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A Celebration Of Disney: An Interview With The Creatives Of Olaf Presents

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In Olaf Presents, Olaf steps into the spotlight and goes from snowman to showman as he takes on the roles of producer, actor, costumer and set builder for his unique “retelling” of five favorite Disney animated tales in Olaf Presents, a series of new animated shorts from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The charismatic and versatile Olaf demonstrates his theatrical flair, taking on such iconic roles as a mermaid, a genie, a lion king (and most of the parts in between), as he entertains Arendelle with his delightful abbreviated versions of beloved Disney Animation classics like The Little Mermaid, Moana, The Lion King, Aladdin and Tangled.

Josh Gad returns to voice Olaf with veteran Disney animator Hyrum Osmond directing and Jennifer Newfield producing.“

In celebration of the delightful Olaf Presents, Disney held a press conference with cast and creatives Josh Gad, Jennifer Newfield and Hyrum Osmond.

For nearly 10 years, Josh has been providing Olaf with his voice and his spirit, starting with Frozen to most recently on the 2021 Emmy-nominated short, Once Upon a Snowman so tackling another Olaf project was a great joy for Josh.

“Revisiting moments from all of the films was a joy. But specifically, the movies I grew up with selfishly. So, I was at that perfect age during the second golden age of Disney Animation. I remember seeing The Little Mermaid in the theater and being, like, ‘what is this? Why? It feels like a Broadway show on screen.’ It was like the first time I can remember applauding in a theater after the songs were done. So, getting to go back and-and specifically revisit those films was a dream come true. And then getting to, sort of, play in the footsteps of my idol, Robin Williams in The World of Aladdin. Hyrum and Jen can tell you that was sort of like a pinch myself, very emotional experience for me,” said Josh.

Jen who is the Producer of Olaf Presents found the most enjoyable moments with how everyone played around with their scene. This lightness in the recording booth and during the developmental stages allowed the actors have creative freedom to interpret the reimagined scenes, which is not often seen in animation.

“Just being able to play was the theme throughout the entire production. We knew we could take liberties, which is not often the case, especially in animation. We have to be very precise with our decisions. [But] the playfulness of the whole way through, from the script writing to the recording sessions, all the way to animators really being able to take the reins a little bit and be able to just enjoy that freedom is so nice,” said Jen.

During the process, Director Hyrum Osmond helped define the character and performance for Olaf as a Supervising Animator for the Oscar-winning 2003 animated feature, Frozen. Also the director of the 2020 At-Home With Olaf series, which premiered on Walt Disney Animation Studios’ YouTube channel.

“Those [Disney] movies were the reason I wanted to be an animator. I saw Aladdin, like, eight times in the theater. I just remember just being blown away by these films. So [doing this] was kind of a special thing, almost a bit of a tribute to those films that were so inspirational.”

Despite being a children’s short, the creators wanted to take the writing and direction of Olaf’s characterizations that would be fun for every age.

“That was kind of a fun, unique challenge. But I think one of the things that’s so great [was talking] about the inspiration of these films. But it’s also just taking the liberty to not take ourselves too seriously. I think that is just so fun.Especially when you start telling these things from the perspective of this pure, sort of naive Olaf. Like, the way he sees it. You can’t help but have some of these fun moments,” said Hyrum.

“What I love about what we’ve been able to do with Olaf is it is imperative to me, and I think everyone involved in the franchise, that none of these characters and particular Olaf stays stagnant. There’s an element of growth and development. So, I like to think in the first Frozen, he’s a newborn. He’s innocent and has so many questions. And then in Frozen 2, he’s sort of an adolescent, and he starts to go through this existential kind of crisis. In each of the shorts and along the way, there’s this subtle growth happening in him I think is important to keeping him interesting and dynamic, so it never feels like you’re just seeing him do the same thing again and again. There are new wrinkles. As long as we have opportunities for original developmental [and] elements to bring him, then I think the sky’s the limit with him,” said Josh.

“What’s so nice too is with this project of building off of ourselves as Disney. Like, using some of the tales we’ve told are so familiar, and which are building off of fairy tales that existed even before the time of Olaf, is that he himself is
building on that. So, the self-referential piece of it almost grows with his knowledge and self-awareness, and his ability to blindly just do things and almost stay fun and games poking at certain logic’s type of thing and everyone’s okay with that is a part of, kind of growing and okay with yourself,” said Jen.

Olaf Presents will debut exclusively on Disney+ Day, November 12th.

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