Accidental Frozen star Josh Gad returns with new Olaf adventure

Josh Gad returns as Frozen character in new Disney short

When Frozen was being planned five years ago, its star Josh Gad was relatively unknown and the writers' grandest ambition was simply to tell a story that "didn't suck".

Now he is a household name, and Disney's animated movie is the highest-grossing animated feature in history.

The 36-year-old US actor returns as the lovable magical snowman character Olaf in the new Disney short Olaf's Frozen Adventure, which will be shown before Disney Pixar's latest offering Coco, opening here tomorrow. (See report at right.)

"Olaf is such a refreshing character because there is this pureness, this naivete about him, this child-like wonderment," Gad said.

"It is very much at odds with a lot of the cynical things that we see in our daily lives and on screen."

Frozen told the story of newly crowned Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), who cannot control her special powers to turn things into ice, cursing her home with infinite winter.

Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) teams up with a mountain man, his playful reindeer and Olaf to redeem Elsa and change the weather.


Gad, one of three brothers, says he has had a "front row seat" on the precious sisterly bond at the heart of the movie since becoming a father of two girls, now aged three and six.

"That idea of two little girls watching Frozen and seeing in many ways a reflection of their own relationship is something you can't even put into words," he said.

"It is so magical being able to share in this process and this experience with them... It is a dream come true."

Gad grew up near Miami, in a town fittingly called Hollywood, his imagination fed by a glut of animated classics during what has become known as Disney's golden age.

"It was just back to back - The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. That was a crazy time to be a kid and see those movies for the first time in a movie theatre," he said.

"At some point, I remember saying, 'Man, how cool would it be if one day I could grow up and do that?'"

Although he declares himself more spiritual than formally religious, he grew up in a Jewish household and remembers lighting menorahs and eating Chinese food during the festive period. When he married his Catholic wife, he was thrilled to be able to co-opt fun Christmas traditions - the tree and the lights - into his Hanukkah celebration.

"I'm making up for lost time and I love it. My wife laughs because she is like, 'You're addicted to Christmas - I'm not sure what's wrong with you,'" he said.

One imagines the holiday period being a delight for little Isabella Eve and big sister Ava, with stories from the Frozen universe being narrated by Olaf himself.

"They're still tickled by the fact that I can read a Frozen book to them and I can't help but play Olaf as Olaf," Gad said.

"For them, it is a cool parlour trick."

A classically trained actor who drifted into TV comedy via Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, Gad went on to star as bumbling sidekick and comic relief LeFou in Disney's live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast, the highest-grossing movie worldwide this year.

He will be seen displaying his dramatic chops in Kenneth Branagh's mystery drama Murder On The Orient Express, which opens here on Nov 30.

He confirmed that production has begun on Frozen 2 but was keeping his cards close to his chest on where the sequel may take Olaf, Elsa and Anna.

After that, the world is his oyster.

"I have some opportunities coming up that I think are really interesting and challenging. I've never played a villain, I think that would be really fun," he said.

"I'd like to do something completely transformative, and there is something I'm working (on) at that could be that, and I'd also love the opportunity to eventually direct." - AFP