Idina Menzel reflects on Disney’s ‘Frozen’
Idina Menzel can belt it out.
This is no secret. Menzel is probably best known for her singing and acting in roles on Broadway in “Rent” and “Wicked,” winning a Tony Award for the latter.
She’s also appeared in films and on television shows, so you’d think she’d have a lot of boxes checked off on the bucket list.
Check off another: Menzel plays Elsa the snow queen in “Frozen,” the Disney animated film opening Wednesday, Nov. 27. And she gets one of the film’s signature songs, “Let It Go.” In the film, Elsa freezes her kingdom and heads for the hills; her sister (Kristen Bell) goes after her.
As you’ll see, this was a big step for Menzel, 42. She talked recently about the film, the song and her work on stage and screen.
Question: Do you follow animated films?
Answer: I have a 4-year-old boy, so for the last four years I’m like a lexicon of Disney movies.
Q: What does he like?
A: He loves “The Lion King.” He loves everything, honestly, but it was “The Lion King” for a long time. He likes “Tangled” a lot. And he liked “Cars” early on. You know, it depends on the age.
Q: Don’t you get sick of hearing “The Lion King” 127 times?
A: Uh, yeah (laughs). But it takes great music that transcends that to have a life like that for so many years. If that’s the worst scenario that people are listening to it 127 times, I hope that this movie has that kind of legacy. I believe it says the right things and has the scope to appeal to a large demographic of people, that it could be that thing. But mostly I’ve just always wanted to be in a Disney animated movie, and then to have a great song on top of it is just the best. It’s really a dream for me.
Q: Did you worry you might start work and the song would be bad?
A: Heck yes I might have thought that (laughs). Not really. I’m not that discerning. I’m happy to have the job, happy to be involved with such amazing talent and creative people and John Lasseter (of Pixar and Disney fame) sitting in my session.
To me it’s always about surrounding myself with people who are so f—–g smart and good that I’m terrified to walk in the door, but I still do it so that I can learn something or get better. That’s kind of where my head was at, so even if it wasn’t a good song I probably wouldn’t even think of it that way. … I try to look on the bright side.
Q: It’s always odd that, in animated films, you don’t really work with the other actors.
A: Well, I was lucky because Kristen Bell and I had a few days where we were able to feed off of each other, singing and doing dialogue together. That was a real treat. And then there were plenty of days where we couldn’t be there at the same time. That at first seems like it’s going to be weird, but I think being familiar and comfortable in a recording-studio environment, I sort of understand the science of it, and I kind of enjoy it. I like being able to take one line and do it over and over, all the different ways you can say it. And plus, you have someone reading with you in there, so you are playing a scene. It’s not as antiseptic as you’d think.
Q: There are a lot of twists in the movie. The trailer might mislead some people in terms of who’s good and bad.
A: That’s the whole point, is how we tend to judge people we don’t know well enough, and what our preconceived notion of their character is and how people are misunderstood, that those of us who are unknown or mysterious to us can be scary until we get to know them and see where everything’s coming from.
Q: You were in “Wicked.” That version of the Wicked Witch is one of the most preconceived notions of all time.
Q: There are misconceptions about Elsa, too.
A: It’s not like these things descend upon me. Back in “Wicked” I had to audition for that role, and it’s not like I’m at the point in my career where everything is just given to me. There is some serendipitous quality to me getting these similar characters, and I always wonder if it’s the universe’s way of telling me I need to learn something (laughs).
Q: Do you prefer stage to film?
A: Everyone always asks me that. Forced to give an answer, I’d say it’s probably live performance, whether it’s stage or performing a concert. I like the adrenaline that I get from a live audience. But those are grueling schedules, and there’s always a right time to find balance and go off to a TV set or the solitude of a recording studio or a film set and try something new. Without one or the other, you can burn out. So depending on where I am in my life, I might say, “Oh, I like this one better.”