Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Walt Disney Animation’s Frozen was in development for many years. In fact, even Walt Disney had trouble bringing the character to life. The adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 fairytale The Snow Queen has gone through many versions over the decades. Disney was developing a hand-drawn version of The Snow Queen before The Princess and The Frog failed to ignite the box office, and thus killed hand drawn animated feature film projects at the mouse house, at least for a good while.
The latest computer-animated take, Frozen, was the one to finally make it to the big screen, and has since become one of Disney’s biggest financial and critical successes. And as much as I liked the film, the classic fairytale elements left me wondering how it would have looked as a hand-drawn animated film. We will never get that version, and sadly its unlikely that a 2D hand-drawn version would have done as well as the computer animated feature has. But I still wonder.
Today we can see some of the hand-drawn Frozen concept art, which gives a glimpse at what a classically animated version might have looked like.
Let me first stress that this is not concept art from the abandoned hand-drawn Snow Queen feature film, but 2D concept art for the computer animated film Frozen. While Disney Animation’s feature films may be computer animated, a lot of the visual development of the movies is still done with old fashioned hand-drawn concept art.
And here are a few pieces from ConceptArtWorld:
You can see a lot more pieces of concept art in The Art of Frozen hardcover book.
And if you are wondering about the backstory of The Snow Queen’s development, here is the short story:
Walt Disney and Samuel Goldwyn planned to collaborate on a biography feature film of author/poet Hans Christian Andersen in 1943. The film would have mixed Goldwyn’s live-action sequences of Andersen’s life and Disney’s animated sequences of his stories. The animated sequences were to include The Little Mermaid, The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Red Shoes and The Emperor’s New Clothes.
As legend goes, Disney and his animators encountered difficulty with The Snow Queen, and were unable to find a way to get modern audiences to relate to the Snow Queen character. Disney later went on to adapt some of those other classic Hans Christian Andersen stories, and unsuccessfully tried to bring The Snow Queen to the screen many times over the years.
The Snow Queen was originally shelved in late 2002, Glen Keane infamously quit the project in 2003. Alan Menken, the musical mastermind behind The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, was working on the music before the film was put on hold again in March 2010. When the project was last in development, it was set to be Disney’s next hand drawn animated film after The Princess and The Frog, before that film underperformed at the box office and sent a “deathblow” to hand drawn feature animation at the studio.