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Elsa's Development

Origins and concept

Attempts were made as early as 1937 by Walt Disney to adapt Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen, into a film. The tale focuses on two children, one named Gerda, who served as the basis for Princess Anna, and the other named Kai, who is "cursed with negativity" after his heart is pierced with a shard of glass from an enchanted mirror and is later kidnapped by the Snow Queen.[1][2] However, Disney struggled with creating a believable, multi-dimensional adaption of the fairy tale's title character,[3] who was intended to be a villain.[4] In the story, she is described as "a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snow-flakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice—shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance."[3] Disney was unable to find a way to make the Snow Queen more real and eventually abandoned film plans.[3]

Several film executives later made efforts towards the project, including Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi, Dick Zondag, Glen Keane, and Dave Goetz. In 2011, director Chris Buck began work on another attempted adaption and also faced challenges with the Snow Queen character. Producer Peter Del Vecho explained that this was primarily because she was not relatable and too isolated, having no personal connections. As a result, they could not explain her motivations. After several changes were proposed, someone on the writing team suggested making the Snow Queen Anna's sister. "Once we realized that these characters could be siblings and have a relationship, everything changed," Del Vecho relayed.[3]

The Snow Queen, now given the name Elsa, continued to be cast as a villain,[5] and Disney released the following synopsis for Frozen in May 2013:

"When Anna is cursed by her estranged sister, the cold-hearted Snow Queen, Anna's only hope of reversing the curse is to survive a perilous but thrilling journey across an icy and unforgiving landscape. Joined by a rugged, thrill-seeking outdoorsman, his one-antlered reindeer and a hapless snowman, Anna must race against time, conquer the elements and battle an army of menacing snowmen if she ever hopes to melt her frozen heart.[1]"
— Person speaking


Earlier manuscripts included more antagonistic actions by Elsa, such as intentionally cursing Arendelle with an eternal winter. Additionally, she is shown creating an army of snowmen similar to the original Snow Queen's army of snowflakes; the comedic character of Olaf was at the time written as a smaller snowman who was cast out by Elsa for being too unintimidating.[1][6] Within two months, however, scripts were altered to give emphasis to her lack of control over her powers.[7] Olaf was reduced to the only snowman created by Elsa, and he instead serves as a reminder of the sisters' childhood friendship.[8] In the final version, Elsa creates a single giant snow creature that Olaf nicknames "Marshmallow" to act as a guard after being branded as a monster for her powers.[7] According to director Jennifer Lee, the character ultimately became more of a composite of both Kai and the Snow Queen, enhancing her increasingly sympathetic portrayal.[2] Del Vecho added, "There are times when Elsa does villainous things but because you understand where it comes from, from this desire to defend herself, you can always relate to her."[9]

Voice

Eva Bella and Spencer Lacey Ganus were cast to portray Elsa as a young child and as a teenager, respectively.[10][11] Actress and singer Megan Mullally was originally cast to voice an adult Elsa.[12] but was replaced by Idina Menzel, a Broadway actress and singer best known for performing as Elphaba in Wicked.[13] Menzel already knew Kristen Bell,[14] who voiced Anna, and had previously auditioned for a lead role in the 2010 Walt Disney film Tangled.[15] She was not cast for the part, but the casting director recorded her singing and later showed the recording to Frozen's film executives.[15] Menzel was surprised when she was subsequently asked to audition,[15] and she received the role after reading the script out loud.[14] In interviews, she acknowledged similarities between Elsa, her then-current role, and Elphaba, her previous role.[16] Namely, she said, they were both very powerful and very misunderstood individuals.[17] She further said that she related to the characters, having hidden her singing talent from her peers at school. "I didn't want to alienate anyone," she explained. "If everyone was singing along in the car to a Madonna song, I didn't join in because when we're younger we're afraid of sticking out or showing off, when in fact we should own those things that make us really unique."[13]

