WonderCon: FROZEN – “The Art of the Story” Panel Recap; Learn How the Film Changed During Production

     April 18, 2014


It’s no surprise when a Disney film is met with critical and commercial success, but after winning an Academy Award and the title of highest grossing animated picture of all time, it’s safe to say that Frozen is impressive even by Disney’s high standards.  Storyboard artists Jeff Ranjo (Frozen, Surf’s Up, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Fawn Veerasunthorn (Frozen, Hop, El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera), Nicole Mitchell (Frozen, Wreck-it Ralph, Winnie the Pooh) and Normand Lemay (Frozen, Rio) were on hand at WonderCon today to give a behind-the-scenes look at the art of storyboarding and the process of crafting story for an animated film.

Hit the jump to learn some Frozen movie secrets and for highlights of the panel.

FROZEN – The Art of the Story WonderCon Panel Recap:

  • frozen-movie-secretsThe group kicked things off by explaining the job of a story board artist. They described the process of storyboarding as translating ideas to make the story as clear as possible in the most entertaining way. The storyboard artist also attempts to manipulate the audience into feeling things without them being aware of it.
  • They noted that there is no “Disney” style to storyboarding. Each artist has their own visual style and they often collaborate on the same storyboard.
  • Normand Lemay presented a storyboard version the “meet the trolls” scene where Anna and Elsa’s parents race to the trolls for help when Anna comes down with a serious case of brain freeze. They said it was very important story telling decision that only Anna’s memory of magic be erased, not the memory of her relationship with Elsa.
  • An earlier version of the story included a prophecy which warned that a leader with a frozen heart would destroy the kingdom, the trolls were a more subtle an interesting way to present that warning.
  • Fawn Veerasunthorn presented various versions of the “sister split” sequence when Anna confronts Elsa at the coronation. Some noticeable differences: Initially Anna and Hans were not engaged, rather Anna approached Elsa alone, telling her that she just met a guy who might “really like her”, and asked that Elsa give Hans a job. This seemed too much like Anna was talking about an “imaginary boyfriend”.
  • frozen-elsa-panel-recap-wonderconIn the end, they decided that if Anna and Hans were engaged it would cause more of the threat that Elsa might lose her sister. Hans was then added to the sequence and framed as a visual representation of the rift between the sisters.
  • This scene also incorporates two of the films most important pieces of imagery: the closed door that represents Anna’s loneliness and the gloves that represent Elsa’s emotional repression.
  • We were then showed another alternate version of the confrontation with different dialogue. After Elsa refuses to give the marriage her blessing Anna insists she doesn’t need her blessing anyway shouting “You’re not my mother!” To which Elsa replies “I may not be your mother, but I am your queen.” It was a very sassy exchange that generated a lot of oohs and ahs from the audience.
  • At the end of this version Anna screamed, “You’re a mean queen!” This line was omitted because it didn’t speak to Elsa’s true vulnerability – she was never worried about being an unkind queen.
  • Next up Jeff Ranjo introduced to the storyboard of Olaf’s big number “In Summer”. The storyboard and final version were nearly identical, the main difference being that Olaf wore a hat through much of the storyboarded version. Ranjo said he was given a lot of Olaf’s scenes because he excels at comedic action, and in the end he felt like Olaf was his baby.
  • frozen-disney-poster-annaRanjo worked with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez via Skype while storyboarding the song, saying they had a lot of influence throughout the process.
  • Ranjo also pointed out that songs are particularly difficult to storyboard. Having done them a number of times for Disney, his process relies on letting the music guide him. He listens to the songs on repeat during his hour and a half commute to and from work to pick up on cues for action.
  • Olaf was originally intended to carry a snow globe that represented the good in Elsa. That detail was cut because the film was getting overloaded with symbols and it seemed odd for him to carry it around for the whole movie.
  • Nicole Mitchell then introduced the scene that leads into the climax of the movie where Olaf convinces Anna not to give up hope. She cited the scene as an example of how they try to push the characters to their lowest point for the biggest payoff and resolution.
  • She said it was important that Olaf be the one that convinced Anna not to give up, because it earned his place in the film. As much as they loved Olaf they weren’t always sure he was going to end up in the movie.
  • The panel ended with a side-by-side comparison of “Let it Go” as seen in the movie and the original storyboard. Compared to the others we saw, this storyboard most closely resembled the final scene. All the key moments were the same. The only major differences were that the story boarded version began on a close-up rather than the slow zoom, had multiple instances of Elsa falling to her knees in the snow, and when she let her hair down it wasn’t the glorious braid we all know and love, just flowing long hair.

Click here for all our WonderCon 2014 coverage.

And if you’re wondering about a Frozen sequel, Disney says they’re not yet working on one as the company focuses on a Broadway musical.  Details here.

