The Frozen world expands its storytelling this week with the upcoming animated short Myth: A Frozen Tale, which focuses on the elemental spirits in Arendelle. As I mentioned in my review of the beautifully animated film, which was originally developed for VR, director Jeff Gipson acted as a masterful maestro, bringing together the art, music and story to create a unique Frozen adventure.
At the press conference for the film, Gipson and Visual Development Artist Brittney Lee discussed their inspirations for this project, which ranged from personal experiences to classic Disney musical films like Fantasia.
Myth: A Frozen Tale will be streaming on Disney+ this Friday, February 26th!
Director Jeff Gipson talked about the genesis of this project, which started when Disney Animation’s Chief Creative Officer, Jennifer Lee, who also wrote and directed the first two Frozen films, approached Gipson about creating something for VR technology.
Gipson turned to the stories that inspired him as a kid, including family bedtime stories. “I started thinking about what were some inspirations that really connected with me growing up?” Gipson said. “And I love bedtime stories; when you go to sleep and your parents tell you a story, your mind just wanders.”
In particular, Gipson recalled one story that his father used to tell him about his great-great-great-great grandfather in the 1860s who may have crossed paths with the infamous outlaw Jesse James. “I just remember the way that story made me feel. The sense of wonder, this legendary Western figure interacting with my family and some level, and it just was really inspiring,” Gipson said.
Gipson wanted to take that personal sense of wonder from a beloved family story and apply it in-universe for Frozen. “So when it came to Myth: A Frozen Tale, I started thinking about what types of stories…what a bedtime story would you be told, if you grew up in or around Arendelle,” Gipson explained.
From his personal inspirations, Gipson then turned to the iconic Disney animated films that told their stories through music. “I also wanted to draw from the history of Disney Animation and this rich heritage; where this traditional animation is tied to the music its animated to,” Gipson said. “Looking at films like Fantasia, the pink elephants sequence (in Dumbo), Make Mine Music, Peter and the Wolf…I just loved how the animation was married to that music. It almost moves exactly with that music.”
It’s apparent in Myth: A Frozen Tale that Gipson was able to successfully merge the ideas of wonder and mystery with sound and music to tell their story. Of course, with any animated film, the art style is critical to its unique footprint. Gipson had a specific vision for how he wanted his story to look.
“I was really inspired by the graphic look of shadow puppets and pop-up books and imagine a world that if you were able to step into that kind of pop-up book, that story, what would that look like as a stylized version of the Frozen 2 world?” Gipson said. To that end, Gipson and producer Nicholas Russell hoped to work with Brittany Lee, who worked on the two Frozen films, as well as films like Wreck-it-Ralph and Zootopia.
Lee, who is known for her beautifully stylized art, recognized that one of the challenges was putting a unique spin on a world that already had its own look and feel. “So we decided to look toward some influences that Frozen looked to as well,” Lee said. “One big influence for the Frozen world is the art of Eyvind Earle, and his work on Sleeping Beauty was really informative with an elegant shape language, very graphic and stylized.”
Part of developing their own stylized signature involved putting together a color palette that was familiar to the Frozen world, but with its own twist. “One of the other things that we knew we needed to do was build our own language for the elemental spirits,” Lee explained. “They already had their own color palette for Frozen 2 but we decided that we wanted to push that a little further and make each spirit very definitive in their own color and shape language.” The film’s colors, which are primarily purple and blue, are striking and really set the mystical and dramatic tone for the story.
Of course, with all the musical inspirations that both Gipson and Lee drew from, it was critically important to get the score right for Myth: A Frozen Tale. For that, they turned to Joseph Trapanese, whose work includes films like The Greatest Showman, which has an incredible score.
“[I]t was so great working with Joe. He really jumped on board early and was creating pieces that our animators were animating to,” Gipson said. “I wanted to each element to have their own score and Joe really leaned into that, looking at Peter and the Wolf and all those inspirations we mentioned earlier. It was just such a pleasure working with Joe and so happy to have him on board.”
Myth: A Frozen Tale is an innovative film that is so visually stunning, that even though it was created for VR, it looks equally amazing on regular screens. Gipson mentioned that it was truly a team effort, where the synergy behind the camera resulted in the beautiful synergy on screen.
[T]here were almost 100 artists that worked on this, and this was our team’s second film made in real time at the studio. There were so many technical challenges but also artistic challenges we overcame. It’s similar to our film. The film’s about harmony and that what happens within harmony. All of our artists, our technicians, our production folks came to create something that’s really special.Director Jeff Gipson
Don’t miss Myth: A Frozen Tale this Friday on Disney+!
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.