Frozen (partially found early drafts of Disney animated film; 1937-2012)
Disney's Frozen, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, is considered to be one of the most successful animated films in recent history. Earning more than $1.280 billion at the box office, it has since formed into a giant multi-media franchise. With various merchandise, a couple of short films, a theatrical film sequel, and is often credited for kickstarting a second Disney renaissance.
Despite Frozen's eventual success, those at Disney struggled with adapting The Snow Queen for many years. With various issues revolving around the film's story, characters, and themes. Causing the story to go in and out of development hell for nearly 75 years. Many of these different versions have still yet to see the light of day.
The Walt Disney Version
The idea originated from the mind of Walt Disney himself as he and film producer Samuel Goldwyn were interested in producing a biographical, live-action/animation hybrid film based on the life and works of author Hans Christian Andersen. The live-action, biographical segments would be produced by Goldwyn while the animated segments, all based on various Andersen stories, were to be produced by Disney.
Issues arose when adapting The Snow Queen, as the studio struggled to adapt the story for modern audiences. Furthermore, production occurred during World War II when Disney shifted its focus into producing wartime propaganda, thus halting production. Eventually, Disney canceled plans for the animated segments, though Goldwyn would later produce the live-action musical film, Hans Christian Andersen, based on the idea.
No scripts nor concept art are known to exist from this version.
Disney Renaissance Version
During the Disney renaissance, another attempt was made at adapting The Snow Queen with people like Glen Keane and Alan Menken in on the project. Aside from some concept art, very little is known about this version. Keane would later quit the project in 2003 to work on a film that would eventually become Disney's Tangled.
The Disney/Pixar Version
In 2003, then Disney CEO Michael Eisner approached John Lasseter at Pixar and proposed that they take on The Snow Queen. Since John Lasseter was a fan of the original, he jumped on the project. Due to the previous issues revolving around the story, the studio chose to drift away from the original fairy tale and produce a new take on the idea.
Michael Eisner described the film's plot as a "Taming of the Shrew" type story with an angry, bitter Snow Queen looking for a husband.
"Eisner asks for the Snow Queen synopsis. 'The Snow Queen is a terrible bitch,' Ruggels says 'When her suitors try to melt her heart, the Snow queen freezes them.' 'Each one should be a phony, but different,' Eisner says of the suitors. 'Then along comes this regular guy' Ruggels continues... 'The regular guy goes up there, he's not that great, but he's a good person. He starts to unfreeze her... she melts.'"
- Mary-Jane Ruggels and Michael Eisner on The Snow Queen.
Though Michael Eisner liked this take on the film, plans fell through when Disney's initial contract with Pixar failed to be renewed.
There are many pieces of concept art from this attempt. And one of the most notable things to survive is a deleted song titled "Love Can't Be Denied", which was written by Alan Menken.
Anna and the Snow Queen
In 2008, another attempt was made at an adaptation. Named "Anna and the Snow Queen", this iteration would have taken a more comedic approach. The Snow Queen (who had now been given the name "Elsa") being more of an over-the-top drama queen with a design and personality heavily inspired by people like Bette Midler and Amy Winehouse.
Josh Gad, who had been brought in to play Olaf, stated that the film was going to be traditionally animated, with Megan Mullally playing Elsa.
"I was originally involved in the project when it was a 2D effort and it was called Anna and the Snow Queen, and it was completely different. Completely different. Megan Mullally was playing Elsa and it wasn’t really about sisterhood at all. I think it had more to do with the source material of Hans Christian Andersen’s story. When I did that version, Olaf was a different character entirely."
- Josh Gad on Anna and the Snow Queen
But despite these changes, Disney still struggled to create an interesting story with the concept, so the film was shelved in 2010.
"Villain Elsa"/"The Prophecy"
This version was now renamed "Frozen". In this version, Elsa was envisioned as a villain, a woman who had frozen her own heart after being left at the altar. Desiring revenge, Elsa devised a plot to destroy Arendelle with an army of snowmen, along with kidnapping Anna on her wedding day. Elsa would also tie into a prophecy that foretold a "ruler with a frozen heart" would freeze over Arendelle until it was freed by a sword sacrifice.
However, things changed when the song "Let It Go" was composed, as it portrayed Elsa as more sympathetic as opposed to antagonistic, causing a major rewrite for the film.
During a brainstorming session, it was suggested by a crewmember that Anna and Elsa should become sisters. This would be the change Disney needed to fully flesh out the film. The story would now be focused on the bond between Anna and Elsa and a message revolving around "an act of true love".
- Walt Disney's original concept of the film. Retrieved 18 Nov '20
- The original production's troubles. Retrieved 19 Nov '20
- The Renaissance version of the film. Retrieved 19 Nov '20
- DisneyWar on The Snow Queen (1/2). Retrieved 19 Nov '20
- DisneyWar on The Snow Queen (2/2). Retrieved 19 Nov '20
- Disney's contract with Pixar. Retrieved 19 Nov '20
- Elsa's original design/inspiration. Retrieved 20 Nov '20
- Josh Gad's MSN.com interview on Frozen's development. Retrieved 20 Nov '20
- Anna and the Snow Queen's production issues. Retrieved 20 Nov '20
- The original version of Elsa. Retrieved 22 Nov '20
- The original plan for the prophecy. Retrieved 25 Nov '20
- The change in result of "Let It Go".
- Interview with Jennifer Lee, who discusses the changes made to the film. Retrieved 21 Nov '20
- Kristen Anderson Lopez on Frozen. Retrieved 21 Nov '20