Frozen producer on Disney’s ‘healthy competition' with Pixar (exclusive)

Mark Lankester
Yahoo UK Movies Features
10 September 2013

The producer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ ‘Frozen’ has opened up about their relationship with sister studio Pixar, describing the partnership as “a healthy competition”.

“[Our relationship with Pixar is] not that complicated actually,” Peter Del Vecho told Yahoo Movies at an early screening of ‘Frozen’ footage. “I have a lot of friends at Pixar, and I love the Pixar films, but we clearly want to deliver on the highest quality possible. So there’s a little bit of competition going on… But we tell very different stories.”

[The coolest job in the world? What it's really like to work at Pixar]

However with recent retro gaming gorge ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, Disney was accused of treading on Pixar’s creative toes. Not so says Peter, who believes his studio will continue to make the most original movies.

“[Our studio] is so filmmaker driven,” says Peter. “So directors get to decide along with John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer at both WDAS and Pixar) what their films are.”

“That’s the one thing I love about Disney Animation Studios now, is that we can [make original movies].”

Disney’s incoming animation ‘Frozen’ is loosely inspired by chilly Hans Christian Andersen fairytale ‘The Snow Queen’ - a movie the late Walt wanted to make himself.

“There was something about the Snow Queen that attracted him,” says Peter. “I think it’s because it’s not a typical fairytale, it’s a big story.”

“There have been many attempts to try to bring that to the screen - and the ones that actually made it to the screen, in our view, didn’t quite work.”

‘Frozen’ tells the tale of Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), who embarks on a snowy quest to find her elder sister, Elsa, who banished herself to the mountains after her chilly magical powers cursed their kingdom to suffer an eternal winter.

This is Disney getting back to the fairytales and fantasy they do better than anyone else. But Peter insists it’s not as simple as that.

“It’s funny. From our point of view we’re telling a story about a relationship between two sisters, and they happen to live in a kingdom. They happen to be princesses,” he laughs.

“Elsa has these powers that she’s had to hide, so she couldn’t be who she is,” explains Peter. “A sister who doesn’t understand her other sister? Those are things that people go through in life. Very complicated relationships and it’s true to real life. Things don’t work out, you know, as they do in fairytales.”

[Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki to retire]

Still, something else that throws us back to the good old days of a Disney-filled youth is ‘Frozen’s’ impressive and emotive musical numbers. Penned by Robert Lopez (weirdly, the composer behind adults-only stage shows ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘The Book Of Mormon’) and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the songs heap an unexpected offbeat quirk into the established Disney formula.

“We knew we wanted to have songs,” admits Peter. “We knew that you can use songs to bring out emotion in a way that you can’t necessarily do in dialogue. It gets you to a place faster.”

“Then of course we have comedy in the songs as well… [Bobby and Kristen] are great songwriters, and they can write for a variety of projects. They’re just talented people. But what we do like is their sort of quirkiness, the freshness that they bring, and there’s a little bit of irreverence in their songs too.”

Flouting that freshly found humour best is Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), the bumbling snowman that introduced ‘Frozen’s’ cheeky teaser back in June. Testament to that new found offbeat aim though, the snow-made man has an innocent yearning… for summer (best seen in his musical tribute to the season ‘In Summer’, unveiled by Disney as years’ D23 Expo).

“It’s a nice touch,” laughs Peter. “I think that Bobby and Kristen are looking for an angle on a song where almost like opposites attract: ‘What would be the wildest dream for a snowman to have?’ Of course it would be to have summer. So we said ‘Oh that’s brilliant, we have to do that!’”

“Olaf has an amazing ability to adapt though,” Peter adds. “I think he does find out that heat isn’t always a good thing, but I’ll let the movie lead you down that path.”

‘Frozen’, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, is out in the UK 6 December 2013.

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