Frozen 2 was a four-year process in the making. In the past few years, the cast and crew have kept the worldwide phenomenon alive by working on various shorts like Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. But now co-director and writer Jennifer Lee, co-director Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho, along with the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad all return for the long-awaited sequel of the beloved animated musical.
Geeks Of Doom joined a group of journalists for a rare opportunity of a sneak peek of Frozen 2 to learn all about why Walt Disney Animation Studios returned to Arendelle and what it takes to make a sequel happen.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the release of the highly anticipated sequel, we will be sharing what we saw from the sneak preview, including a look at the new characters that will appear, how to build a musical ballad, and the new story arcs for Anna and Elsa. But before all of that, we will share what Lee, Buck, and Del Vecho had to say about the sequel, the research they did, working with Oscar-winners Bobby and Kristen Lopez, the new characters that you will meet, and more.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ lack of sequels isn’t all that surprising considering that everyone there believes that they would not come back to a film for a sequel unless there was more of a story to be told. In the case of Frozen 2, fans wanted to know where Elsa’s powers came from, how have they grown since she saved her sister, where have these characters been since their journey ended in the first movie, where were Anna and Elsa’s parents going when the ship went down, and is there such a thing as happily ever after? These are the questions that Lee and Buck have been thinking about as well.
Frozen 2 is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 58th animated feature, its fourth sequel, and a first theatrical animated musical sequel of its kind. Set three years after the gates of Arendelle have opened, Anna couldn’t be happier. She has her sister back, and Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven are still by their side. But when the kingdom is in danger, the four embark on a journey outside of Arendelle to search for the answers to save their home and find out why Elsa has ice powers.
Producer Peter Del Vecho, a 24-year veteran at the studio, teams up, once again, with co-director Chris Buck, and co-director, and now a chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, Jennifer Lee. Along with their animation crew, the trio traveled to Norway, Finland, and Iceland to do research for the upcoming sequel. There, they discovered that there was a stark contrast between Norway and Iceland. This would serve as the inspiration for the two differing arcs between Anna and Elsa. Anna would feel much more at home in Norway with its fairy tale setting, whereas Elsa felt much more at home with mythic Iceland. And we will have more on that later.
So, in order to make Frozen 2 work, Lee and Buck brought back Oscar-winning duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who were a vital part the Frozen team. The two are behind the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.” Lee confirmed that Frozen 2 will have seven songs and that each of the leads will have at least one song. But Elsa will have two. Those who attended the D23 Expo and the journalists who were at the preview event got to hear at least one, “Into The Unknown.” We will have a little bit more about what goes into creating a musical sequence talk later on in the weeks leading up to the film’s release.
Buck said Frozen was merely the end of a chapter of a much larger story. Where the first ended with sisters reuniting with each other, the second will take a different direction. But Anna and Elsa aren’t the only ones who have changed. Olaf has permafrost and now can enjoy warmer seasons, like summer. Meanwhile, Kristoff is deeply in love with Anna and will pop the big question, if he ever gets the chance to do it.
And as with all sequels, there will be new characters and some that will have significantly more screen time. Evan Rachel Wood joins the cast as Queen Iduna, the mother of Anna and Elsa. What’s funny is that Lee voiced the original Queen Iduna. She joked that because the role now required acting and singing, Del Vecho fired her. She added that Wood’s voice pairs well with Bell and Menzel’s as there is a power and sweetness to it.
Sterling K. Brown also joins the cast as Lieutenant Matis, a character who has been trapped in an enchanted forest since a fierce battle broke out years ago when Anna and Elsa’s grandfather was king. This forest is protected by four magical spirits of nature: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. “Just like in nature, sometimes these spirits can be enchanting,” Buck said. “And at other times, they can be dangerous.”
The young Anna and Elsa are curious about the enchanted forest and both have their questions. However, their father King Agnor cannot provide any answers. So to calm them down, their mother sings them a lullaby about a place that has all the answers to everything you ever wanted to know. It’s the same song that we heard at the D23 Expo earlier this year.
Elsa is happy now that she has been reunited with her sister, and the gates of Arendelle are now open. But she is haunted by a distant siren voice that only she can hear. This is a voice that we will hear very early in the film, so it’s a connection that the audience will know. To make sure that connection is established, the audience will hear it during the family game night scene and plenty of times again during the amazing “Into The Unknown” ballad that we saw during D23.
