By Beth Deitchman
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ (WDAS) new original content series At Home With Olaf is the virtual warm hug we all need right now. The delightful vignettes offer fans a heart-melting glimpse into the life of Olaf, letting us see how he spends his time when he isn’t busy saving Arendelle alongside Anna and Elsa. At Home With Olaf is just one of the many #DisneyMagicMoments that are allowing fans to experience the magic of Disney wherever they may be, and the series of shorts is brought to life by an incredible team of artists and technologists who are working from their homes to bring Olaf directly into our homes.
At Home With Olaf’s creator, Hyrum Osmond—the original supervising animator of Olaf from the first Frozen film (and co-head of animation on Moana)—first pitched the series to WDAS Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee and WDAS President Clark Spencer several months ago. He envisioned a collection of vignettes centered around Olaf. “I really wanted to focus on just him,” Osmond tells D23. “He’s so full of wonder. Let’s see him experience the world with that wonder.”
Osmond was in the early stages of developing the series when “the world changed” and Frozen fans needed Olaf more than ever. “It really is something that an entire team is involved with, giving it their all,” Osmond emphasizes. “So many people are putting in the hours and really putting in the love to make these as sweet and fun as possible.” Groups from across Disney Animation came together quickly to make it possible for At Home With Olaf to be created safely from home—from the Disney Animation Technology team, which has made it possible for the artists to animate from home; to a lighting team who lends their expertise to each and every shot; to Disney Animation’s post-production team, which used safe measures to deliver equipment to actor Josh Gad and enable him to record Olaf’s dialogue from his own home.
This set-up allows Osmond and his team to replicate with Gad, as best they can, the recording process that would typically take place in the studio. “We get on a conference call with him and he’s hooked up with his own microphone in his house,” Osmond explains. “He’ll read some lines and then we’ll give him notes. We don’t really know exactly what we have until he emails us the audio clips that he’s recorded, which makes it interesting—but it works!”
Fans can look forward to 20 vignettes inspired by a day in the life of Olaf, presenting him in new scenarios and settings, and one will even feature hand-drawn animation. “I like the use of different media and I’m excited to show the world that one. It’s going to be beautiful. I just wanted to see some different variations of styles and see what we could do with it,” Osmond says.
Since At Home With Olaf’s debut, we’ve watched Olaf dance alone in the forest, play in the snow, and even enjoy a nap al fresco, to name just a few of the wonderful ways the snowman goes about his day. “A lot of these little stories don’t have any particular story structure to them. Some of them are just moments and I really love that,” Osmond says. He’s found inspiration for the vignettes in “little ideas I’ve had over the years,” as well as his own children. For example, “Alone in the Forest” was sparked by Osmond’s 8-year-old daughter, a budding ballerina. “She will dance everywhere and anywhere and she doesn’t care who’s watching,” he shares, noting, “Olaf would totally do that.”
For Osmond, the snowman is the perfect embodiment of the theme of unconditional love that runs through the Frozen franchise and Olaf is perfectly suited for these endearing shorts. “He makes us laugh but you can also connect with Olaf emotionally, which I think sets him apart from a lot of characters,” Osmond details.
Creating animation completely from their houses has been an adjustment for Osmond and the rest of the At Home With Olaf team. Osmond has gotten used to working on two small laptops with screens that together are significantly smaller than what he uses at the studio, and he’s also found, “Sometimes your internet just wants to shut down on you and you just think, ahhh, not right now!” But Osmond has been pleasantly surprised by one aspect of his new work situation, and that’s how he’s been able to involve his family in the process. His wife and four children—who range from ages 8 to 15—provide encouragement, feedback, and even helpful suggestions during the creative process. “It’s a pretty fun back-and-forth with them,” Osmond says of these personal magic moments. “Getting their reactions has just been golden.”