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Huffington Post -- Disney "Frozen" directors credit their crew with this film's Best Animated Feature nomination

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Huffington Post -- Disney "Frozen" directors credit their crew with this film's Best Animated Feature nomination

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So was it glamorous & exciting for Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee earlier today when they learned that "Frozen" -- the Walt Disney Pictures release that they had co-directed -- had been nominated for Best Animated Feature? Not exactly.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"You have to understand that the Academy makes these announcements at around 5:30 a.m. West Coast Time. And the last time I was nominated, for "Surf's Up ," I didn't set my alarm. And then you get all these phone calls," Chris explained. "So this time, I thought -- just in case, just be safe -- I'd set my alarm. But once I got up, there were all of these early morning chores that I needed to do like feed the dog and adding water to the fish tank. So I was juggling all of that stuff as I was listening to the nominations."

And Jennifer's case, she was still in bed as Chris Hemsworth & Cheryl Boone Isaacs began reading off this year's nominees.

"But I have a very good excuse for being in bed," Lee insisted. "You see, I have the flu right now. And since Chris and I are supposed to be traveling to Japan & China shortly to support the launch of 'Frozen' over there, I figured that the best thing for me to is just get some rest. Stay in bed and concentrate on getting better. But then I just happened to wake up at 5:30 a.m. So I turned on my laptop and watched the live stream of the announcements from bed. And then when I heard that "Frozen' was nominated, for about 30 seconds there, I didn't feel sick. But then my cold kicked back in again. Which is why I'm still here in bed."

Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee with this year's Golden
Globe award for Best Animated Feature

Well, no matter under what conditions Chris & Jennifer received this news, they were still thrilled to learn that Disney "Frozen" had been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

And you know what makes this sort of recognition from members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences all the sweeter? The fact that Disney "Frozen" was actually produced on a severely compressed production schedule. Few people outside of this Walt Disney Animation Studios know this, but this animated reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale was originally supposed to be Disney Studios' big holiday release for 2014. But back in the Fall of 2011, when WDAS head John Lasseter saw how well this film's story was coming together, he then decided to shift "Frozen" 's release date to Holiday 2013.

"And the fact that we were still able to meet that new deadline, still able deliver a quality film under  those sorts of conditions, that's a real tribute to our crew. They're the ones who actually made this movie happen," Lee enthused. "These were people who gave 120% the whole time. Chris and I were constantly asking for new things. We doubled -- no, tripled -- the number of crowd shots and effects to go with along our story telling and they were always right there. These people were just not going to compromise. They wanted 'Frozen' to be the very best thing that Disney had ever done. And I just love that about our crew. They always tried to top themselves."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And as for 'Frozen' 's tight production schedule ...  You know, sometimes a situation like that when -- as a filmmaker -- you're in a time crunch, it can actually be a good thing," Buck explained. "You can spend a lot of time in development going 'What if?,' 'What if?' But when you've only got two years to make your movie, you've then got to start making decisions. You've got to move down that road with determination. So seriously, sometimes when you've got a tight production schedule, it can actually help make your movie stronger."

And speaking of stronger: What with Disney "Frozen" now standing at $319 million in domestic ticket sales (which means that it's now officially displaced Walt Disney Animation Studios' previous top earner, "The Lion King ." Which sold $312 million worth of tickets in North America back in 1994), and this film's soundtrack being the No. 1 best-selling digital album in the country right now, not to mention Disney CEO Bob Iger confirming that a Broadway stage musical version of "Frozen" is already in the works ... It's sometimes hard to remember that time when the team at WDAS wasn't entirely sure that modern movie-goers were actually going to embrace their take on "The Snow Queen."

"I mean, just 12 weeks ago, it was still just us at the studio with this movie. We had done a screening  of 'Frozen' with an audience back in June and the response was far beyond what we had expected," Jennifer remembered. "But even so, we didn't know if that reaction was going to be typical of how 'Frozen' was going to be received once it got into theaters. But to have people be so enthusiastic, to have them embrace this movie in the way they have ... It's just mind-blowing. I haven't processed it yet."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which brings us to the big question: What's Disney "Frozen" 's secret? What is it about this particular Walt Disney Animation Studios production that then allowed it to make such a strong connection with today's audiences? Chris thinks that "Frozen" 's success has a lot to do with the way this animated feature mixes classic Disney with modern storytelling techniques.

"Look, when it comes to classic Disney, I've got it in my DNA. I mean, the guy who trained me, the man who mentored me when I first came to the Studio was Eric Larson, one of Walt's Nine Old Men," Buck continued. "But what Jen and I wanted to do with 'Frozen' was tell a classic Disney story only with characters that weren't up pedestals. I mean, if you really look at Anna & Elsa, they're contemporary characters with flaws. These two sisters are just like the rest of us. So it's this mix of Disney classic and the contemporary that I think audiences have really been responding to."

"When Chris and I first talked about 'Frozen,' we wanted characters that sounded genuine & were relatable. Our No. 1 thing when we were working on Anna & Elsa's dialogue was  'Don't try and control them. Let the characters speak as they really would,' Lee said. "And -- in the end -- this pair of sisters surprised us. They wound up being a whole lot more feisty than we originally thought they would be."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And speaking of feisty: When Jennifer was casting about for inspiration when it came to how Teenage Anna might move, she found some sitting right on the other side of her dining room table.

"My daughter Aggie was a very big inspiration for Anna in terms of  her physicality. And then when it came time to record 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman' ... Well, we really wanted to use the first two verses of this song to show you Anna's personality. And we wanted the singing to be done by real-sounding kids, not necessarily Broadway kids," Lee explained. "And Aggie? Well, she loves to sing. More importantly, she can sing in key. And since my daughter has the sort of feisty spirit that we were looking for with Teenage Anna ... Well,  everything sort of fell into place."

"Even so, that whole having-Aggie-in-the-recording-studio thing was very nerve-wracking for me," Jennifer recalled. "I don't know how parents do that. I was so nervous for her."

(L to R) Disney "Frozen" producer Peter Del Vecho, Agatha Lee Monn,
Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"Yeah. You were way more nervous than Aggie was at that session," Chris laughed.

Well, if Lee got that nervous while her daughter was recording that portion of 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman,' one wonders how she & Chris are going to feel on the evening of March 2nd. When the two of them are seated inside of Hollywood's Dolby Theatre along with the directors of "Despicable Me 2 ," "Ernest & Celestine," "The Croods " and "The Wind Rises." As they wait to hear which film Academy members awarded the Best Animated Feature Oscar to.

Here's hoping that Jennifer Lee is finally over her cold by then. Because having the flu & celebrating the success of Disney "Frozen" probably wouldn't mix.

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  • Is there any possibility that Imagineering might be dusting off Marc Davis's "Snow Queen" ride proposal for a "Frozen" theme park attraction?

  • Frozen is so good, because it has songs, lovely sights, great characters and most important: because it is a timeless story. It doesn't cash in on quick humor, but it has a heart and will still have the same quality in say 50 years! Just like the old Disney movies, this one has been made for the future and not just for now (like almost all other CGI movies from other studios and some recent movies by Disney...).

    I was thrilled with the movie, I saw it in cinema's 6 times and everyone I brought along was amazed by the movie.

    It's just great quality, that's what we expect from Disney and that's what brings in the money in the long run. Hopefully Disney understands this and will NOT make a sequel to this movie, but other quality fairy tales with songs :)

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