Tv Review: At Home With Olaf

at home with olaf indexIs it possible to have too much Olaf? Not possible at all.

Usually when a beloved character gets his own film (which I haven’t seen) or his own episodic series, viewers realise that the right amount was already there. In Olaf’s case, the original films are the two instalments of ‘Frozen’ (both I have seen). I think this is proof that we can’t have too much joy (at least one that isn’t artificially produced), wonder, and earnestness in our lives.

This series feels like an unintended result of Disney animators cooped up in their homes, and I’m not complaining at all! I could only imagine how much FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) I would have if I didn’t live in the Internet Age. But then again, I probably wouldn’t have found out that I was missing out. Things aren’t as simple as going to once source and finding all that connects to it. Wait. That’s not right. I guess that’s the upside of becoming a franchise? The person who looks after the brand’s Twitter feed gets to interact with audiences year after year.

It’s an answer to an unasked question: what does the snowman do while he’s off-camera? Well, goofing off, being cute, and cuddly of course (similarly what is said of cats, dogs, and hedgehogs)! Somehow there’s a certain magic when Olaf is on screen and it’s definitely the combination of Josh Gad and the animator responsible (though Hyrum Osmond is credited as creator, seems like each episode is a group effort and there is no one animator credited for the episode) for that scene. For the whole time I’m watching, I definitely forget that it’s Josh’s voice behind the animation.

How quick can you watch it? In a blink! Because Disney has put together a dedicated page for the series. You can also just use the search term “At Home With Olaf” while on YouTube. For caption fans (like me), it’s an absolute delight. Maybe I’m at a point that I can no longer watch anything without captions. That statement is interesting in itself as can listen to podcasts (but not with the necessary audio compression so my ears don’t hate me). Also, it looks like my penchant for captions are paying off as I recently learned that there was quite the struggle to decipher the dialogue of Tenet by cinema goers. Yes, that bias paid off when I saw ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for the first time. I didn’t even know that Bane’s dialogue was difficult to understand until I read the reactions.

My favourite episode would probably be ‘I Am With You‘, as that doesn’t just speak about the current pandemic, but those who are not able to connect due to distance or time. I have no idea how much time went into the research into finding the right clips from other Disney films, but the result is that the second time I watch it, I still get quite emotional. It made me realise that anything can surprise me, as long as I stay open. It’s interesting that deeply dramatic shows (like ‘The Good Wife’ or ‘The Good Fight’) aren’t able to do that, even if they are part of my ‘masterpiece’ list. Then again, I’d definitely choose Olaf getting me all emotional through singing a letter rather than rewatch ‘Beautiful Boy’ and blubber through a mountain of tissues.

A close second would be ‘Sounds’ which starts with Olaf playing with a horn and inadvertently draws in ducklings. I’m guessing this might be his first time encountering them as he just walks around leading them like the Pied Piper of Hamelin and delighted that he has found new friends. Eventually though the mother duck accosts him and steps on the horn, splitting it in two. The snowman looks down sadly at the damaged horn. Before long he picks up the other part of the horn, tries it, and it makes a similar sound to croaking which of course eventually draws some frogs in and brings a smile back to his face (More new friends!). Once again, I was reminded (based on a fellow viewer’s comment) that Olaf can easily find the silver lining.

Not all episodes were animated in the way the two films were, and there seem to be some experimentation going with ‘Ice‘ and makes it feels like a combination of hand painted backgrounds and a two dimensional protagonist. Though it was good to see an alternative of how Olaf could be animated, it does lack the nuances that is beloved with this character (the little facial movements that keep us present with the snowman). Some episodes are funnier the second time around, like ‘Adventure’. I found myself giggling as soon as a headless Olaf started walking across the screen.

Speaking of Olaf and his sentient torso, the two episodes (Disney refers to them as ‘vignettes‘) that have head and and lower half functioning independent of each other aren’t new, since that specific capability was first shown in ‘Frozen’. The initial assumption is that they are both of one mind (kind of like the ‘Little Green Men’ in ‘Toy Story’) appears when Olaf scares the socks off Anna as she and Kristoff search for Elsa. Anna responds by kicking Olaf and knocking his head of and his lower half desperately turns from princess to ice merchant to retrieve his head. However, when Marshmallow goes on the rampage later on Olaf is determined to serve as a distraction. This doesn’t work well as his lower half (once separated) scurries away. Based on that information, I’m going to go with the idea that OLH (Olaf’s Lower Half) is extra cheeky (but has a strong survival instinct).

Comedic moments:

  • The reveal that the point of the snowman hurling himself down the mountain is to pick acorns
  • Before saying ‘mush’ make sure that the harness is also attached to the sled
  • Just a random snowman’s walking around without a head
  • Olaf’s head was slung so far that it took a week for the rest of his body to find him
  • It was Sven
  • Squishy landing
  • Rejected!
  • Josh being credited, when in that episode Olaf doesn’t speak at all.

Not all viewers were delighted as the downside of relying on others to cure your boredom: eventually you’d run out of content. So, if you’re in the middle of recording tracks and just feel a bit low on energy, try watching an episode (or two) then push on for a couple of hours at least, before you consider rewarding yourself with more of them. I’ve learned to pace myself when finding any kind of uplifting (like ones that make me laugh), inspirational, or motivational content. My mistake was to get that feeling (an injection of energy due to laughter or being motivated), then just let it fritter away and finish the rest of the episode rather than work on something (maybe something that’s a pain to do because it had the element of repetitiveness like clearing away clutter) else that could have used that investment.

Josh’s cheekiness also extends to Too Much Information (TMI) moments like what he was wearing when recording the audio. I was definitely wondering: Knit top? Um….I’m sticking to the idea that it’s one of those long shirts (ehm…tops) that go past the knees of its wearer. But I guess TMI moments are basically ‘on brand’ for him based on both his Instagram feed and some of the roles he’s chosen to play?

Since the work is available on YouTube, there is a trove of comments to mine. I definitely did wonder how it works now everyone in Disney is working remotely after reading a comment (though maybe it was more like a joke) about run time within projects. Maybe the animators are just continuing on their projects and don’t have to worry about their salaries.

I keep thinking that the two instalments of Frozen don’t fall in the ‘Comedy’ category (I know! I checked to make sure and they both have ‘comedy’ on their IMDB pages). Though now if there is any doubt this one definitely does. So having been yearning to watch ‘Frozen II’ for awhile now, and when I finally did, the absence of Olaf (and regret that I didn’t purchase at least a DVD rather than a title off Amazon Prime because at least I would have had a shot at access to the audio commentary, if it existed) was obvious.

Of course there’s Josh Gad doing recaps of 2020 as well as ‘Avengers: Endgame‘ via his Instagram feed which is a likely sign that he has not yet grown weary of the magical snowman, who has found a home in our hearts. So in (possible) celebration of finding Samantha in ‘Frozen III’, I await more Olaf. As for the longevity of the episodes and how long they would be available to the public, I do hope that by the time you read this you’ll still be able to watch all of them.

Leigh Lim.
https://twitter.com/LeighLim / https://leighlim.tumblr.com/ /
https://www.instagram.com/laysnotes/

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