Disney+ is bringing fans of all things “Frozen” a new opportunity to immerse themselves in the fantasy realm of “Frozen 2.” “Myth: A Frozen Tale,” originally created as a VR short by Walt Disney Animation Studios, will premiere on Disney+ on Feb. 26, giving audiences at home a new way to explore the land and elemental spirits first introduced in “Frozen 2.”
During a press junket held virtually on Feb. 18, director Jeff Gipson, who previously directed the studio’s first VR short film, “Cycles,” said he drew on his own childhood memories of bedtime stories as inspiration for “Myth,” asking himself what a bedtime story might look like for a child who grew up in Arendelle.
Gipson looked to the graphic style of pop-up books and shadow puppets while also tapping into Disney Animation’s rich history of integrating traditional animation and music in films like “Fantasia,” “Dumbo,” and “Peter and the Wolf.”
“I just loved how the animation was married to that music,” Gipson said. “It almost moves exactly with that music.”
Gipson and producer Nick Russell found their ideal production designer in Brittney Lee, who has been with the studio for more than a decade and is known for a style Gipson described as “paper cut-out, really graphic, really stylized art.”
Lee jumped at the opportunity to work on “Myth.”
“I just immediately felt like it was being pitched directly to me because the aesthetic of the storybook and pop-up book was so in line with my personal aesthetic,” Lee said.
Storytelling through color and score
Narrated by Evan Rachel Wood, who voices Queen Iduna in “Frozen 2,” “Myth” is told as an Arendelle family’s bedtime story about the the four elemental spirits of air, fire, water and earth, plus a fifth spirit born over time — the human spirit. “Frozen 2” audiences will recognize the elemental spirits as Gale; the salamander, Bruni; Nokk; and the Earth Giants, and might pick up on something familiar about the human spirit, too.
When in sync, the narrator says, the spirits create dazzling harmony. But, she warns, just one spirit out of sync can cause chaos.
“This is the emotional arc of the film, but also we thought of this as the color palette art as well as this arc for the score,” said Gipson.
In order to create an even more stylized world than the one that exists in “Frozen,” the team started with influences upon which “Frozen” had already drawn. In particular, Lee cited Eyvind Earle’s work on “Sleeping Beauty.”
“Myth” pushed the color palette of “Frozen 2” further, giving each spirit a definitive color scheme and shape language, Lee said.
For the music, Gipson asked composer Joseph Trapanese to give each element its own score, taking inspiration from films like “Fantasia” and “Peter and the Wolf.”
Giving shape to the elements
Shape language played a major role in animating “Myth,” Lee said. Disney+ viewers currently obsessing over hexagons in “WandaVision” will quickly pick up on the plethora of diamonds throughout “Myth.”
“We really leaned into the diamonds. It’s in the water splashes, it’s in the fire embers, it’s in everything!” said Gipson. “The cliffs… just really integrating it. I like how we just kind of tried to push it into all the places.”
Classic Disney dark rides also influenced animation choices, Gipson said. The team looked to “it’s a small world” for inspiration when it came to the water effects, which presented one of the biggest challenges, according to Lee.
“We wanted it to still feel like it was stylized and part of the story book world and there’s a lot of different ways in a pop-up book that you might see water stylized based on the different uses of it, like a waterfall, or river, or in a splash,” she said. “I think we were looking to references on all of those fronts to caricature it and draw from some of the linear aspects of that.”
Harmony on and off screen
With nearly 100 artists contributing to the film—just the team’s second made in real time at the studio—Gipson is quick to point out the production parallels to the film’s message.
“There were so many technical challenges but also artistic challenges we overcame,” Gipson said. “The film’s about harmony and what happens within harmony. All of our artists, our technicians, our production folks came to create something that’s really special. And this image is basically that moment in the film… all the elements are dancing together to create this beautiful harmony.”