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New ‘Frozen’ short earns praise … at least from voice of Olaf

By Rick Bentley • Nov 17, 2017 at 12:54 PM

LOS ANGELES — One thing is certain. When it comes to “Frozen,” the Walt Disney Animation Studio is not going to let it go. The latest work to spring from the 2013 Oscar winner for Best Animated Film is a new 21-minute short, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” It’s being shown with the feature film “Coco,” which opens Wednesday.

Because Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) were kept apart when they were young due to Elsa’s chilling touch, they never got to share any holiday moments. Olaf (Josh Gad) wants to help them find a holiday tradition.

Returning to the recording studio for the short took a little extra preparation for Gad.

“Before both the short and the sequel, I always go back to the original movie just to recalibrate my brain to it because the more I do the voice it gets higher. It’s like ‘Hi, I’m Olaf’ (said in a high voice),” Gad says. “It’s terrifying. It’s not the character. And it’s always good to remind myself that there’s a warmth to it.”

Along with the regular voice work comes the necessity for Gad to be able to match the energetic voice of Olaf in musical numbers. “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” features four new original songs by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson: “Ring in the Season,” “The Ballad of Flemmingrad,” “That Time of Year” and “When We’re Together.”

Gad recalls being with Bell and Menzel when they heard the new musical numbers and how impressed they were. He found “When We’re Together” to be particularly catchy and warns parents to be ready for the song to get the kind of attention from young fans that “Let It Go” got from the original film.

The task of being able to sing in a voice higher than his regular way of speaking is nothing new for Gad. When he appeared in the stage production of “Book of Mormon,” Bobby Lopez (who also composed the music for “Frozen”) would always write his part an octave higher.

“That tradition was carried over to ‘Frozen.’ So when the brilliant songwriters came in and did this, I was like, ‘Oh great, they’ve been speaking to Bobby,’” Gad says.

The songwriters have nothing but praise for Gad. Samsel explains they were very careful to find Gad’s “sweet spot” so his singing voice for Olaf is in the same musical range as Gad had to reach in the stage production and the feature film.

Samsel adds, “He’s just too humble to admit it, but his range is beyond impressive. He’s got an incredible instrument. He has such a versatility and a dynamic humanity in his vocal tone, which is one of the many reasons why everybody falls in love with Olaf.”

Even if Gad felt like he was being musically pushed, he was happy to be able to return to the character. He loves that directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers were able to keep the silliness and fun of the character while finding new adventures for Olaf. The short opens with a surprise holiday party being planned at the castle, but the majority of the tale is Olaf’s efforts to learn about traditions and in the process learn something new about himself.

Gad loves being the voice of Olaf because to him the character represents pure joy and innocence. The other plus for Gad is to play a character so full of childlike wonderment that it prevents Olaf from passing judgment or being critical.

“His naïveté is a gift and a rarity,” Gad says.

All it took for Gad to reprise the role was finding time in his hectic schedule. In the past year he’s appeared in: the feature films “Beauty and the Beast,” “Marshall” and “Murder on the Orient Express”; voiced characters in “Star Wars: Rebels” and “South Park”; plus started work on ‘Frozen 2.”

The animation work is challenging for Gad because he’s such a physical actor.

“It’s difficult not using your body, especially when you’re blessed with this body,” Gad says with a laugh. “But it is one of those things where over time it becomes a great gift, because you can do so much with so little. There’s a little moment where all they had me do is sigh. I was standing in the back with my assistant and she started tearing up, and I’m like, ‘Really, that moment?’

“It’s great because vocally all you have to do is so little and the animators do such an amazing job of creating soul in these characters. It’s such a brilliant collaboration.”

“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is all about holiday traditions. And in the Gad household, both Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated. His favorite tradition is on Christmas Eve, when he write a letter to his daughters. Gad quickly makes it clear it is Santa Claus who writes a letter and all he does is oversee the process.

The strangest tradition is his reading “Frozen” books to his children using Olaf’s voice. They will often ask him to stop speaking like the snowman.

“It’s a very surreal thing for them I’m sure having Olaf reading Olaf when I’m sitting there,” Gad says.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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