Disney's "Frozen" has been a phenomenon. It's been in the top 10 at the box office for 16 straight weeks, bringing in over $1 billion worldwide. It won two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature. And it has been analyzed and picked apart by its fans. We've already looked at some of the "easter eggs" hidden in the film — including a Mickey Mouse doll and a cameo from Rapunzel — but there's one more subtle reference few have ever noticed. In fact, even the person it's based on wasn't told about it.
The song "Love Is an Open Door," which you can see in its entirety above exclusively here on Yahoo Movies, contains a brief moment where Prince Hans, belting out a high note under a waterfall, closes his eyes and raises his arm in an exact copy of a signature move by '70s singing sensation Donny Osmond. And it was put there by a Disney animator who just happens to be Osmond's nephew.
Hyrum Osmond is a Disney veteran who has been animating features at the studio since 2008's "Bolt." On "Frozen," he was the supervising animator for Olaf, the lovable snowman, but he stepped in to animate Prince Hans for that one particular moment. In a phone conversation with Yahoo Movies, Osmond said, "I requested that shot, just because I knew that that was the perfect moment to kind of pepper in that Donny Osmond feel to it." After all, the song between Hans and Princess Anna is the kind of bubblegum pop number that made the Osmonds famous.
Hyrum's father is George Virl Osmond Jr., the eldest of Donny's seven brothers, who was born with a hearing impairment and did not perform on stage with his siblings. But he did work behind the scenes, and Hyrum said he spent time watching his uncle and aunt Marie working on their variety show.
"Obviously we were exposed to the 'Donny and Marie' show. We were on set a lot," Hyrum said. "And me and my brothers and sisters almost playfully mocked our uncles with their signature move, which was basically sort of a tilted head, eyes squinting, with the raising of their arm or arms as they belt out that note." So when it was time for Hans to hit his high note, the younger Osmond wanted to pay tribute to that move: "I just thought it was a perfect moment to kind of hit the Donny Osmond pose there."
It goes by so fast few people would even notice it, including, possibly, Donny himself. "I don’t know that he would even recognize it, to be quite honest," Hyrum told us. "I haven’t talked to him about it actually."
But perhaps Donny would have spotted it if Hyrum's original, more explicit reference had made the final cut. "I originally had the shot with his eyes closed during that entire section, just really belting it out," Hyrum explained, "and the directors felt that was just a little too Donny Osmond. We pulled that back."
Donny Osmond has his own history with Disney animation, having provided the singing voice of the warrior Shang in 1998's "Mulan." But Hyrum revealed that he and his uncle have never crossed paths, professionally. "I run into people at the studio who worked with Donny, or there were ideas to have Donny come in and be the voice of this character or that character," said Hyrum. "But never directly did I work with or talk with Donny about anything Disney."
Apparently, Olaf the snowman in "Frozen" also copies the expressions of an Osmond — that being Hyrum himself. As the supervising animator for the character, he used himself as a guide. "I get that comment that I actually look a bit like Olaf. And that just comes with creating the character and creating those facial expressions," he said. Plus, Hyrum had his own son to model Olaf's movements on: "I watched my five year old at the time — the way he moved — and we tried to kind of copy little things here and there from what he would do."
Osmond worked on "Frozen" for three years, but with the movie out now on Blu-ray and DVD and kids in the house, he's not getting away from those songs he's heard a million times over yet. "It was nice for 'The Lego Movie' to come out, because there was a different addictive song that could now be sung in our home," he joked. But Osmond does admit he's not quite ready to "let it go" yet: "I think those songs mean so much to us and what that film represents for us that I can’t say I’m completely tired of them just yet. I think it’s just sweet that my kids want to sing them over and over again."
The one question Hyrum wouldn't definitively answer: if Prince Hans was a little bit country, or a little bit rock and roll? "You know," he smirked, "I kind of knew that question was coming. I think a little both is what we’ll say."
"Frozen" is out on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download today.