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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