Let's think back to a time before Frozen had become a sensation across every form of pop culture, from film, to music, to television and theater. Before the film opened, there were grumblings about how far Disney's creative team had strayed from the inspiration for their latest Disney princess feature. In Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," the titular frosty royal was a villain. So how did Frozen's Queen Elsa turn out to be a hero? It's actually a touching story.
Wired recently sat down with some of Walt Disney Animation Studio's biggest players to discuss the studio's upcoming animated adventure Big Hero 6, but though Frozen is finally out of theaters, it's never far from our collective thoughts. So along with details on the candy-colored superhero cartoon, the magazine got some interesting behind-the-scenes details about how Elsa's character evolved.
In early versions of the film, Elsa was a flat-out villain, willfully using her icy powers to ravage her hometown. But Pixar's John Lasseter and others in Disney's Story Trust began to suspect vilifying her wasn't the best approach to Elsa's story. Lasseter in particular pushed that Elsa's struggle--to accept an aspect of herself she cannot ignore and cannot change--could be a relatable narrative for kids. He was particularly inspired by his 10-year-old son Sam, who grew very frustrated when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. To Sam, it seemed an unfair fate. Elsa's own story is one of affliction - not so much of her abilities to command ice and snow as of her fear that these things could injure her loved ones as they once injure little Anna.
This is charming. While we're always happy to report stories of how a movie inspired real-life kids, it's nice to hear that a real-life kid can inspire a movie that goes on to mean so much to so many.
Of course, John Lasseter's forged his reputation at Disney and Pixar on his solid notes on storytelling. As Big Hero 6 co-direct Chris Williams puts it, "When John's working closely with us, movies get better." In case you needed further proof, this Wired piece also notes another major Frozen contribution that was all Lasseter. You know the finale moment of "Let It Go," when Elsa literally lets her hair down before she struts confidently to the balcony for her final notes? Of course you do.
That was a Lasseter idea too. And in Big Hero 6, he's credited with a bit of physical comedy that is already making audiences fall for the balloon-like Baymax.
Big Hero 6 opens November 7th.