'Once Upon a Snowman' – How Olaf became Olaf
We all know Olaf as the beloved snowman from the “Frozen” movies. How he developed into the uber-optimistic character he came to be is explored in an animated short upcoming on Disney+.
“Once Upon a Snowman,” which begins streaming Friday, Oct. 23, fills in the blanks between when Elsa created him as she was “letting it go” and building her ice palace and when Anna and Kristoff meet him in the forest in the original 2013 Oscar-winner “Frozen.” It follows his footsteps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside the kingdom of Arendelle.
Josh Gad returns to voice the innocent though insightful Olaf and much of the production team from “Frozen” and its 2019 sequel “Frozen II” is also present here.
The film was a passion project for directors Trent Correy and Dan Abraham and came about from an idea Correy had while working as an animator on the first “Frozen” movie.
“The story started off as a very basic ‘What happens to Olaf during these moments?’ ” Correy explains. “And when Elsa makes him, Olaf doesn’t have his carrot nose so the premise was always Olaf finding his nose. And it’s not that the short took a long time to write, it’s just that it took a long time for the right timing for it to be made … .
“But (‘Frozen’ and ‘Frozen II’ writer/director/producer) Jennifer Lee and Dan Abraham, they’ve both really pushed like, ‘What is the deeper meaning behind this short?’ so that it became kind of less of a gag short of Olaf just trying to find his nose and we put that Disney heart behind it.”
And a lot of that soulfulness comes from Gad. A lifelong Disney fan, the actor and producer has been an enthusiastic participant in the “Frozen” universe from the outset and both directors credit him with bringing a dimension to the character that isn’t on the page.
“The guy is Olaf,” Abraham says, “like we give him a script and he does the script but … the improv that he does and the embellishments and the little giggles or sighs or whatever it is, like nobody else could do that. Like nobody else can be Olaf but him. It’s amazing what he brings to bring that character to life.”
“One of our highlights,” Correy adds, “was definitely being in the recording booth with Josh because you have the story and the storyboards up until then … but as soon as you get that Josh Gad voice in there, everything springs to life and the animators just have a blast animating to all of his little idiosyncrasies and giggles and screams.”
As for what viewers will learn about the character, Correy says, “This is the Olaf origin story. He is finding out a lot about himself, how he moves, how he talks, how he is and his identity. So we really just get to enjoy this kind of side story of Olaf and his first walks in life and how he interacts within the ‘Frozen’ timeline, you know, eventually leading up to when he meets Anna and Kristoff.”