Director Chris Buck believed that Menzel's vocals would help in the portrayal of the character, saying, "Idina has a sense of vulnerability in her voice. She plays a very strong character, but someone who lives in fear—so we needed someone who could portray both sides of the character, and Idina was just amazing."[18] Menzel was unaccustomed to working with animated films and being required to portray her character's feelings with her voice alone, though she did not find it particularly challenging.[17] While recording, she was able to "play" with her voice, trying various tones to establish the ranges in Elsa's emotions. For example, Menzel wanted there to be a difference between the ways she sounded when she was being bold and when she was angry.[14] She would also physically restrict her hands from moving as she recorded the film's early scenes in order to project how her character was "so afraid to move and feel anything that it would come out and hurt people".[19]

During production, Menzel and Jonathan Groff, who portrays Kristoff, went to the animation studio to explain to the animators how they were approaching their characters.[20] Animators asked Menzel questions about her singing, observed how she breathed as she sang live, and made videorecordings of her recording sessions; they then animated Elsa's breathing to match Menzel's breathing, for further realism.[19][21] Her voice supplied inspiration for Elsa's most prominent song, "Let It Go". According to composer Robert Lopez, Menzel's vocal range was able to clearly convey Elsa's "low, vulnerable, fragile side" as well as her power and self-realization.[22] Menzel commented that it was "an honor" to have the song and that she enjoyed recording it. "It's a collision of a bunch of forces that are all coming together in the right way," she explained. "The character, what she is singing and what she is experiencing; beautiful lyrics, beautiful melody and a little bit of me."[19] Buck and Lee were also surprised by how compatible Menzel and Kristen Bell's voices were. At one point during a table read, they sang a ballad (later revealed as "Wind Beneath My Wings"[23]) back and forth to one another with so much sentiment that it reportedly left everyone who was present with tears in their eyes.[24] Subsequently, Lee wanted Menzel and Bell to be in the same room when they were recording the important emotional scenes of the film.[25]

Design and characterization

Following the casting of Idina Menzel, Elsa's characterization underwent several alterations. According to Menzel, she was originally scripted as a one-dimensional antagonist but was gradually revised as a more vulnerable, multifaceted figure.[26] Menzel further described her character as "extremely complicated and misunderstood".[18] Director Jennifer Lee stated that Elsa is largely driven by fear throughout the film,[27] while Menzel added that she was also struggling with her potential to be "a strong, powerful, extraordinary woman".[14] Executive producer and animator John Lasseter became very "protective of Elsa" and was adamant about portraying her in a more favorable, sympathetic light.[28] Writer and director Jennifer Lee stated on Twitter that Elsa's body language and mannerisms were "intentional to show anxiety and depression".[29] In July 2013, Disney released images of the film's main characters along with outlines of their roles in the story. Elsa received the following description:

"From the outside, Elsa looks poised, regal and reserved, but in reality, she lives in fear as she wrestles with a mighty secret—she was born with the power to create ice and snow. It's a beautiful ability, but also extremely dangerous. Haunted by the moment her magic nearly killed her younger sister Anna, Elsa has isolated herself, spending every waking minute trying to suppress her growing powers. Her mounting emotions trigger the magic, accidentally setting off an eternal winter that she can't stop. She fears she's becoming a monster and that no one, not even her sister, can help her.[30]"
— Person speaking


Elsa's supervising animator was Wayne Unten, who asked for that role because he was fascinated by her complexity.[31] Unten carefully developed Elsa's facial expressions in order to bring out her fear as contrasted against Anna's fearlessness.[31] For their work on designing and animating Elsa, Unten and three other Disney Animation employees later won an award for Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture at the 2013 Visual Effects Society Awards: Joy Johnson, character technical director (rigging); Alexander Alvarado, look development artist (Disney's job title for texture artists); and Chad Stubblefield, modeling supervisor.[32] FX technical director Yoo Jae-hyun worked for a year-and-a-half on creating Elsa's ice-based special effects, including effects associated with her dress.[33][34]

