|A scene from the Disney movie Frozen (Handout)
Disney's magical animation work for its Oscar-winning film Frozen was based on Quebec City's world-famous Ice Hotel, which director Chris Buck says was "a great inspiration."
Princess Elsa's splendid ice palace, a central element in the animated feature, was created from photos and videos taken at the Ice Hotel, Buck told reporters this week during a promotional appearance at the icy attraction.
Buck, appearing with the film's screenwriter Jennifer Lee, said Frozen was still in the planning stages in February 2009 when he quietly visited the Ice Hotel with a Disney team.
"We weren't even thinking about having an ice palace in the film at that point," Lee recalled. "Instead, we were thinking about a cave."
Buck added: "I took as many photos as I could. They served us well for years."
The Ice Hotel didn't just serve as an architectural inspiration. Disney animators also carefully studied how light passes through ice, by day and by night. All to create the most realistic on-screen special effects possible.
Making art imitate life wasn't all that easy.
"Looking at the first images of the (animated) ice palace, it seemed like it was made of plastic," says Lee. "We didn't know why. We reviewed the photos of the hotel, which let us identify flaws. Then we had to rebuild the (animated) palace. This step took many months of work. It's very difficult to make (CGI) snow and ice look real on-screen."
All their work wasn't in vain. Frozen won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature last month. What's more, the song, "Let It Go," performed by Idina Menzel, was voted best original song.
"I had never been so nervous in my life before the ceremony," said Lee. "I thought about everything that winning an Oscar meant for all the people who worked for several years on this project."
Buck had an extra reason to be emotional.
During his acceptance speech, the 53-year-old paid tribute to his son Ryder, who was struck and killed while crossing a Los Angeles highway in October.
"It was very emotional," said Buck, a longtime Disney animator and director. "We felt that there was someone up there who was taking care of us. It was our guardian angel."
Thirty journalists from around the world were in Quebec City this week for a press event in advance of the March 18 DVD release of Frozen.