ONCE UPON A SNOWMAN, co-written/directed by Trent Correy and Dan Abraham, tells the origin story of our favorite Frozen-snowman, Olaf. The short film features the voice acting of Josh Gad as “Olaf”, Idina Menzel as “Elsa”, Kristen Bell as “Anna”, Jonathan Groff as “Kristoff” and Chris Williams as “Oaken”.
To best describe the plot of the film, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “What happened to Olaf within the moments after Elsa created him as she was “letting it go” and building her ice palace, and when Anna and Kristoff first meet him in the forest? And how did Olaf learn to love Summer? The previously untold origins of Olaf, the innocent and insightful, summer-loving snowman who melted hearts in the Academy Award®-winning 2013 Disney animated feature, Frozen, and its acclaimed 2019 sequel, are revealed in the all-new Walt Disney Animation Studios animated short, ONCE UPON A SNOWMAN. The film follows Olaf’s first steps as he comes to life and searches for his identity in the snowy mountains outside Arendelle.”
I’m just going to pull this Band-Aid off now and admit that I’m not a big fan of Frozen. That said, I do very much like Olaf and think that he’s one of, if not the best part, of the franchise. He’s lovable and genuinely optimistic without a bad bone (if snowmen had bones) in his fluffy-snow body. Though all the other main characters make an appearance in the 8 minute short, this is truly the Olaf show. Returning to voice Olaf is that of Josh Gad who at this point, after two films, I can’t imagine anyone else voicing the delightful snowman. Gad voices him with such joy and wonderment – even when terrifying obstacles come Olaf’s way, he still reacts with genuine cheerfulness, always finding the silver lining.
The story itself is told in a linear fashion, taking the viewer back to the beginning of Frozen, when we first meet Olaf, and then expanding on those moments that happen immediately following his creation. Having recently been a-part of the press conference for the upcoming release of ONCE UPON A SNOWMAN, it was quite obvious that the directors/writers and animation team had a deep love and appreciation for the Frozen world. What was so enjoyable about this short film was that for 8 minutes, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. As corny as it sounds, this was a breath of fresh air and a nice break from the real-life horrors of the world.
As for the animation, I would expect nothing but the best from the crew over at Walt Disney Animation. Even for a film that takes place during winter, the cool, snowy landscape has an inviting warmth to it as opposed to a chilling, detached feel that a lot of winter inspired films can possess. Though Olaf was created over 8 years ago, this rendition of him felt more refined and more details. That said, I don’t mean that as a slight towards the animators who have worked on him in the past, but more of a remark on how computer animation is advancing at a rapid speed.
In all, I absolutely loved ONCE UPON A SNOWMAN. The short made me happy even for the briefest of moments as it was undeniably sweet and pure. I know Olaf can come off as grating to some, but I think the 8-minute runtime is enough to not have anyone running for the hills in annoyance; plus kids are for sure going to have a blast with the film. For an enchanted snowman, Olaf sure knows how to bring that warmth and magic to the screen. ONCE UPON A SNOWMAN will debut exclusively on Disney+ October 23, 2020.
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