D23: 'Frozen' Directors on Their Upcoming Film and Working With John Lasseter

Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee tell THR they want their animated film to have a timeless yet timely feel: "We just kept pushing to make sure there are themes in this movie that make it relatable," says Lee.

This weekend at D23, the program very much reflected the legacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Frozen directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee told The Hollywood Reporter that giving their upcoming animated feature a timeless feel was important to them.

“What makes something a classic film is there is that quality that it speaks to you whether it is 1930 or 2013,” said Lee, admitting that Cinderella and The Little Mermaid are still her favorite Disney animated features.

For Frozen, she related that the directors aimed to make the film both “timeless and timely. … We just kept pushing to make sure there are themes in this movie that make it relatable.”

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Set in Norway, Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen and tells the story of Anna and her sister Elsa. The latter discovers that she has a magical ability to control the snow. In a new clip shown Saturday at D23, Elsa’s magic comes out for the first time—in a negative way—and she runs off.

In another new clip, Anna’s friend Kristoff sings a lullaby to his reindeer, Sven.

Lee (also a writer on the film) noted that at its heart, the feature is a story about sisters, and John Lasseter helped to elevate that point. "When we were still just discovering the story we'd show John [the work] he’d say ‘you have to go deeper.’ That is the key to John—You have to have worked each scene to the point where you know exactly what it means and why, and you got the most out of it.”

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Buck—whose favorite Disney animated film is still Pinocchio—added that Lasseter would “also keep us on track … with so make people and voices in the room, you can start to stray.”

Incidentally, the two went to CalArts together and “have that same love of Disney. … I love that classic feel; it is engrained in me.”

Buck was previously nominated for an Oscar for directing Surf’s Up. Frozen marks the directorial debut for Lee, who was a writer on last year’s Oscar nominee Wreck-It Ralph.

Frozen opens November 27.