While many of us don’t know the extent or limitations of it, it is revealed that there is a connection between Elsa’s powers and the enchanted forest when the ice crystals that form around here have the same four symbols for the elements of air, earth, fire, and water. Again, we won’t get into spoilers, but three elements are reacting, leaving only one that is untouched. And if something isn’t done to stop these reactions, it would put the whole kingdom of Arendelle in danger.
To save Arendelle, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf embark on a journey through the enchanted forest where the siren sounds call to her. There, Lee says Elsa “will be challenged every step of the way.” This enchanted forest is a place where “relationships are tested,” “everything you thought you knew is proven to be wrong,” “and powers you thought were too strong for the world may not be enough.”
Though the enchanted forest may be mysterious, it also can be a bit playful as well. It is home to Gale, a wind spirit that starts to mess around with Olaf, who then joyfully sings a song about how all the strange things that are happening around him will eventually make sense and have an explanation when he is older. But the enchanted forest also has another side to it. After Anna puts herself in danger to protect her older sister, Elsa realizes that she must go on the rest of this perilous journey alone. And it is at the Dark Sea where Elsa encounters a Nokk – a mythical water spirit that takes the form of a wild stallion.
Of course, Lee, Buck, and Del Vecho could not reveal everything to us, but they did share a little bit about how Frozen 2 would subvert the idea of a fairy tale having a happy ending. During the Q&A, Lee spoke about how Elsa’s control at the end of the first Frozen would be put to the challenge when the forest confronts her with an ultimate test. The co-director compared that to real life. Here’s what she said:
“That’s life. I think that is a big part of what we are looking at. We always ask, ‘Is there such a thing as happily ever after?’ We all know that everything works out, life throws you a curveball or a new path, and we have looked at that. How do you cope when life changes abruptly? But also that idea that Elsa, while she has been accepted, which is beautiful, there has got to be more going on inside of her and having to answer that call in life, the thing that speaks to you, is scary, can be dangerous, depending, but it is an important thing to explore.”
And she realizes the dangers of telling a young audience that what they’ve been told about fairy tale endings is wrong. So Lee said Frozen 2 combines what the fairy tale narrative does and how you can play with it. Here’s what she said:
“Fairy tales are ultimately are for children, in a sense, originally, where what you do is you take an ordinary person and put them in something crazy and unknown and in the belly of the beast and you make great obstacles for them, but you show them how they persevere and come out the other side. And the ‘happily ever idea’ is a thing of saying you can survive anything, and I fundamentally believe in that. I think what was fun to do, though we flipped a lot of tropes in Frozen I , is to play with those tropes again and say, ‘okay, we done the happily ever after for the girls, in that sense that they have come out the other side of some great struggle, much stronger.’ And then we’re taking it a step further and going, ‘Yeah, but they are still here, and what could life through,’ that was worth exploring as well. I think that they are different things.”
In a way, Frozen did play around with those fairy tale tropes that we are familiar with. Lee used Hans as an example of flipping the Prince Charming trope. He was a too good to be true prince charming, but in reality, he was a terrible person who was just using Anna to jump ahead of the line to the throne.
“We didn’t want to listen to too much out there, in the zeitgeist of what everybody’s wishes for the next movie was,” Buck said. “We wanted to tell a story that was true to the characters. And we dug in and we got excited about doing a sequel when we did a short called Frozen Fever. And we had a few months off of those characters, and when we saw them alive again in animation, we both went, ‘oh my gosh!’ I love these characters. I love this world. We knew we had more story to tell.”
One thing that will be left up to the audience to determine is who the antagonist will be. Lee confirms that there will be a lot of “antagonistic forces” that the core group will come across in Frozen 2. “Frozen had a thematic villain, fear vs love,” Lee said. “We have a lot of great Disney villains, and will continue to do so, and I believe in the Disney villain, but I also, again, like to mess with tropes in the writing, and that was important to Chris, we can say in terms of antagonism and villainous forces, we got that, but we are going to do it in the Frozen way.”
Frozen 2 may be a musical adventure that is full of excitement, danger, humor, and song, Buck said all of it boils down to Anna and Elsa’s relationship. He had his own thoughts on whether or not there is a villain in the film, saying that sometimes the struggles between siblings can serve as an antagonist.
We will have more from our coverage of the Frozen 2 sneak preview later this week and in the weeks leading up to the film’s release.
Frozen 2 opens in theaters on November 22, 2019.