Producers identified the scene in which Elsa sings "Let It Go" as a pivotal point in the character's development. The scene depicts her choice to "let go" of her fear of using her powers. Character design supervisor Bill Schwab said, "Before 'Let It Go,' Elsa is really buttoned up, her hair is up—everything is perfect. During the song, she gives herself permission to be who she is and everything changes—her hair is more wild, her gown is magical. She's finally free—even if she is all alone."[18] Animators designed Elsa's appearance to reflect her metamorphosis; in the beginning, she is shown primarily in restrictive and confining outfits.[35] Menzel said that, after accepting her abilities, Elsa's appearance becomes "very vampy", continuing, "She's quite sexy for Disney, I have to say—they're pushing the limits there a little bit! But there's a gleam in her eye and a supermodel walk that goes with it and, for me, it was fun to be a blonde because I'm not in real life."[13] In a January 2014 interview with John August and Aline Brosh McKenna, Lee disclosed that Lasseter personally helped with conceptualizing Elsa's physical transformation: "[M]y favorite thing about it ... is the actual model for doing it was John Lasseter .... he was a huge help in talking through how we translate that emotional journey ... with the animation ... [H]e got up and he’s like, .... 'her hair goes, and she transforms, and she struts,' and he’s doing it. He’s acting it out."[36]

"We imagined what it would be like to be chased out of the kingdom. To have to let go of everything you know and all the people you love. And yet the incredible release you'd have to finally let go of everything you've holding back your entire life."
Kristen Anderson-Lopez on writing Elsa's song, "Let It Go", and the choice to make her a protagonist rather than a villain.[37]

The scene was also a pivotal point in the development of Elsa's character and was initially planned to depict her becoming evil. Robert Lopez, who composed the song with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, explained, "Elsa was going to go from being this perfect princess that had tried to keep her personality down her whole life to saying, 'Screw it. I'm gonna be me.'"[37] They had wanted to use the song as a way to gain a better understanding of the character and what she would be like if she was no longer living in fear, which ultimately resulted in her becoming much more complex.[24] The final lyrics and Menzel's "ability to be so fragile and vulnerable and then break into this powerhouse voice" turned the plot around and led to Elsa being revised as a "good" character.[37] She initially attempts to suppress her powers in order to avoid hurting others, particularly Anna, and when she is no longer able to do so, she banishes herself from the kingdom to protect those around her.[18][38] Lead writer Paul Briggs said that Anna's support is what Elsa needs most when her secret is exposed. "The strength of the family bond is what makes this story so powerful," he explained, "because it's her sibling who's willing to look beyond her powers and stand between her and the world if that's what it takes."[18]

Elsa's appearance had to be redesigned following her transition from antagonist to protagonist. She was originally drawn in a style similar to typical Disney villains, with blue skin and spiky black hair.[28] A few months after the film's release, visual development artist Claire Keane (the daughter of Disney Legend Glen Keane) published early concept art of Elsa that was modeled after the singer Amy Winehouse.[39] At the time, she was imagined as having blue "bouffant" hair as well as "a deep, soulful voice and dramatic mood swings".[39] Lasseter reportedly influenced the creation of the character's much softer final appearance, particularly in regards to her very thick blonde hair, which animators found difficult to design. Art director Michael Giaimo said that while a number of strategies were proposed for Elsa's hair, Lasseter would push the animation team to continue making improvements, saying, "It's not aspirational enough. We want people to feel like this hair is a beautiful statement."[40] During a research trip, producers found that "there are lots of braids" worn by women in Norway; they then hired a stylist from New York named "Danilo" who helped to create a style that would reflect that while still being "a little different".[41][42][43] A new animation program called Tonic was invented to assist with the task, and the character's hair ultimately required 420,000 CGI threads.[35][44] By contrast, Anna was given roughly 140,000 hairs[41][45] while Rapunzel from Tangled had only required 27,000 CGI threads for her hair.[44]

Abilities

Since Elsa is introduced as a young child at the beginning of the film, animators wanted the first glimpse of her powers to reflect her innocent and fanciful state of mind at the time. This included giving her first snowflakes a simple design. Her snow and ice patterns later become more intricate and complex when she is an adult. Co-effects supervisor Marlon West elaborated, "When Elsa finally lets go and really starts owning her cryokinetic abilities, we wanted the ice and snow that she make to get across the idea that Elsa has now grown up and become this beautiful, elegant, confident and powerful young woman."[46]

