'Frozen' has close ties to Broadway

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Nov. 28, 2013 at 7:24 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Disney's animated movie musical "Frozen" has a stellar Broadway pedigree.

In addition to featuring the voice talents of New York theater icons Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff, the film also boasts songs by husband-and-wife stage scribes Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

"I think it just kind of fell into place that way," Menzel, star of "Wicked" and "Rent," told United Press International in New York recently about the number of Broadway artists who ended up working on "Frozen."

She went on to say the film's producers' "love and admiration for theater actors kind of permeated the whole process."

"It's incredible," Groff told UPI.

"Everyone in the movie, I've seen in a Broadway show," added the "Spring Awakening" star. "I got Idina's autograph at the stage door of 'Wicked' when I went to see 'Wicked' with my mom back in 2004. And Josh, obviously, in 'The Book of Mormon,' and I saw him in 'The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' when he did that. It's crazy that they got so many theater people to do this movie. I think it's a little bit of a testament to the epic nature of these characters and they wanted people who would really improvise and sort of be open to change. This project evolved so much from even when I started working on it a year-and-a-half ago. The script changed so much and we did so many variations with the characters and voices. I think theater people tend to be game for that kind of thing."

"We always wanted to have songs in this movie. It was always designed to do that. Bobby and Kristen, they had worked on Disney's 'Winnie the Pooh,' so they had a connection with Disney, but then seeing 'The Book of Mormon' and 'Avenue Q' -- I actually came to New York one weekend just to see those two -- and I was blown away. I thought, 'Oh my gosh!' The freshness, the cleverness, all that, was something that we were striving for this movie. To do something a little bit different," "Frozen" co-director Chris Buck said.

"What I loved about them, too, is how versatile they are in their songs," added co-director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee. "They really were able to gear the songs to what was going on emotionally with the scenes and not stick to one style, but sort of let it be organic to who the character was, who was singing."

So, did the filmmakers have to rein the songwriting team in at all, given that "The Book of Mormon" and "Avenue Q" are known for being hilarious, but definitely aimed towards adults?

"We tease that they were pushing it even beyond 'Book of Mormon,'" Buck laughed. "But, no. We worked with them every day via videoconferencing. They live here in New York and we're in LA. There were some lyrics that we went, 'We can't ... '

"I think with Bobby, once we told him we were going to have a snowman who dreams of summer, he was like, 'That's a dream I can play with.' So, we always had a little bit of, 'Let's push and play.' And Disney was really responsive to it, so we were happy."

"Frozen" is in theaters now. In the film, Menzel plays Elsa, a queen with uncontrollable magic powers related to ice. When she accidentally hurts her little sister Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, Elsa withdraws from the world until, one day, she becomes angry and inadvertently plunges her Norwegian-like kingdom of Arendelle into everlasting winter, then disappears into an icy fortress. Anna enlists the rugged mountain man, Kristoff; his trusty reindeer, Sven; and Olaf, a tag-along snowman who dreams of summer, to help her find Elsa and reverse the spell. Groff plays Kristoff and Gad plays Olaf.

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