Disney dream job: What it's like to work behind-the-scenes of 'Frozen 2'
MANILA, Philippines – The hype over Frozen 2's premiere is as powerful as Elsa's ice queen powers. (READ: New songs, new characters: What to expect from 'Frozen 2')
Frozen and its soundtrack have gained a cult following since its release in 2013, and some may wonder: What does it take to create a classic Disney gem, adored by both the young and the young-at-heart?
Rappler talked to Frozen 2's Head of Story, Normand Lemay, on what it's like being the head visionary and story-teller for both the first film and its sequel – what the job entails, the best and most difficult parts about it, and his advice to aspiring animators.
Could you take us through what a Disney Head of Story does?
Normand: In any animated film, the directors oversee a lot of creative departments while the movie is being produced, and one of them is the story department.
In the story department, I act as a supervisor for the story team. I’m in between the director and the story artists, so I work closely with both to develop the movie visually as a cinematic experience.
I've been with Disney since 2009, so I've worked for the first Frozen movie as well as other in-betweens, like Big Hero 6, Moana, and Zootopia.
What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
Normand: What’s really great about working in the story department is that you’re the first one to take a jab at what the movie will look like and feel like. It’s one thing to read the script, and another to bring to life what’s on the page.
Especially in animated movies, there’s nothing like seeing a main character (especially these Frozen characters that we grew loving and creating) spring onto the screen and coming back to life. There is something so magical seeing these characters in new situations by trying to think like them and react like them. That’s the best part.
Are there any challenges you still experience?
Normand: The best parts are also a challenge at the same time, like visualizing those sequences and seeing how the movie will play out.
But it's a great challenge, like how we try to to create a brand-new film with characters that we’ve already cherished from the first film – Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, Sven.
Story-wise and visually, it’s also trying to find something worthwhile – something new, fresh, but something that still feels true to the main characters that we know. We’re not changing the characters, yet we have to dig deeper emotionally to test who they are. What challenges can they face that can bring out a situation we can’t see coming?
It's fun, though – taking characters we all love and putting them in a situation completely new, but which still feels right for them.
Your job is a dream job for many, especially for those who want to work in Disney and in animation. What would you advise those who aspire to be like you?
Normand: In the story department, it’s really about your love for movies, films, and storytelling. But you also need to draw, because it's something we had to do every day. It's a very important skill – drawing to tell stories and bring life to characters.
What I would say to students who want to follow in my path in animation is to watch a lot of movies, and try to understand the motivation of the characters. Try to understand and think about how this character reacts to this new situation.
Also, never let the fear of things not working out add up too much. Art is difficult and challenging, and so is storytelling, but also very rewarding at the same time. I highly encourage people to try their hand at it. – Rappler.com
Frozen 2 premieres on November 20 in the Philippines and November 22 in the US.