When Frozen 2 hits theaters in 2019 it will be six years since audiences first met Elsa, Anna and Olaf. Animation takes a long time, but finding the right story can take even longer.
Even for a short film, the story has to be right. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure plays before Coco in theaters. Giving Olaf his own movie, even for 22 minutes, challenged filmmakers.
“I think our first challenge was looking at Olaf as a character,” Co-director Kevin Deters said. “He was designed as a supporting character in the feature. He’s guileless, he loves everybody, he’s very happy.”
In Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) realize they have no family holiday traditions. Their holidays were spent trying to find a cure for Elsa’s powers, or at least keep her safely sequestered. So Olaf (Josh Gad) decides to look for a tradition for them.
“As storytellers, we thought oh gosh, what are we going to do to create a nice dramatic story centering around a character like that, because he loves everyone,” Deters said. “We realized he’s a bit of a little child. that was kind of our doorway into it. We started talking about different relatable thematic ideas that could resonate.”
It’s not only kids who love the holidays though, said cowriter and co-director Stevie Wemers.
“When we think about the holidays, what are some of the things you think about?” Wemers asked. “Traditions was one of the things we came up with. That one seemed to segue so nicely into the fact that Olaf is brand new. He wouldn’t have traditions, and also the girls wouldn’t really have any either because of what happened in the first movie.”
One tradition everyone in the kingdom celebrates is the ringing of the Yule Bell. The Yule Bell ceremony opens Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, but then the citizens retire for their own family traditions, leaving Anna and Elsa alone.
“The idea with that is that it’s been around for a long, long time, probably hundreds of years in our mind,” Deters said. “The community always did it. In the flashback, you see them as little girls hoping to ring the bell. It kind of went away during the events of the film and now they’re bringing it back”
The theme of tradition made Olaf’s Frozen Adventure a perfect fit with Coco.
“It’s the thematic connection,” producer Roy Conli said. “Both films have to do with tradition and have to do with family. It became a very natural fit, a very easy fit.”
Like Frozen, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is still a musical, with four new songs.
“We had broad plot points and we thought okay, let’s talk about where the songs can go,” Deters said. “Where can we economize storytelling?”
Josh Gad himself apologizes to parents for unleashing new Frozen songs sure to play on repeat in family homes and cars.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and Coco open Wednesday, November 22.