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  • Tyler

    …I would care, if the movie didn’t suck.

    • The Flobbit

      I have to agree. The movie is charming and has a few good songs, but on the whole, it’s a complete disappointment compared to Tangled.

      • RecoveR

        I prefer Tangled to Frozen by a fair margin, but by no means did Frozen suck. It is over rated, sure, but the disappointment can only come from all the oscar buzz and people raving about the movie. Admittedly the movie isn’t for everyone, but it’s not a bad movie in general.

      • The Flobbit

        Of course it didn’t suck. The movie’s great. It’s just a giant failure compared to the brilliance of Tangled. Also, it’s heavily overrated.

      • Tyler

        It didn’t suck. I liked it, I was just overreacting. But when compared to Tangled, it was a disappointment.

      • Josie

        Well, these are all opinions of course so here’s mine;
        Tangled sucked and Frozen sure showed a different style to the Disney Princess formula that was well received,
        Frozen is the best :I

    • ScratStitch

      Why didn’t you like the movie? It had trolls in it, just like you.

      • Tyler

        I should say I don’t hate it. It was definitely better than Croods or Despicable Me 2. But, I felt that the songs were forgettable (except for “Let it Go”) and unlike songs from other, better Disney films, I felt that they are too pop-y and will get dated quickly. And the fact that the film never explains stuff, like how Elsa got her powers, why is she opposed to Anna and Hans’ marriage, etc. I also felt that the film wasn’t very funny (or at least, Olaf wasn’t, but the stuff with the girls at the beginning was funny), and I felt that, for I think the first time ever in Disney, I just didn’t care about the outcome of the characters. Maybe it’s more of a girls movie.

        I would have given it a seven out of ten.

      • Anita Ybarra

        If u would Google, like I did find out what the movie meant.. u would know. Yes they should’ve put where Elsa’s power came from etc,. in a movie but if u know production time.. they don’t have alot of space to put those details into the movie unless more funded. It’s not a book. However maybe ur lazy butt can be lucky and find ur answer in frozen 2. The point is it’s a Disney movie about sisterly love.
        And BTW Lmao what the hell were u doing in a chick cartoon anyway. U had it coming, u should just check out “movies for jerks” u would probably like that.

      • Ali

        Ugh @ “more of a girls movie”.

        I’ll give you that they never explain how Elsa got her powers (although, they do say she was born with them. so I mean. That’s no more or less odd, really, than any other fictional character being born with some kind of magic). But the reason for her opposition to Hans and Anna’s marriage is spelled out pretty clearly: they literally just met. Elsa never says they can’t be together at all, so it’s not that she’s just randomly anti-HansxAnna, she just doesn’t want them rushing right into marriage after less than a day of knowing each other. And I’ll give you that the film wasn’t hugely funny, too. But then, I wouldn’t actually say it was *meant* to be. A few “funny” things were added in to draw the interest of little kids (Olaf, to some degree the trolls), and there were moments of comedy, but I wouldn’t say that the movie is really designed as an out-and-out comedy.

      • PeachBM

        Clearly many of you never paid attention to the movie when you claim it is never explained how Elsa got her powers. When her parents bring Elsa and Anna to the trolls in the beginning of the movie, the head troll asks the father “Born with or cursed?”, referring to Elsa’s powers. The father answers “Born with. And they are getting stronger.” Now shut up.

      • Vi

        I think what they mean about Elsa’s powers is why was she born with powers. Where do they come from?

      • milo

        Midichlorians, obviously.

      • Anonymous

        How was “the stuff with the girls at the beginning” funny? O.o

      • ImDodd1

        He probably meant the part where they dance with the Duke of Weaseltown (Westleton!) and they are joking on the stage.

      • allmelina

        Times are changing. Music is changing within time. Its something we just can’t control. As for Tangled, the songs were just as pop-y.
        The while deal with Elsa’s powers, I question it as well! I think everyone dies! But its one of those things that you just have to over look. Why did Maleficent curse Aurora? The world may never know.
        Elsa opposing tk the marriage is explained in the article. Despite basically growing up as ‘not sisters’, Elsa loves Anna very much. They grew up away from the world, so they really only had each other even though they never spoke with one another. There was no way she was going to let some guy she just met take her (even though Anna said they’d live in her castle)
        The jokes were here and there. There was a fair share of adult jokes as kids jokes which made the movie reach a bigger audience and making the movie a big hype.
        Frozen was not a bad movie. Speaking with facts, it is the greatest movie ever!
        Overrated? I don’t think so. Extremely successful that it’s to the point that its in every corner? Yes. Can that get annoying? Of course! Too much of something will always nerve someone (doesnt bother me too much considering I am in love with the film but I totally undestand)
        But again, I understand it’s your opinion and you just wanted it out there with no hate intended (I hope) and with that, I gave my response to your opinion.

