disney

Declaring a film as “timeless” while it’s still in theaters may seem a little presumptuous, but Gad sees the overwhelming response he’s getting on a near-daily basis as proof Frozen is destined to become a classic. “I’m being stopped by everyone, from 3-year-olds to 93-years-olds, who are so joyful and so thrilled that this movie relates to them in the way I feel a lot of the second animated golden age [generally considered The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King in the late ’80s and early ’90s] resonated for me.”

“The last time I was this shell-shocked by the response to something I was in was with Book of Mormon,” he said of the outpouring of love and accolades his breakout role in the Tony-winning musical received. “The film has gone above and beyond our wildest expectations because there’s no precedent for this.”

And he’s right. In theaters, Frozen has broken multiple records (the latest accomplishment being this weekend’s box office receipts, where the film earned $9.3 million, putting it only behind Oscar-juggernauts Titanic, Avatar, and Slumdog Millionaire when it comes to the 10th week of release sales). It’s also $8 million away from passing Despicable Me 2 as the third-highest grossing animated film of all time (only trailing Toy Story 3 with $415 million and Shrek 2 with $441 million).

On the music charts, the soundtrack has also proved to be unstoppable as it slowly climbed to the top of the Billboard charts before spending three weeks in the No. 1 spot — becoming the first soundtrack to accomplish this feat since High School Musical 2 in 2007. “We’re beating Beyoncé! That’s really shocking,” Gad said. “It’s fair to say it’s been about two decades since there’s been this kind of overwhelmingly positive atmosphere surrounding a musical.”

Walt Disney

For Gad, who cut his teeth in stage musicals, Frozen’s success is doubly sweet given all the Broadway DNA it’s infused with. Stars Menzel, Bell, Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), and Santino Fontana (Hans) are all theater-trained performers, while Robert Lopez, who won Tonys for The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, wrote the songs with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, a Drama Desk Award winner for her musical In Transit.

“The respect and admiration for what came before, musically speaking, is something the creative team was very cognizant of,” Gad said. “They wanted to create an atmosphere that didn’t shy away from the musical qualities. They embraced it head-on, and I don’t think more than two days that have gone by in the last nine weeks where I haven’t been around a stranger humming a song from this movie. There are so many examples where this has transcended the medium and become something completely unforeseen to us.”

That’s why Gad believes Frozen is destined to not only be mentioned in the same breath as those in the second animated golden age, but also, the most iconic Disney musical of all time: Mary Poppins.

“I was attempting to watch the Mary Poppins Sing-Along with my daughter recently, which is a movie from 1964, and all these kids were singing every word,” Gad said. “I flashed forward and had this profound visual of a group of kids watching the 50th anniversary of Frozen and that idea struck me as being one of the great moments of my life. Disney, more than any company, has the ability to create these films that continue to speak to generation after generation because of the timeless themes they address, and I think Frozen might belong in that pantheon of great films. It is an honor and privilege and a joy to have had a role in this film, and I hope 50 years from now, I’m still around to do another interview to celebrate the half-century mark.”

The Frozen Sing-Along is now playing in limited release.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Facebook Conversations
          
    Now Buzzing