The Long, Cold Story Behind Disney's 'Frozen'

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Disney’s icy adventure ‘Frozen’ can now call itself the highest grossing animated film of all time after surpassing ‘Toy Story 3’ by taking over $1.072 billion at the world wide box office. That’s quite an achievement for Disney, but what makes it all the more remarkable is the real story of how ‘Frozen’ made it to the big screen. A journey which took nearly 70 years until a seemingly small idea was mentioned.

Frozen has overtaken Toy Story 3Frozen has overtaken Toy Story 3 to becoming the highest grossing animated film

The origins of 'Frozen’ lie in the Hans Christian Andersen tale ‘The Snow Queen’, a story which had been the subject of a major Disney headache for nearly 70 years at the time of ‘Frozen’s’ inception. Back in 1943 Walt Disney saw the potential of the Danish author’s stories, which included 'The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘The Snow Queen’. The original plan was for Walt to collaborate with Samuel Goldwyn to produce a biographical piece on Andersen and incorporate some of his famous works into the story, using Disney animation. Eventually the project fell through and Goldwyn went on to do his own movie on Andersen in 1952, leaving the animation part out. Despite the setback, Disney never lost sight of the potential of Andersen’s stories, most notably ‘The Snow Queen’.

Andersen's tale of ‘The Snow Queen’ begins with a magical mirror created by the devil, that has the power to make people look at the ugly side of others. When the devil tries to bring it to heaven, it falls and breaks into shards which eventually pierce people’s hearts and fill them with contempt. Years laters, a boy named Kai and a girl named Gerda become good friends, but soon one of the shards finds its way into Kai’s heart and he changes like the others. One day, he goes out and ends up being lured away by the Snow Queen while playing on his sled. Greta, knowing of the legend of the Snow Queen, sets out on a dangerous quest to rescue him and eventually thaw his icy heart.

FrozenTaking from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen' Disney created 'Frozen'

The concept of course sounded perfect for Disney, a young girl setting off on an epic adventure to save her friend and coming up against an evil villain. Adding to that, there was the story's snowy setting, a perfect backdrop to give Disney lots of opportunities to work some animation magic. The problem though lay in the titular character. Really she was just a little lacking, the book didn't give too much about her away, aside from her spectacular appearance and the general feeling with Disney was, audiences just wouldn't be able to relate to her. As the idea of a 'Snow Queen' movie got set aside, the early 90s came and Disney entered into its second golden era, the ‘Disney Renaissance’ as it was called. Ironically the period was heralded in by a different Andersen adaptation, ‘The Little Mermaid’. Its sucess meant that once again ‘The Snow Queen’ was being talked about. Actor Harvey Fierstein even made a story pitch, but by 2002 ‘The Snow Queen’ was once again off the table. Hope again came in 2008 when Disney and Pixar head John Lasseter showed interest after an idea from 'Tarzan' director Chris Buck but two years later the idea still hadn’t moved any further. Then ‘Tangled’ came in 2011 and, you guessed it,  ‘The Snow Queen’ story was once again being looked at. This time things looked a lot more promising and the movie title 'Frozen' appeared on Disney's list of upcoming productions, to much speculation. But the problem remained of what to do with the Snow Queen character. Could she ever be more than a one diminutional villain?

Next page: How 'Frozen' made it to the big screen

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