As I sit to write this, it is a balmy 20 degrees farenheit outside (or -6.66667 celsius). And though I’m usually quite fond of the cold, I’ll admit that, like the lovable Olaf, I’m daydreaming about summer, and sun, and all things hot. Ah, to be lounging on a white sand beach. Listening to the sound of the rolling waves. Drinking out of a pineapple. Heaven.
Which leads us to this week’s focus: the perpetually charming and always singable ‘In Summer.’ The song was part of 2013’s mega-hit Frozen and, next to Let It Go, is easily the most popular and memorable moment in the film.
The music in the film was composed by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez (co-creator of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon musicals) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (the couple also wrote the music for Walt Disney World’s Finding Nemo: The Musical, Frozen II, and the songs of Coco.)
The number is performed shortly after the characters of Anna and Sven meet Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad. Time Magazine described the piece as, “”A soft-shoe number with brilliant choreography of character, voice and visuals (it ends with a swirling tracking shot that quotes the one that accompanied Julie Andrews singing ‘The Sound of Music’), ‘In Summer’ makes Olaf’s weather delusion sound and look deliciously delirious.”
In 2014, the couple sat down with Professor W. Anthony Sheppard of Williams College to discuss their song writing process.
“We don’t really divvy it up,” Robert Lopez said. “We talk and talk and talk. First about the story, making sure the story’s right and the song is in the right place. Then we talk and talk some more about what the song should be called. And then we just start playing. We start improvising.”
“We have a big white board,” Kristen Lopez adds. “I just put a whole bunch of ideas and lyrics and phrases up, and then like a day or two later it starts to gel into something.”
Later in the interview, the couple explained that an earlier version of ‘In Summer’ was titled ‘Hot, Hot, Ice. According to Anderson-Lopez it, “was like ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ meets Simon & Garfunkel…it didn’t work.”
When composing the piece, the couple made use of numerous triplets (defined as a three-note group that can be played in the same time duration as a two-note group), which help give the music the frolicking quality heard as Olaf dreams about playing in green fields underneath the summer sun.
The couple also made use of their prior knowledge of Josh Gad and his vocal ability when writing the piece. Gad originated the role of Elder Cunningham in the first Broadway production of ‘The Book of Mormon,’ for which Lopez composed the music.
Talking about his role as Olaf, Gad stated that the character, “…loves to hug people. That’s his great gift. He is so full of joy…He doesn’t really understand the concept of heat and summer, and the one thing he loves more than anything is the idea of summer, the magic that summer might be. Even though he doesn’t understand the consequences of what that means and so he embraces this notion that, in a world in which there can be summer, he has yet to experience something like that. And that’s what he strives for.”
It was that very naivety and innocence (captured so perfectly in the song ‘In Summer’) that Gad loved about the character. In a behind-the-scenes interview he stated, “There’s something about that youthful innocence where you can go all the way. Your sandbox is endless with that kind of character…This character does the most insane things without any fear of what might happen.”
Despite that, Gad does not view him as simple comic relief, stating that the character, “lives to love.”
In another interview, this time with Rotten Tomatoes, Gad reflected on the film’s music stating, “The music is so powerful in that, it’s not just there to underscore as is often the case, but it’s there to emotionally take us on this journey.”
Speaking specifically of ‘In Summer,’ he recalled, “I grew up watching Aladdin and I remember sitting in the theater and watching Robin Williams belt out his big number, ‘You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me,’ and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I wanna do that someday. That is my big dream.’”
Given the popularity of the character and the number, it’s shocking to learn that it almost didn’t make it to the final film. That’s because the initial version of Olaf was nothing like the version we ended up seeing, and his big show stopping number was viewed as more irritating than charming.
A ScreenRant article quotes Jennifer Lee (director of ‘Frozen’) as stating, “When I saw the screening — I wasn’t on the project yet — every time he appeared I wrote, ‘Kill the f-ing snowman.’ I just wrote, ‘Kill him. I hate him. I hate him.'”
In fact, his character was originally designed to be just as icy as the character Elsa seemed on the surface. Fortunately, as noted in Variety, “…a “sneaky” staff animator had worked out a three-page script treatment with Gad in mind after he impressed filmmakers with a late night TV appearance. Lee found him irresistible, and the rest is box office history.”
As the temperature continues to drop around me, I’ll be listening to the song and fantasizing about warmer days. Ready to sing along with me?
Bees’ll buzz, kids’ll blow dandelion fuzz
And I’ll be doing whatever snow does
A drink in my hand, my snow up against the burning sand
Prob’ly getting gorgeously tanned
I’ll finally see a summer breeze blow away a winter storm
And find out what happens to solid water when it gets warm
And I can’t wait to see what my buddies all think of me
Just imagine how much cooler I’ll be
Da da, da doo, ah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, boo
The hot and the cold are both so intense
Put ’em together, it just makes sense
Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle
But put me in summer and I’ll be a happy snowman
When life gets rough I like to hold onto my dreams
Of relaxing in the summer sun, just letting off steam
Oh, the sky will be blue, and you guys’ll be there too
When I finally do what frozen things do