A Golden Moment After Dark Days for the Buck Family

The cheer that went up in La Cañada Flintridge on Sunday night was for Chris Buck, the LCF resident and co-director of the Disney smash-hit “Frozen,” which was honored at the 71st Golden Globe Awards as the Best Animated Film.
It was another chapter in an emotional few months for Buck, whose son Ryder was killed in late October after being struck by two cars while walking across the 2 Freeway.
“I have to say, I’ve been fairly schizophrenic the last few months,” Buck said Tuesday. “When my son was killed, I was doing publicity in New York and we flew back for the service and everything. I was there for about two weeks before we kind of had to get rolling again. But I think it was a good distraction.”
At his first Golden Globes ceremony Sunday, Buck took the stage to accept the award with fellow director Jennifer Lee. They thanked those who helped make the film, and Buck added, “And we want to thank all of the fans who have taken ‘Frozen’ into their hearts.”
A critical and commercial success, the film has been a juggernaut since it opened domestically on Nov. 27. It has surpassed $300 million in the United States and $700 million internationally.
“With all the movies you work on, you put your best foot forward, and you hope that it’s just a story that an audience will really take into their hearts and really enjoy,” Buck said. “You want to make ’em laugh and make ’em cry, and this one has been extraordinary. I haven’t experienced anything like this.”
“Frozen” loosely follows the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen” and offers a story about love that is unlike what audiences typically experience in animated Disney features.
“We played with the definition of true love,” Buck said. “It’s about family; the sister relationship is key to the movie. That was one of the key things I was thinking of when we started: Is there a way we can try something a bit different? Because there are many, many forms of true love. And I’m grateful that the audience was receptive.”
Buck is a veteran of the movie business, with contributions to Disney staples including “The Little Mermaid” and “Pocahontas.” He also directed “Surf’s Up,” the 2007 release that garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. Buck celebrated his 50th birthday that year at the Academy Awards.
With the Golden Globes in the books, this year’s Oscar nominations were to be announced today.
“[The Golden Globe honor] feels great,” said Buck, who is still on the go publicizing the movie, which will be released in China in February.
“We’ve been on a crazy schedule. The movie was down to the wire. We finished at the end of October and then we went and did publicity, and then the movie came out and we’re still doing publicity. We really haven’t had a chance to catch our breath. And in the middle of this, the Golden Globes ­— which is just wild. It was a treat, and I think I’m even more excited for my crew than myself, because the crew put so much of their heart and soul into this movie.”
Buck was able to pause for a few days before the Golden Globes.
“I had a chance last week to go away to Big Sur and go hiking for several days,” he said. “I went by myself and cleared my head, and it was wonderful. I think I’m a little more grounded than I have been, because I was here and there, as you can imagine, not too focused.
“But [wife] Shelley and I are both doing as well as can be expected and looking at all the positives that have come out of a tragedy. That’s what keeps us going.”
Like Shelley, Chris Buck said he has been touched by the all the testimonies shared by people who had known Ryder, a cancer survivor and musician who graduated from La Cañada High School in 2008.
“We were floored by the reception at the service,” Chris Buck said. “Over 1,200 people where there, and it was just an outpouring of love. That really kept us going.
“And the stories that I got from his friends, the people he had touched — we had no idea that had happened. When your child is older and still at home, but they come and drop their backpack and go out and do their thing, you only see so much. You don’t see what they’re really doing in the world. And he was doing amazing things out there and touching people and changing lives.
“As a parent, you strive to raise someone who is like that, who will help other people and be a good citizen to the world. And he was way, way more than I ever expected.
“So I look at that on the positive side of it and try to keep moving forward. And I knew that he would’ve said, ‘Dad, keep moving, even with this. You’ve got the movie.’ He was always such a supporter of mine, and he was an artist, too. He would’ve said, ‘Keep doing it. Go for it.’”

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