      • Scott F.

        I don’t get why anyone cares where Elsa got her powers. She was born with them. That’s all you need to know. If they had said that the queen was sick while she was pregnant with Elsa, and they had to find a magic flower to cure her, and that caused Elsa to somehow inherit her powers from the flower (AKA Tangled), would that satisfy you? Then where did the flower get it’s powers? Point is, it makes absolutely no difference where she got her powers!

      • Jackson

        I’m with Scott. The original plot had a prophecy by the trolls that a rule with a “frozen heart” would rule the kingdom and I think the song “Frozen Heart” explains that still. I honestly think Frozen’s unique in that the songs pace the story and characters. And I like musicals so I like that type of stuff. But that’s just me.

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  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

    The movie didn’t suck, but it was very predictable and very forgettable. I can’t imagine myself watching it again.

  • RCooke

    The movie is confused and confusing. And the songs are witless, charmless, and characterless. They should have hired a writer.

    • Jessica Allen

      It is a children’s musical. The kids love it and if you want something deeper, watch an adult’s show.

      • Actually

        Just because a movie is rated “pg” doesn’t mean it can’t be dark or deep. The Lion King and the Hunchback are two perfect examples as far as Disney is concerned. However I disagree with everything RCooke said. Also if they didn’t have a writer, there would be no movie in the first place.

  • RCooke

    The movie is confused and confusing. And the songs are witless, charmless, and characterless. They should have hired a writer.

  • Whit

    This movie was amazing and for once a man in the movie did not save the day it was two sisters love that did.

    • Dwyer

      Lilo and Stitch?

      • JayJay

        Isn’t stitch considered a boy?

      • Louisa Coller

        I’d say more Lilo and her older sister from Lilo and Stitch

  • milo

    Tangled was decent but I can totally see why Frozen has been way more successful. I’d say the movie is solid but a huge amount of credit has to go to the songs. By far the best in a disney movie in years, probably since at least Hercules. Before that there were three or four with great songs, then you have to go back twenty years or more to find music that good again.

    Besides the unmemorable songs in Tangled, the biggest problem for me was a really boring and unthreatening villain.

    It’s funny how people have such a compulsion to crap on things that they didn’t even dislike, just because they’re “overrated”. Yeah, how dare a good movie be successful. Just because you thought some other movie was better this one “sucks”. The same person says “charming” and “great” yet “complete disappointment” and “giant failure” or even “sucks” followed by admitting “it didn’t suck”. Whatever.

    • Jackson

      Couldn’t agree more. I liked Tangled and thought it was a strong film but I adore Frozen. Personally it seems as though most of the haters are trying to be the smart ones in the room not giving into the “hype” which bothers me. If you really don’t like it, fine. But stating your opinion as fact and putting down the film’s fans is egregious. I’ve also heard of Frozen fans putting down those who don’t like it as much which I don’t do but it is all opinion. To the people who complain about the hype, just ignore it. It’s that simple. Complaining about the hype won’t make people talk about it any less.

  • milo

    The extended soundtrack has some of the unused songs and some more explanation about earlier versions of the movie including the prophesy, interesting stuff. And even some of the outtake songs are really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if they managed to find a way to use at least some of them when they do the broadway musical version.

  • Aaron

    I hope they mentioned, at wonder-con, that Frozen was originally The Snow Queen and was going to be 2D but the head executives needed to prove to the major stock share holders that 2D cannot return a profit anymore so they made Pooh for 80mill to test the waters but since it was really good they changed the release date to the same day as the second Deathly Hallows, it failed in the box office, they Wrote off the loss and then laid over the “Tangled Template” onto The 2D Snow Queen and turned it into Frozen. Glen Keane, then resigned and Disney gutted the rest of their 2D animation department and made the new corporate buzz phrase at WDAS be “Moving Forward” which was really code for “change our whole entire brand for a niche fad”

  • Lily

    I loved it! ♥


    La vostra animazione è stata fenomenale Elsa,Anna,Olaf,Kristoff,Sven,.Hans,Oaken,Marshmallow eil duca weselton sono tutti fantastici

  • Johnny Depp

    No video? Why not record this?

  • Thiara Torrez

    nana frozen la amo

  • Thiara Torrez

    soy nueva aqui

  • froster frofi

    i love elsa

  • froster frofi

    i love elsa frozen and anna frozen

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  • Olivia

    Elsa got the powers from her dad. If u look closely when the mom and dad rode the horses to the trolls there was a path of ice from the fathers horse, also he is the one who gives Elsa all the advice. It was a really predictable movie. They could’ve done better.

  • Olivia

    It’s just like every other movie they make and that gets really boring.