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:
- The 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”.
- In 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.
- Ranjo 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.
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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.