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Kristen Bell is no stranger to voice acting, having portrayed Cora in 2009 adaptation of Astro Boy and Lucy Stillman in the Assassin’s Creed video-game series. But in the new Disney film Frozen, Bell did more than just give her character Anna a voice – she helped change the image of fairy-tale princesses, creating a role model for young girls who isn’t perfect, but celebrates her flaws and believes in herself, even without a prince to sweep in and save her. Remarkably, however, Bell admits the film was much different when she started working on it.
“The script we started with was nothing like this,” Bell explained last week at the Los Angeles premiere of Frozen. “It has gone through the wash and the dryer numerous times. And there’s a lot of bright minds at work on this, and it sounds cheesy, but in a weird way they kind of let the story tell them what it wanted to be.”
The production has a long and detailed history with Disney, as the studio initially tried mounting an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story upon which it’s based as far back as 1943. Bell says this version went through numerous changes, adding and losing different elements, until it became what it is today – a powerful story about the love of two sisters that only incidentally involves fantastical creatures and a storybook romance.
“We tried a lot of weird things with a lot of these characters,” she admitted. “We had characters that aren’t in it any more, we had characters who their personalities changed completely. It was a really finding what was the right story to tell, what had the most meaning, what had the most relevance – what kind of modernized these Disney tales.”
Bell beams with pride at the prospect of creating an iconoclastic Disney princess movie, that’s about much larger, humanistic themes, explored through complex characters and a unique story. “I feel like we settled on something really special because it’s not about romantic love,” she observed. “It’s about the love of family, and really, the sort of age-old battle of do you come from a place of love, or do you come from a place of fear? And what does that do to your personality?”
Ultimately, although it’s not her character, but Anna’s sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) who goes through the film’s biggest transformation, she is enormously happy that audiences – especially children – have something to think about when the film ends. “I hope that she and all kids really will walk away embracing their uniqueness,” Bell said. “There’s a lot of really unique characters in this movie, and the whole plot line is about a girl who can’t accept what makes her different.”
“And by the end she really kind of understands that’s what makes her unique,” she revealed. “I think that’s really important for kids to know.”
Josh Gad has made a lot of people laugh by playing dumb: The actor appeared on stage in The Book of Mormon and on film in Love & Other Drugs, and he now co-stars in Disney’s animated adventure Frozen, where he plays Olaf, a dim-witted snowman magically brought to life by Elsa, the oldest of two Nordic princesses. Speaking to Spinoff Online at the film’s Los Angeles premiere, Gad explained the secret to portraying thick-headed characters so well is by pretending that they aren’t.
“I’ve done it so many times now that it’s becoming second nature,” Gad admitted. “But I think that the key is to never approach it as if you’re dumb, but to approach it as if you’re the smartest person in the room, if that makes sense.”
The film centers on the relationship between Elsa and Anna, who become estranged after a childhood incident with Elsa’s magical powers drives her to avoid her younger sister. Elsa accidentally creates Olaf as she flees the kingdom she’s meant to rule, embarking on a powerful journey of self-discovery as she comes to terms with qualities about herself that other people don’t share, and she fears them learning about.
Despite his role in the story largely as a goofy sidekick, Gad’s Olaf shares in common with Elsa a dream to connect with a world that seems so different, perhaps even hostile to who he is – namely, summertime, where the heat would likely melt him in a matter of minutes.
When asked what he’s done, or tried to do, despite knowing it’s probably a bad idea, Gad revealed his secret aspiration is an athletic one: “I know better than to go ice skating in public.”
“And yet I’ve done it,” he confessed. “And it backfired, significantly.”
Frozen is in theaters now.