Walt Disney wished to adapt Hans Christian Anderson's stories since he began animating, and The Snow Queen was one of them. He collaborated with Samuel Goldwyn in 1943 (the year after Bambi was released) to create a biopic of Anderson, which would include animated sequences from many of Anderson's stories - including The Snow Queen. However, problems arose during pre-production, and ultimately, Disney and Goldwyn politely decided to cancel the project. Disney retained the rights for The Snow Queen, however, and put it on the shelf to develop in a future date. He never touched it again for the rest of his life.
The Walt Disney Company picked up The Snow Queen again in the mid-1990s, following the enormous success of its early Renaissance films (which included The Little Mermaid, another adaptation of Anderson's stories). Full pre-production was scheduled to begin in 2001, but following the retirement and firing of many Disney employees in charge of the project, it was once again scrapped in 2002. For a time, many other directors and writers pitched different versions to the Disney executives, but they were turned down. At one point, the project was going to be transfered over to Pixar, but at the time, Pixar was not owned by Disney and retained the right to choose their own projects. So, finally, in 2004, the film was permanently shelved.
In 2008, future Frozen co-director Chris Buck pitched his version of the film to Disney, entitled Anna and the Snow Queen. He was given the go-ahead to make a traditionally animated film, but after the modest disappointment of The Princess and the Frog, the project was again shelved. Nonetheless, Buck was vehement about making The Snow Queen come to life, and kept most of his notes and project details from the failed movie.
In 2010, he got his chance. Tangled was released in theaters, and was a huge commercial and critical success. Disney realized that audiences still had a place in their hearts for animated fairy tails, and gave Buck the final go-ahead to put his version of The Snow Queen into production. There were several conditions, however: first, it would be computer animated instead of hand-drawn, and second, it would need a new name. Buck renamed the film Frozen - though this was an independent decision from renaming Rapunzel's movie Tangled. He realized that the film was not about Elsa, or Anna, but their relationship to each other and how their relationship affected the rest of their world - in a very frozen way.