Her ice castle, which she creates while singing "Let It Go", was designed to illustrate the maturing of her powers as well as to be "a manifestation of her feelings to the world".[46][47] The palace is initially beautiful; however, after she is made aware of the destruction she has inadvertently caused, and as she is increasingly vilified and hunted by others, it becomes darker and more distorted, with jagged icicles forming on the walls. The film's design team was uncertain about how it should look and drew out designs for various ice castles filled with snow. Lasseter suggested basing the structure and patterns on snowflakes. For example, an enormous snowflake would serve as the foundation, and the palace would be hexagon-shaped. Lasseter also wanted snowflake patterns to influence the manner in which Elsa creates the palace. "Snowflakes are these tiny little ice crystals that form in mid-air. And when there are changes in temperature and humidity, these snowflakes start growing in a pattern that's known as branching and plating," said co-effects supervisor Dale Mayeda. "[Lasseter] said 'You know, when Elsa builds her ice palace, it would be so amazing if—every step of the way as this castle forms out of thin air—it's just branching and plating, branching and plating all along the way."[46]

Fifty animators worked on the scene in which the castle is built, and one frame required 30 hours to render.[46] They later extended similar techniques to Elsa's clothing. While the traditional Norwegian rosemaling was the inspiration for her costuming early in the film, her ice gown was designed similarly to her palace, with snowflakes heavily influencing the style. Her cape itself is a large snowflake.[25]

Sources of information

As I come across sources of information that can be used as citation in articles, I shall leave them here. They will come in handy when developing articles, though mainly for adding up new information to new articles.

Elsa's attire

This page features a list and look at all of Elsa's notable attire.

Dresses whilst growing up

Night gown

On the night that Elsa accidentally hurt Anna, she was wearing a light blue night gown and light blue slipper shoes.

Gloves

Throughout her younger years, Elsa wore gloves in an attempt to conceal her powers. They were given to Elsa to help her keep her powers under better control. When she was young, her father gave Elsa a white pair of gloves. When she was slightly older she wore a white pair. At the time of her coronation, Elsa wore a light-green pair of gloves with a rosemaling pattern on them. She had to remove them in order to hold the orb and scepter as part of the rite, but shoved them back on as soon as she could. After Elsa had refused to bless Anna's marriage to Hans, Anna went to grab Elsa's hand and pulled off her left glove in the process. This caused Elsa to release her powers and put up a wall of spiky ice. Anna was still holding the glove when she pursued her sister down to the fjord. When she reached the North Mountain, Elsa discarded the second glove to allpw her to experimnt with her powers.

Coronation outfit

Crown

Elsa was issued her crown in the coronation's main ceremony. The bishop placed on Elsa's head, and sat it behind a [word for where he placed it] so that it would not fall off. When Elsa went through her transformation, she discarded her crown in an act to show that she would not return to her old life, leaving the past in the past. After events had taken place, Marshmallow returned to Elsa's ice palace to find the crown, where he picked it up and placed it on his head. This mellowed the giant, whose ice spikes and teeth receded.

Dress

For her coronation, Elsa wore a full-length dress complete with a deep purple cloak that was worn over her shoulders. The dress itself had black sleeves which ended in a triangular point just over the top of her wrists, and a dark green bodice which was complete with a rosemaling pattern over the chest area. he dress also featured a gold trimming around the torso and again at the top of the bodice. Rosemaling also featured at the base of the dress. When Elsa went through her transformation, she transformed the coronation dress into her ice dress.

Cloak

Elsa wore a deep-purple cloak with the dress. She cast it away on the North Mountain and let it catch the wind and be taken off.

Ice dress

Elsa's ice dress was created by Elsa when she had fled from Arendelle to the North Mountain and had freed herself from the constraints that had been placed on her for so many years. After she had made her palace, she then threw aside her crown and let down her hair. After this, she raised her arms used her magic to begin the creation of her new dress; the dress itself uses her coronation dress as a base to work from. From there, Elsa weaved ice into the fabric and completed the dress; the rosemaling patterns disappeared, and the ice ascended up her dress; Elsa's magic removed the material from around her shoulders and also thinned out her sleeves. As she walked out towards the balcony of her palace, a mantle woven from ice[48] materialized behind her. She also made a slit in the skirt which allowed her legs freer movement.

