Oscars 2014: 'Frozen' directors, composers, Idina Menzel react
Disney’s record-breaking musical behemoth Frozen scored two Oscar nominations this morning — one for Best Animated Feature, and another for the film’s musical showstopper “Let It Go.” Both weren’t much of a surprise, given the huge popularity of the movie and its continued dominance both at the box office and on the Billboard charts. EW hopped on the phone with Frozen‘s happy directors and composers, as well as Tony winner Idina Menzel (who sang “Let It Go”), to chat about their blizzard of a morning.
Singer, Best Original Song, “Let It Go”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! A lot of folks were expecting this nomination, but how does it feel now that it’s really happened?
IDINA MENZEL: This is definitely a dream come true for me. I’m happy for the movie, I’m happy to be a part of the whole thing, and to have a song that really resonate with people is just beyond.
When did you first hear this song, and how did you feel?
They played me an early demo. The role of Elsa in this movie went through a lot of incarnations. When they wrote this particular song is when they decided she wasn’t going to be the iconic antagonist—she’s going to be complicated and vulnerable. When I heard it melodically, I was just so excited, but I knew I was in good hands and I was just happy to be along for the ride. Those guys are my friends, and it’s nice to have people that really know you and know your voice and can write with you in mind. There’s nothing better than that.
When did you know you wanted to be a part of Frozen? What got you invigorated and made you say, “Yes, I have to do this”?
I made myself completely available when they asked me to come in for a reading, and I worked with Kristen Bell and the two of us came up with an arrangement of a song because they didn’t have music written but they wanted to hear us sing together. Honestly, I’ve wanted to be in the Disney family for a long time. I did Enchanted but of course this is a whole other thing. It’s a dream.
A big question people are wondering is whether you’ll perform at the Oscars.
I will if they ask me! I’ll be in the middle of tech for If/Then, but hopefully we’ll tech a part that I’m not in. I’ve already got permission if they ask—cross your fingers!—that I can get out there and do my thing and just try to really have fun with the idea.
This song has taken its own life online. Have you gotten to see any of that?
Everybody sends me the little girls singing. I’ve gotten tons of those videos. They’re adorable. I keep saying, the older I get, the younger my audience gets. Because Wicked and Rent and Glee, each one was a young audience, so it’s a great thing to have, so then you know that as they get older and have kids, they’ll maybe still buy tickets to my shows when I’m 80 and in Vegas!
JENNIFER LEE & CHRIS BUCK
Co-Directors, Best Animated Feature, Frozen
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! You just won the Golden Globe, and now you’ve got this. How do you feel today?
LEE: I have the flu, so this is how I’m literally feeling, but emotionally I’m very healthy and happy right now.
BUCK: It’s good! We’ve been on a whirlwind since we finished the movie at the end of October, and then the movie came out and it’s been crazy. And then the award. And now this. So it’s pretty overwhelming.
When did you first get a glimpse that this movie was becoming a phenomenon?
BUCK: The phenomenon for me started from a text that somebody sent after a screening. They said that there were 8-10 teenage girls who, at the end of the movie when the credits song came on, they got up, started dancing and singing, and then they ran to the front of the theater and took pictures of each other in front of the credits as they were rolling. And I thought, Wow, this is different.
LEE: What’s interesting is we had screened the film for an audience back in June and we were half-animated, and we had just gotten in our last song, and the response to the film far exceeded anything we imagined. We all just kept looking at each other going, what is this? Oh my goodness. And we still didn’t know if people would come. But I think at that was the moment we all realized there was something going on.
Chris, you worked on The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Tarzan, to name a few. So many years separate those movies in the quote-unquote ‘Disney Renaissance’ from Frozen, but after the success of this movie and Tangled, are we about to enter a third golden age from Disney?
BUCK: It’s interesting. I certainly hope so. Since I’ve been working through those and through other movies and throughout, it’s hard for me to label certain eras as “this is a Renaissance and here’s another one.” We put our heart and soul into every movie we make, so some really work, some don’t, but this one has really hit which is really exciting.
Jennifer, you’re the first woman to direct a Disney animated feature, and now it’s Oscar nominated. How do you explain that pride you must feel?
LEE: It’s overwhelming. We did a lovely panel the other day, Women in Animation, and sitting with all the women I worked with on Frozen was just one of the best experiences. I think what’s great at Disney is that a lot more women are going into animation and we’re getting more and more of a balance with the studio, and you’re seeing it in the work, and I think Frozen is just a beautiful example of that balance. I feel so lucky and honored that I’m a part of it.
How excited are you for Bobby and Kristen?
LEE: I remember when we heard that song for the first time in a demo they did, and that was it. It changed the whole movie. That song, we just believed in it so much, so it’s such a great thing to see the world sees what we saw in it.
BOBBY LOPEZ & KRISTEN ANDERSON-LOPEZ
Composers, Best Original Song, “Let It Go”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you both find out about the nominations?
BOBBY: We’re on totally different coasts right now. I think I might have been woken up by Kristen screaming across the coast.
KRISTEN: We have an 8:30 school drop-off for my two daughters. I had asked my four-year-old, who usually has a tough time at drop-off right now, if she would be okay with just doing the usual—we hang up the coat, we kiss goodbye so mommy can go back and watch the show to see if she got a nomination. And my four-year-old was so down with it! She did it and then I ran out of that school and I ran home and I turned on the TV like thirty seconds before they announced it.
Do your daughters understand the importance of the movie and this nomination to you? They both sang in the film—are they celebrating?
BOBBY: We made it for them. We worked on it because of them and we shared our experience with them as we were working on it. Every song we wrote, we would play for them, just to see if it was good enough to make them ask to hear it again. And we really were doing it for them.
KRISTEN: They feel a part of it. They definitely felt this morning like it was our ‘team’ that was nominated.
Talk me through the writing of ‘Let It Go’ — when in the writing process did you write it? Was it one of the first, one of the last? Did it come easy to you, or was it a challenge?
KRISTEN: We had to really work on the story before we could write very much. We had written a couple of songs that had fallen on the floor because the characters weren’t musical characters yet, and then we had done a lot of work with Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck in getting it to be a musical. We knew that there was going to be a moment where Elsa’s powers came out. She was still walking the line—is she a villain? Is this about good versus evil? And then we put ourselves in the headspace of someone who would have to leave everything they knew, who was keeping a secret their whole life and then messes up once. Just once! And gets chased out. Once you went into that headspace of the fear and shame they’d been holding onto, and once we found the hook “Let It Go,” then this song just sort of birthed itself in a day and a half, and it was the first song that stayed in the movie and everything else got written around it.
How did Idina Menzel take this material and elevate it?
BOBBY: To be able to write with her voice in mind was just a huge gift. Idina’s voice is iconic and it’s got this built-in duality to it, the low range of her voice has this beautiful, fragile quality, and obviously as she gets higher and higher, she gets stronger and stronger, and it’s such a dramatic voice. And so we were able to craft the song around different parts of her voice, and it all wrote itself pretty quickly because we had such a clear map.
How will you celebrate today?
KRISTEN: I have to take our newly adopted pets to the vet to get rid of their parasites. And then I will feed the kids dinner and I will put them to bed and then I’m going to watch Parenthood.
BOBBY: And I’m going to go record a world-renowned guitarist and then go to the Critics’ Choice Awards. I really appreciate that Kristen volunteered for the child care on this one.
KRISTEN: At the end of the day, our family comes first, and that’s the most important thing. That’s what inspires us to write in the first place.