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Moments within making his entrance in Disney's smash hit Frozen, the magically animated snowman (and noted scene-stealer) Olaf passionately proclaims his love for summer, stating that he's always loved the season — even though he has no idea what happens then. Of course, as characters Kristoff and Anna (and audiences) are quick to note, this is highly unusual for a being made entirely of snow, not to mention, one that was just created just a short while ago!
So just how did Olaf happen upon his love for the heat and sun seeing as he was created in the middle of a blizzard? Well, the answer lies in Disney+'s Once Upon A Snowman.
The animated short is set during the first Frozen film as it follows Olaf (once again voice by Artemis Fowl's Josh Gad) from the moment of his creation as Elsa sings "Let It Go" on the mountain top to his eventual meeting with Elsa's sister, Anna, and her new companions Kristoff and Sven. As part of their process on this project, the creative team watched Frozen several times, mining the film for potential story beats as they worked to flesh out Olaf's backstory.
"[We asked ourselves] what little things can we weave in there that make sense or that would answer questions? One I always had was, 'Well, he is obsessed with summer, yet he doesn't know he would melt. How does that work? How does he know what summer is? He was just created,' said animator Dan Abraham during a press conference for the short film. "So, there was a very logical explanation for that. And we see it in this little short. It kind of wrote itself. It made sense that it would be in there."
As the short goes on to reveal, Olaf's obsession first kicks off with the help of a minor character fans will quickly remember from Frozen: Oaken, the humble shopkeeper, who first sells Anna her winter outfit.
Olaf wanders into his shop in search of something to use as his nose, though of course, he gets more than he bargains for when he stumbles upon a stereoscope, which gives him his first real glimpses of sunny, bright places that aren't the wintry countryside he's traipsing through so far. And he isn't the only one who gets a bit of a surprise, the scene also packs a treat for eagle-eyed Disney fans.
"There's little Easter eggs within the cards that Olaf looks at in the stereoscope," says animator Peter Del Vecho. "There's a few different shots in there that people might be keen on from other films."
But while those were some of the ideas that did make it into the already-jampacked short, which also features looks at familiar scenes from different perspectives — like Anna making her way over to the barn where Kristoff is singing "Reindeer are better than people" — there are some ideas that barely made it past the drawing board.
"In my original pitch, it was actually a fish nose that [Olaf] has for most of the short," says director Trent Correy of one of the character design elements the team played with for the short movie.
"The fish is now on there for a few seconds and it's just a funny gag," explains Abraham of one of the options Olaf considers when trying on noses. "But when he's running around with a fish on his face for several minutes, it's too much."
Given the immense box office success of both the first movie and it's sequel, Frozen 2, and the popularity of Olaf as a character, it's easy to wonder if the studio has any more "untold" Frozen stories in the works — possibly even one focusing on Oaken.
"We're just happy that this short [will] have its debut on Disney+," says Del Vecho, who also worked on Frozen 2 with the rest of the team, before jumping directly onto Once Upon A Snowman immediately after. "We get asked that question a lot. Clearly, there's a real passion for the stories for the sisters, for the whole family. But, right now we're focused on other things."
Once Upon a Snowman will roll onto Disney+ on Oct. 23.