Taking the Lead: An original idea, and a sprinkle of Disney magic

Posted on February 24, 2015 by Lauren Greatorex

frozen concept art

[Reader, count your blessings. I could have called this blog: ‘Creativity is an open door’, ‘For the first time in forever, Disney got creative’ or ‘Do you want to build a creative marketing campaign’...]

Just typing those subtitles made me shudder a little. The world is still suffering from a severe winter cold, a bout of Frozen fever.  You may be bored of building snowmen, opening love doors and (I barely dare to mention it), letting it go but there’s no doubt that the storyline of Frozen, Disney’s animated epic, is an original, extremely popular, and highly marketable idea.

The worldwide phenomenon has wowed kiddies and this PR professional alike with its sweeping Nordic landscapes, kick-ass ice powers, and tale of sisterly love, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. However, it wasn’t always meant to be that way. Disney originally banded about the idea for a movie based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen in the 1930s and 40s. Many attempts were made to realise the concept over the next few decades (see the above concept art – one of Disney's shelved ideas for the Snow Queen) but none hit upon a compelling way to tell the story until the late noughties. Even then it was a bit of a “fixer upper” (see what I did there?).

However, all was not lost. Some clever bod suggested making Anna and Elsa sisters, albeit with Elsa as the vicious snow Queen intent on freezing Anna’s heart. Step in songwriters - the same pop-tastic creatives that wrote the music for The Book of Mormon. They penned the song that builds and builds but never dies - Let It Go, with Elsa as a misunderstood loner dealing with some serious icey angst. The entire production was turned on its head and rewritten with its zingy, feminist-friendly sisterly vibe (Hans who?) MOVIE HISTORY WAS BORN!

Along the way, the team at Disney hit upon some truly original ideas - at least for the animated movie world. They were willing to “fail fast and fail often”. A group of creative types plugged away at the story for years and ended up with something (kind of) groundbreaking. They also used some really interesting methods to get there. At one point, the team held a Sister Summit, inviting employees across the company to discuss their complicated relationships with their sisters and give the story some realism (should have added a bit more hair pulling in my opinion).

Frozen illustrates many of the principles for creating a great idea:

  • Encourage brainstorming and be open to other people’s suggestions. Gather a great group of talented people, each with different specialisms and interests and see what happens.
  • Be original. Find the ‘white space’ - the snow capped peaks where others dare to tread, and the topics with untapped potential and try to say something unique.
  • Do your research. Speak to the right people, hold crazy summits, identify your audience and make sure your idea is a strong, impactful and targeted one.
  • Keep your fingers crossed. A truly brilliant idea takes hard work and a healthy dose of luck. Of course, we can’t all be Disney but creativity can be encouraged with an open environment for ideas to flourish.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. No idea is a bad idea! Story artist John Ripa suggested Frozen’s final plot twist in a company meeting and received a standing ovation. That could be you! Take your fear and…

[All together now!]

Let it goooooo! Let it goooooo!




This post is part of Man Bites Dog's Taking the Lead blog series focusing on women.

To see the other blogs in the series, click here


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