State Department Official Wants Disney’s ‘Frozen’ to Teach Kids About Climate Change

How Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Co. could help fight global warming.

National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Jan. 23, 2015, 6:50 a.m.

A high-rank­ing State De­part­ment of­fi­cial wants to en­list Prin­cess Elsa and a talk­ing snow­man to teach the Amer­ic­an pub­lic about the Arc­tic.

Adm. Robert Papp, the U.S. spe­cial rep­res­ent­at­ive for the Arc­tic, told an audi­ence at the Arc­tic Fron­ti­ers con­fer­ence in Nor­way this week that he met with a Dis­ney ex­ec­ut­ive to dis­cuss rais­ing aware­ness about the po­lar re­gion us­ing char­ac­ters from the wildly pop­u­lar movie Frozen.

You can’t be in this busi­ness and not see Frozen, Papp said, adding that he has watched the movie at least 20 times thanks to his two young grand­daugh­ters. A staffer from his of­fice came up with the idea for Dis­ney to cre­ate pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments fo­cused on the Arc­tic star­ring the movie’s main char­ac­ters: Elsa, a prin­cess with powers over ice and snow; her young­er sis­ter, Anna; a reindeer named Sven; and Olaf, a talk­ing snow­man who loves sum­mer.

“I said, you’ve taught an en­tire gen­er­a­tion about the Arc­tic,” Papp said, de­scrib­ing his ex­change with the Dis­ney ex­ec­ut­ive. “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.”

But Papp said the pitch didn’t go over so well be­cause Dis­ney prefers hap­pi­er tales. “As I con­tin­ued to talk, I could see the ex­ec­ut­ive get­ting more and more per­plexed, and he said: ‘Ad­mir­al, you might not un­der­stand: Here at Dis­ney it’s in our cul­ture to tell stor­ies that pro­ject op­tim­ism and have happy end­ings.’ “

Papp was ap­poin­ted en­voy to the Arc­tic last sum­mer. The ad­mir­al has said that ad­dress­ing cli­mate change will be a top pri­or­ity for the U.S. when it takes the helm of the Arc­tic Coun­cil, an in­ter­na­tion­al for­um, this spring.

Sci­ent­ists warn that the Arc­tic is warm­ing at a rate that is twice as fast as the rest of the world and is highly sus­cept­ible to the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

The State De­part­ment reached out to Dis­ney about rais­ing Arc­tic aware­ness, but it was in­form­a­tion­al only and no col­lab­or­a­tion is planned at this time, a spokes­per­son for the de­part­ment said.

Dis­ney did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a re­quest for com­ment.

As for Papp, he won’t Let It Go. “There’s more yet to come there,” he prom­ised.

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