The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Disney cool on State Department pitch to use ‘Frozen’ to teach climate change

Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad, and Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Groff, in a scene from the animated feature “Frozen.” (Disney via AP)

When a senior State Department official asked a Disney executive if they wanted to build a public service announcement, he was told to let it go.

Adm. Robert Papp, the U.S. special representative for the Arctic, visited Disney in California with an idea to use the beloved characters from the highest-grossing animated film of all time, “Frozen,” to teach children about climate change.

Papp shared this story during a conference in Norway as first reported by National Journal.

But when Papp made his pitch to Disney — the purveyor of happily ever after — the executive didn’t take to such a depressing tale. (This from the people who once warned, ‘they cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face …‘)

“I said, you’ve taught an entire generation about the Arctic,” Papp said, relaying his conversation with the Disney exec. “Unfortunately, the Arctic that you’ve taught them about is a fantasy kingdom in Norway where everything is nice. What we really need to do is educate the American youth about the plight of the polar bear, about the thawing tundra, about Alaskan villages that run the risk of falling into the sea because of the lack of sea ice protecting their shores.”

Papp described the executive as perplexed at the idea that Princesses Elsa and Anna, Olaf the snowman, and Sven the reindeer would star in PSAs making dire warnings about the rapidly warming Arctic. The executive told him, ‘Admiral, you might not understand, here at Disney it’s in our culture to tell stories that project optimism and have happy endings.’ ”

So, Disney doesn’t see the whole climate change thing ending well?

But Papp, like the young Anna, isn’t giving up on convincing Disney to play, hoping still for a future State-Disney partnership: “There’s more yet to come there,” he said.

(You can watch Papp share the exchange here beginning at the 45-minute mark.)