Mantle

The mantle is a large cape that links to Elsa's dress at the top of her ice dress' bodice. The mantle itself is formed from ice woven together. The mantle also has snowflake patterns woven into it. The mantle is extremely light, and flutters around as Elsa walks or runs. It is also fairly rigid, seen again in how it flows behind her.

Shoulders, sleeves and skirt slit

These were made by using ice to cut through the fabric of the original dress. For the slit in the skirt, and for the removal of the shoulder fabric, the ice cut through and undid the stitching. The remnants of the shoulders and sleeves can be seen drifting behind Elsa as an icy mist. The slit in the skirt allowed Elsa to have easier movement as she walked.

Trivia

  • In a deleted scene, Anna took Elsa's gloves with her to the palace in order to try and get Elsa to put them back on. However, this only aggravated Elsa.

Anna's attire

This page features a list and look at Anna's notable attire.

Dresses whilst growing up

Night gown

On the night that Elsa accidentally hurt her, Anna wore a light green night gown. When she had finally convinced Elsa to play with her, she put on a pair of thick winter boots.

Coronation outfit

For Elsa's coronation, Anna dressed in a sleeveless green dress with a black bodice. In her hair, she wore three green ribbons at the back which draped down near the back of her neck. The outfit proved undesirable for the winter conditions it faced, and Anna soon changed it at the first opportunity that presented itself.

Winter clothing

When Anna set out to find her sister, she came across Oaken's Trading Post and Sauna. Here, she purchased a more suitable outfit for the winter conditions. The outfit consisted of a cape which is a royal purple, and then a deep blue skirt. She also bought a pair of black winter boots which featured a gold rosemaling pattern. She retained the bodice from her coronation outfit, but this time she wore a light blue shirt to cover her arms. Anna also wore a a thick pair of mittens and a hat which covered her ears.

Cloak

The cloak is made up of a thick purple fabric. The top of the shirt has purple balls hanging down.

Summer dress

When summer was restored to Arendelle, Anna changed out of her winter attire and into something to better suite the change in weather. The format of the dress was the same of that of her winter clothing, with the exception of the cape, hat, and gloves. The color of the dress was beige with rosemaling patterns and a light-blue shirt underneath. She also wore a pair of white boots, which Elsa fixed ice skates (made from ice) onto.


Let the Storm Rage on
The Past is in the Past
This page is undergoing major reconstruction work. The format may not be fully complete as of yet, or some parts of the page may be slightly disorganised.


References

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  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Das
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Benardello, Karen (November 25, 2013). "Roundtable Interview With Idina Menzel On Frozen". Retrieved on December 11, 2013. 
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Geography

Locations

So here you can notice some of the discrepancies. The kingdom is in front of a cliff, and there was no glacier in the final version.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle1_zps6c9a1d31.png

So here you have the cliff face.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle2_zpsabb566b7.png

There is a slight hill but it is not as extensive as in the concept art. Also note the perimeter wall.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle3_zps7d152d31.png

So here the fjord element comes into play, because you have the cliffs on either side. However note that it isn't all that extensive, and in fact is looking out to sea, so we can say it is one the coast. This may also be another reason for the good trading point.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle4_zpsf0afd03c.png

Here you get more of an idea of the backdrop.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle4_zps4020418c.png

The fjord element is also seen here with the large cliff face in the background. You imagine looking out of the port between the two lighthouses and that is where the sea front is.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle5_zpsc46a0659.png

I think that is image is a little harder to interpret, especially because of the distance it is at. But you get more an idea of how far the kingdom is from any other settlement, and how that it is definitely on the coast, looking out to sea. The cliffs aren't as obvious here, but again, it is harder to tell at such a distance.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle7_zps11952e10.png

You get more of an idea of the coastal setting. The cliffs can be seen to the left up high. I would think that the rest of the cliff is obscured by the hill.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle6_zps07bcaa1e.png

Not a lot to say here; you just get another angle. Also notice the lighthouses. If you look directly out they do in fact meet with the edge of the cliff.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle7_zps0cebf5fe.png

You can see the scale of the cliffs here, and also the perimeter wall is more noticeable.

http://i44.photobucket.com/albums/f15/Humphry02/Arendelle/Arendelle8_zpse8aabebd.png

Again, the fjord element is more obvious here. Such a beautiful shot.

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