Hyrum Osmond and Jennifer Newfield talk about ‘Olaf Presents’

Hyrum Osmond   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Olaf, the magic snowman of the Frozen films, voiced by Josh Gad, takes centre-stage in Olaf Presents, where he tells five iconic Disney animated movies in his inimitable style in under two minutes. Selecting the five movies [The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Tangled (2010) and Moana (2016)] was a tough call according to producer Jennifer Newfield.

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Speaking from Los Angeles, Newfield says: “It was hard to narrow them down as we could only make five. When Jen Lee (writer and director of both Frozen films and the Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation) learnt that she could choose only five stories for Olaf Presents, she decided to make sure the five stories technically took place before Arendelle itself existed. So Olaf would be able to find, read and tell these stories to his fans.”

Jennifer Newfield

Jennifer Newfield   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tell tale

Director Hyrum Osmond, also speaking from Los Angeles, said the seed for Olaf Presents was planted in Frozen 2 (2019). “As a crew, we loved that moment in Frozen 2, when Olaf retells the first Frozen (2013), it was ever so funny. One of the crew members pitched the idea of Olaf telling other stories as well. At the same time, Josh Gad was being flooded on social media with the same request — please have Olaf retell this story or that story. It just seemed right to do it.”

Playing favourites

The Lion King is Newfield’s favourite retelling. “We got so many funny moments in that story. It had me in stitches from laughing so hard. I could watch that one over and over again, even though I love them all.”

Osmond picks Aladdin as the movie meant a lot to him growing up. “It was influential and made me want to be an animator. Being able to do that and pay tribute to that film was a pretty special experience for me.”

Performance poet

Stills from the film

Stills from the film  

Olaf, who Osmond describes as an example of pure, unconditional love and a childlike perspective, is presenting the stories to anyone who wants to listen. “He is performing to the people of Arendelle or maybe even just one or two children that have shown up. It does not matter to Olaf, he is just a performer.”

Condensing a movie into two minutes was tough, says Newfield. “There were some hard decisions that landed on the cutting room floor. This project was so much fun and such a breeze to make but we had probably some of the biggest discussions about the different aspects and elements that make a cohesive story. We did not want to assume that everyone had seen the original films, but we did want to take some liberties.”

Blast from the past

The animation style echoed the Frozen films, according to Osmond. “Olaf has a bouncy, comedic flavour to how he moves and so it was a conscious decision to stay consistent with that.”

Working from home Osmond said had negatives and positives. “A real positive for me was being able to show my children my work during the process. It was so nice to be able to tell them just as we were writing or animating something, ‘Hey kids, watch this’ and to get a fresh, real reaction. To have my children laughing in real-time at something that we were making was very special.”

Special moments

Newfield, who worked on Tangled, said revisiting some of those moments was special. “Appreciating how much of a fan base exists for those films was never lost on me. I always was thinking about how much these shorts are going to be loved by the fans of that particular film.”

Olaf, according to Newfield is the embodiment of wonder and curiosity. “A lot of us lose that along the way. He is a great reminder to always be curious and stretch your imagination as he does.”

Olaf Presents is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 1:55:08 PM |

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