×

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

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

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.)

Production: Produced by Lincoln Square Prods.

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

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

More TV

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    CBS News Names Maria Elena Salinas Contributor

    Maria Elena Salinas, one of the best-known anchors in Spanish-language broadcasting, will join CBS News as a contributor, Susan Zirinsky, the unit’s president, told staffers Monday. Salinas stepped down from her role at Univision at the end of 2017 after an on-air tenure of more than three decades. She is expected to contribute reports across [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Markella Kavenagh

    'Lord of the Rings' Series at Amazon Taps First Cast Member (EXCLUSIVE)

    The upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series at Amazon has made its first casting decision. Variety has learned from multiple sources that Markella Kavenagh is in talks for a role in the upcoming epic fantasy series. Details of Kavenagh’s characters are being kept under wraps, but sources say she would be playing a character named [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the most buzz for eight of the top 10 movies or [...]

  • The Hills New Beginnings MTV

    'The Hills: New Beginnings' Renewed for Season 2 at MTV

    MTV is making another run for “The Hills.” The network has renewed “The Hills: New Beginnings” for a second season. The series follows a group of friends who live in Los Angeles as they write their newest chapters in relationships, romance and success. “The Hills: New Beginnings” is a reboot of the reality show “The [...]

  • Headshot of Lance Frank by Michele

    Lance Frank Named VP Communications at CBS News

    Lance Frank, who has been with CBS News since 2011, has been named a vice president of communications at the CBS Corp. unit, and will oversee communications efforts for both “CBS Evening News” as well as the division’s operations in Washington, D.C., which include “Face The Nation.” He reports to Christa Robinson, senior vice president [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content