Frozen Director Wanted to Cut Olaf Until Josh Gad Was Cast

Thanks to Josh Gad, we can always build a snowman.

“Frozen” star Gad saved lovable character Olaf from being cut out of the Disney film, according to co-director Jennifer Lee. Gad presented Lee the award for Distinguished Storyteller by the Los Angeles Press Club on December 4 as part of the 15th annual National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards.

“Josh is Olaf,” Lee said during the acceptance speech (via Variety). Lee noted that she came on board to helm the 2013 feature after the film was already in development. An early cut left Lee with one comment: “My first note was, ‘Kill the snowman,’” Lee said.

Yet after a “sneaky” animator sent over a three-page script treatment for Olaf with Gad in mind, Lee couldn’t resist casting Gad in the role of the adorable snowman who accompanies Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and Sven (Frank Welker) to find Anna’s sister Elsa (Idina Menzel).

“Frozen” won two Academy Awards and grossed over $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office. Its sequel, “Frozen 2,” had the biggest-ever opening for an animated film in 2019. The franchise also spurred a Broadway musical adaptation. Olaf received his own Disney+ spinoff, “Once Upon a Snowman,” to capture the origin story of the snowy character; Gad returned to voice the role.

The 2022 National Arts and Entertainment Journalism awards also saw IndieWire’s Chief Film Critic David Ehrlich win the honor of Best Film Critic, and IndieWire’s Chief TV Critic Ben Travers take third place for TV Critic.

The NAEJ judges praised Ehrlich’s “smart, insightful, and wonderfully detailed and very entertaining” reviews, specifically citing Ehrlich’s reviews for “No Time to Die,” “The Green Knight,” and “Dune.”

IndieWire Senior VP and Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris-Bridson applauded the acknowledgment of Ehrlich and Travers. “David and Ben each possess extraordinary critical voices in addition to being talented writers, ” she said. “I’m always proud of the work our critics produce, but I’m thrilled to see it recognized by the jurors for the National Arts and Entertainment Awards.”

The 15th National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards evaluated nearly 1,700 entries for 2022. The Los Angeles Press Club is among the country’s oldest and most prestigious journalist organizations, founded in 1913. The club established the NAEJ Awards in 2008 to “recognize and honor quality journalism in the fastest-growing segment of the modern media revolution,” per the website. “It remains the sole acknowledgment of its kind in the nation and has become a much-anticipated celebration for those covering the entertainment industry and its artists.”

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