Frozen’s “Once Upon a Snowman” Shows Olaf’s Backstory – Review

Once Upon a Snowman review
Once Upon a Snowman (Image: Screengrab)

For those wondering about Olaf’s backstory, the Once Upon a Snowman animated short on Disney+ did provide some interesting answers.

Once Upon a Snowman was released on Disney+ on October 23, 2020. I decided to check it out because I wanted to see if the creative team added in more queer subtext due to the short also featuring Oaken. 

The approximately 8-minutes long CG animated offering opened with Elsa singing “Let It Go”. Do you remember when she took off her cape during the song after she created Olaf? Well, the cape flew away, hit Olaf in the face, and had him tumbling all the way down the mountain that Elsa made her Ice Castle on.

Once Upon a Snowman showed Olaf going through an existential crisis as he tried to make sense of being a snowman that’s come alive. I have to say I chuckled during a number of moments due to Josh Gad’s line delivery. The one about how he’s made of snow and yet he’s also walking on snow made me laugh.

The short had Olaf walking into Oaken’s shop where the little snowman tried different items to find the perfect nose. Turns out it was Oaken who played a role in Olaf’s interest in experiencing Summer (which was quite a surprise to me).

Of course, we got to see Anna, Kristoff, and Sven following their storyline from 2013’s Frozen in the background. The short ended before the scene Olaf would meet up with Anna and the rest in Frozen after he remembered his name because water contained memories (or whatever weirdness the writers introduced in the second film).

Now, as for Oaken being queer… let’s talk. Due to how the character has been portrayed in the franchise, certain people in the Frozen fandom do consider him to be a queer character. A scene, in the first film, that sparked this particular conversation involved Oaken directing Anna and Kristoff’s attention to the sauna to show his family.

Oaken family sauna Frozen
Oaken’s family in “Frozen” (Image: Screengrab)

Fans quickly speculated the man in the sauna was Oaken’s husband sitting with their four kids (the girl to the man’s left being their teen daughter). When the writer and co-director of Frozen, Jennifer Lee, was asked about it, Lee simply said the creative team knew what they were doing when showing that particular scene.

In Once Upon a Snowman, Olaf called Oaken a “fuzzy man bear” and “pink-faced bear man”. I mean, if you’re searching for subtext, you could easily connect Oaken being called a “bear” to the queer bear community.

Once upon a snowman review disney
Oaken and Olaf in ‘Once Upon a Snowman’ (Image: Screengrab)

With chatter about Elsa being a queer character still going on, it will be interesting to see how the creative team will handle Elsa whenever the next film comes out. They can’t continue to be coy about it, right?

Due to the ‘queer representation in animated media’ needle moving forward (though some argue it needs to move faster), maybe when Frozen 3 does come out in 2024 or 2025 (if I were to guess), writers would be more comfortable with showing Elsa in all her queer glory? Maybe Disney will create an entirely new queer Disney Princess? Let’s see what happens.  

All in all, Once Upon a Snowman ended up being an enjoyable little short that made it clear Disney still has a lot it can mine from the Frozen franchise.

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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