TV Review: ‘The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic’

The Story of Frozen: Making a

What could easily play like another synergistic infomercial or glorified electronic press kit somehow trumps that with “The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic,” an ABC special touting its parent company’s valentine to warm the hearts of shareholders. Perhaps that’s because “Frozen” qualifies as a legitimate cultural phenomenon, plus the recollections of those involved – and how the film found its voice – are personal and enlightening enough to overcome the obvious fluff factor. Parents, in particular, should let their kids see the hard work underlying such an enterprise, since nothing here will spoil the magic.

For those unfamiliar with how labor-intensive the genre is, it’s stated right off the bat that the movie – now the highest-grossing animated film of all time – employed 600 people for 2 ½ years. More notable, though, are the contortions through which the story went before the signature song, “Let It Go,” “fundamentally changed the entire movie,” as Pixar/Disney animation mastermind John Lasseter put it, giving purpose and direction to the character of Elsa through that near-unavoidable anthem.

Narrated by Josh Gad, alter ego of the snowman Olaf, the special not surprisingly spends a fair amount of time with the stars, including Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell. But the producers (from an offshoot of ABC News, naturally) also have considerable access not just to the animators but all kinds of amusing details, including video of the artists frolicking in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in order to get the feel of animating snow; or how they used their own kids as inspiration for scenes involving the young princesses Elsa and Anna. There are other intriguing tidbits, like the fact “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” arguably the second-best song, nearly didn’t make it into the movie until a so-so test screening and several employees lobbied to reinstate it; or that animator Hyrum Osmond worked a small homage to his uncle, Donny, into one of the numbers.

Despite the concern that seeing the ice palace in unfinished form might demystify it, the effect even for small fry should rather be the opposite – heightening appreciation for the meticulous attention to detail that realized those soaring images. The same goes for heart-warming stuff about the movie’s global reach and its undeniably powerful hold over little girls, something co-director Jennifer Lee wryly notes will likely have to wait until those kids have grown up in order to fully comprehend why.

All of the major media conglomerates are periodically guilty of synergistic sins, and Disney — cross-collateralizing its parks, networks and merchandising apparatus — almost certainly indulges those impulses more than most. But even if “The Story of Frozen” (which includes plugs for future incarnations, among them an arc on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” along with teasing the upcoming movie “Big Hero 6”) helps with marketing and sells a few more DVDs, there’s enough justification to celebrate a title that truly earned the over-used designation “classic” to soothe a cynical brain – or maybe, melt a frozen heart.

Disclosure: My wife works for Disney, and my daughter has memorized the entire “Frozen” soundtrack.

TV Review: 'The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic'

(Special; ABC, Tue. Sept. 2, 8 p.m.)


Produced by Lincoln Square Prods.


Senior executive producer, Jeanmarie Condon; director, Rudy Bednar. 60 MIN.


Narrator: Josh Gad. With: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, John Lasseter, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

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  1. sunnygirl says:

    One day I saw Olaf losing his nose on the ice in between one of my daughter’s disney shows. I thought that was hilarious and that I really wanted to see that movie…. it was probably over a year later when Frozen actually came out. So, naturally I wanted to see it. But I have to say I left the theater thinking it wasn’t going to do well. Olaf is the best part, the rest is not a new idea…it’s like all of the other disney movies. I told friends who were going to see it, to expect a long drawn out opening of just singing – they ALL thanked me afterwards. So why all the hype? Could it simply have been that it was over marketed??? Marketing works. Again, I don’t see how the storyline is SO different than the other very good Disney movies. I’m not saying this one was bad, but not different. People are sometimes like monkey’s.. if everyone else likes it or is doing it, then they need to be doing it or liking it too…

    • Wolfie Stickel says:

      Nah it’s just one of those movies that struck a harmonious chord with all the Tweens and misfits of the world as they found a kindred spirit in Elsa. And not just stateside but worldwide as well. It was a huge hit in Korea and Japan as it was marketed to the repressed women there. They ate it up like crazy and for those 143 minutes, they felt liberated.

  2. Jason Love says:

    I never saw Frozen but with the “making of” being so good I feel compelled to watch the movie. I hope it holds up.

  3. Jeanne Collins says:

    Show was awesome. Especially loved the ending where all the fathers and daughters singing and the marines brought tears to my eyes. Was wondering if the Olaf shirt that the producer had on is available for sale anywhere. Just curious!!! Loved it!

  4. Melanie Jechort says:

    Even if I didn’t have a Norwegian background (on my mother’s side), I would have loved “Frozen”. Even if I weren’t a piano teacher of mostly younger children, I would have loved “Frozen”. Even if I didn’t have obsessed nieces/nephews and grand-nieces/grand-nephews, I would have loved this movie! Part of it is the meeting of the song with the singer and the singer with the character (“Wicked” and Idina Menzel). BUT, as a younger sister, I wanted ANNA to have her own special song and for Anna to get more attention. I’m hoping that the upcoming sequel shorts will do just that! Oh – the “Frozen” franchise items are finally filling the stores again!

  5. jacklyn says:

    My whole family loves this movie!! The only thing and I’m not sure if y’all can do anything about it is they haven’t made a whole lot of frozen stuff. It’s very hard to find anything.if someone could email or however y’all communicate and ask them to start mass producing frozen EVERYTHING. Thank you for your time.

  6. Matt Smith says:

    It’s the Blu-ray extra that should have been on the disc from the looks of things.

  7. Richard Marcus says:

    Very well written review. Piqued my interest. I and family will watch.
    DISCLOSURE: 1. I worked for Disney as a writer. 2. I have a daughter, too…Seriously, whose daughter hasn’t memorized the entire soundtrack?

  8. gabe says:

    this gonna be great

  9. Steven says:

    As a shareholder, I do love this cross-platform interplay, and would love to see more of it. In fact, didn’t Disney do something like this with Marvel recently?

    Also as a shareholder, I’m not so much interested in the fact that it took hundreds of animators and years to see the project to fruition — instead, I would prefer to know how much the film cost, what the compensation structure for the talent is, and what the ROI on the picture was. Obviously I’m not holding my breath…

    I enjoyed your review, thanks.

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