[Note: This interview was conducted before Disney officially announced that Frozen 2 is in development with Buck and Jennifer Lee directing. For more info on the sequel, click here.]
In the Frozen Fever short, playing in theaters with Cinderella, wanting to make up for a lifetime of closed doors by throwing her little sister, Anna, a party she’ll never forget, Elsa enlists the help of Kristoff, Sven and Olaf. But threatening to derail it all is the fact that the all-powerful Queen of Arendelle has a cold, and every time she sneezes, her magic makes tiny snowmen, or Snowgies, with a penchant for mischief.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, co-director Chris Buck and producer Peter Del Vecho talked about how they started work on Frozen Fever four to six months after the full-length film came out, why it was fun to spend six of seven months in the world of the short, as opposed to the daunting three or four years for a feature, how the success of Frozen and fan expectations for the characters changed the approach of the short, how difficult it was for even them to get certain merchandise for the first film, the strangest merchandise they’ve seen, that there’s always the possibility of more shorts, and more.
Collider: How quickly did you get to work on this short, after Frozen came out?
PETER DEL VECHO: It was probably four to six months after the movie came out that the idea of doing the short came. And then, we really started earnestly working on it in June, and worked on it for the next seven months. To us, even the idea of doing a short seemed like it was almost on the heels of doing the movie.
CHRIS BUCK: It still had to open around the world. In Japan, it didn’t open until March. We were still doing a lot of Frozen stuff, so by the time the idea for the short came up, it felt like we hadn’t gotten a break. When we first started the short, several of us were on vacations, so it was a bit of a tag team. But, it was nice.
Was it fun to get to keep the characters and world going, without having to jump right back into another full-length feature?
BUCK: Instead of jumping into another feature and another three or four years, it was just going to be six or seven months, so it wasn’t daunting, in that respect. You could go, “I can do this!” And we love the characters, we love the world, and we love who we work with, with Bobby and Kristen Lopez, and our crew at the studio is so good. We did get a lot of our guys back.
DEL VECHO: Everybody at the studio wanted to work on this, so that was nice. It also gave us a chance to work with the cast again. We hadn’t seen them since the premiere, so it was a nice opportunity to all be together and celebrate the movie again.
Did it change things in the approach, now that there is an expectation for the characters?
BUCK: I think it does. With Elsa, she became such an important character for a lot of people, and they assume that Elsa does certain things and wouldn’t do certain things. Maybe we’ll get some mail about that, with the short. When you’re doing the feature and they’re new characters, you obviously can do whatever you want. But once they’ve been established and people enjoy them, they put their own personality onto them and they start to dictate, a little bit, what they think the characters should do. Maybe there’s that pressure, but we feel like we’re true to the characters and we try to give them new things to do. With Elsa, the challenge was to give her a little bit of humor, this time around, because we hadn’t really been able to do that with the feature. So, this was a nice challenge, and it was really fun to make her a little more three-dimensional, when it comes to a full personality.
Did it also affect your working relationship with the actors, now that they know who their characters are?
BUCK: They all become divas!
DEL VECHO: The nice thing is that we all enjoyed making the movie so much. Working on a short is daunting because you want to live up to the expectations that everyone has now, but it’s also comforting because you do know the characters and we do know who we’re working with. It also feels very familiar, in a very enjoyable way.
With the tremendous success of not only the film, but of the merchandise, as well, did you guys get any cool presents, as a result?
DEL VECHO: Do you mean the Lamborghini that I have parked out front? No. Truthfully, with the merchandise, because we work hand-in-hand with them, along the way, we will often get some of the merchandise when the movie comes out. But on this one, there was such a shortage of merchandise that it was a long time before we could get anything.
BUCK: I kept asking for a few things and they were like, “Well, it sold out already.” People would ask us, “Can you get an Elsa dress for my niece?” But, I couldn’t even get one, not that I’d want one for myself.
DEL VECHO: Hopefully, you’ll find that the dresses for the short are actually going to be in the stores when we open. That was important.
BUCK: Even when we were designing these new dresses, there was still somewhat of a shortage of the Elsa dress. We’re hoping we won’t have that same problem this time. We’re hoping there will be enough.
What was the strangest merchandise you saw?
DEL VECHO: Frozen duct tape with characters on it was an odd one. Who knew?!
BUCK: Kids love duct tape!
DEL VECHO: There’s a lot of knock-off stuff, like the Plaster of Paris from Tijuana, of Anna and Elsa, that were the exact same model. Both Anna and Elsa looked exactly the same, except that they were painted different.
BUCK: So, poor Anna just had one braid because it was the Elsa one.
DEL VECHO: What was more fun was following the proliferation of YouTube videos that surrounded the movie. That was fun for us, and I think we’ve seen most all of them.
BUCK: There’s even a new one out, “Choke Frozen,” about this poor mom whose kid is singing in the background. You never see the kid, but the kid is singing “Let it Go.” It’s been four days of snow days, meaning school is out, so the kid has been watching Frozen for four days straight and singing “Let it Go.” It’s just so funny.
Any of the characters in the Frozen world could have their own short, and you’ve said that you were originally going to do this as an Olaf short. Have you thought of any ideas for other character shorts?
BUCK: It’s always out there, but we haven’t done anything seriously yet.
DEL VECHO: We literally just wrapped up this short, last month. We’re hoping to breathe a little sigh of relief, and see how that gets received.
BUCK: I’m just going along for the ride. I never expected this success. I love these characters, so whatever happens, I’ll be glad to be a part of it.
Since the day Frozen opened, people have been asking for a sequel. Any update on that?
BUCK: We were reading it in the press. Sometimes they even had dates.
DEL VECHO: It certainly is out there. People clearly have expressed interest in it, even within the company. We’re not actively working on it, at the moment, though.
DEL VECHO: Well, most of our movies take three to four years, from conceiving them to the finished product.
BUCK: It would be the same. The only advantage we might have is that our main characters are developed and built in the computer and designed. We’d have a step up, in that regard. When it comes to developing new characters, you have to design and build them, and all of that sort of stuff.
DEL VECHO: On the other side, we have to make a movie that’s better than the original. That’s a tough act to follow.
BUCK: We created our own little monster for ourselves, but it’s a good one.
Frozen Fever is playing with Cinderella in theaters on March 13th.