In 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Frozen earned more than $1.27 billion globally, making it the most successful animated movie of all time. It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film.
Now everyone’s favorite characters, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) are back in a new 21-minute featurette, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, just in time for the holiday season.
Anna and Elsa’s plans for a surprise holiday party go awry when they realize they have no traditions of their own to share with the villagers of Arendelle. Olaf, the lovable snowman, teams up with Sven, the reindeer, to go door-to-door in the hopes of finding the best traditions to bring back to his friends.
The movie is paired with Disney-Pixar’s original feature Coco, which opens on November 22nd 2017, for the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is directed by Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters, with four new original songs by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson.
Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Murder on the Orient Express), the voice of Olaf the snowman, who loves warm hugs, spoke about the new movie at the Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California.
How hard was it for you, coming from the theatre, to put your whole performance into just your voice?
It’s difficult not using your body, especially when you’re blessed with this body (he laughs). But it is one of those things where over time it becomes a great gift, because you can do so much with so little.
There’s a little moment where all they had me do is sigh. I was standing in the back with my assistant (watching the film) and she started tearing up, and I’m like, ‘Really, that moment?’
It’s great because vocally all you have to do is so little and the animators do such an amazing job of creating soul in these characters. It’s such a brilliant collaboration.
Is it easy to jump back into the character after so much time has gone by between films?
Before both the short and the sequel, I always go back to the original movie just to recalibrate my brain to it, because the more I do the voice it gets higher. It’s like (in a high squeaky voice) ‘Hi, I’m Olaf.’ It’s terrifying. It’s not the character. And it’s always good to remind myself that there’s a warmth to it.
How is Olaf different in this movie?
It is a thrill to work with such a brilliant new team who is taking this character and opening new doors for him to go. The first movie is so much about Olaf discovering. He’s almost like a newborn waking up.
So as we continue to tell these stories what’s fun as an artist is to get to have Olaf be in a place where now he’s learning and growing emotionally; his education is also growing and processing. And I love that growth.
How much are you allowed to improvise?
Improv is definitely always part of the journey, and they were amazing collaborators in letting me just come up with things. In the original Frozen I remember saying as a joke, ‘I’ve been impaled.’
I was shocked when I watched the movie and it was in film. It is such a fun collaboration.
Can you talk a little about the music in this film?
I remember that Kristen, Idina, Jonathan and I all got together shortly after the first time we heard the songs and (we) could not believe how good the songs were. It’s hard, because they did such iconic music from the original film.
I can’t shake the song When We’re Together. Good luck parents, because it’s going to play a lot in your household.
It’s one thing to do the voice with just the dialogue, but is it difficult when you have to sing in that voice?
It’s difficult when they write it as high as they keep writing it. Bobby Lopez, who wrote Book of Mormon, which I did (on Broadway), would always write it an octave higher than I deserved to sing it.
That tradition was carried over to Frozen. So when the brilliant songwriters came in and did this, I was like, ‘Oh great, they’ve been speaking to Bobby.’
Do your kids get that you’re Olaf? Do they ask you to speak like him?
(he laughs) My kids say, ‘Stop speaking as Olaf.’ My kids are tickled by the fact that Daddy’s Olaf. I read them Frozen books and it’s a very surreal thing for them I’m sure having Olaf reading Olaf when I’m sitting there.
What are your family traditions for the holiday?
We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas at my household. But I think my favorite tradition is Christmas Eve I write a letter to my daughters. Actually, Santa Claus writes a letter to my daughters, I just oversee it.
Sharing that tradition and having them on Christmas morning opening their presents from mommy, daddy and Santa Claus is my favorite thing.
To see that pure joy of them opening those gifts, and what awaits them is such a treasure to see.