Even though the filmmakers were still hard at work finishing the highly anticipated Frozen II in time for its November 22nd release date, they invited members of the media out to Walt Disney Animation Studios on September 6th to preview various parts of the film, as well as some of the new original songs. Directed by Jennifer Lee (who’s also the Chief Creative Officer at WDAS) and Chris Buck (Tarzan) and produced by Peter Del Vecho (who’s also Senior Vice President of Production, overseeing the production for all of the feature films at WDAS), the sequel to the highest grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office will see Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) and Sven set out on a dangerous journey to discover the answers to why she was born with magical powers, and they’ll learn whether those powers are enough to ensure their survival.
At an early preview day for Frozen 2 held at Walt Disney Animation Studios, members of the media got to take part in a variety of presentations showcasing how the story developed, the evolution of Anna and Elsa, the production design, new locations and characters, and the new original song. Here is a collection of 20 things to know, from everything we learned about the highly anticipated sequel. And for recently revealed soundtrack details, click here.
When the first Frozen film was released in theaters six years ago, they never could have imagined how much it would mean to people of all ages. As a result, they knew they would have to take extra care with the sequel, and the cast and crew have been pouring their heart and soul into Frozen II for four years now.
- At Walt Disney Animation Studios, they never make a sequel unless the filmmakers themselves have an idea for a film and a desire to tell it. That’s why even though Frozen II is the studio’s 58th animated feature, it’s only their fourth sequel, and it’s their first animated musical sequel.
- The filmmakers realized that there was more story to tell when people kept asking, where did Elsa get her icy powers? It’s a question that they were wrestling with themselves, which lead them to the understanding that Frozen’s ending was really just the beginning for Anna and Elsa, having newly been reunited as sisters.
- Although there were episodes of the ABC TV series Once Upon A Time that included Anna and Elsa, the filmmakers do not see any of that story as canon, and they made a point not to see it, so that it wouldn’t affect their storytelling. They see Frozen 1 and 2 as one complete story.
The work on the sequel began when the filmmakers and artists went on a research trip in September 2016, to Norway, Finland and Iceland in 2016, where they were deeply inspired by the beauty of the locales. The Fall colors of Norway, the waterfalls, and the stark beauty of Iceland, all made it into the finished film. The contrast between Norway and Iceland helped the filmmakers frame the differences between Anna and Elsa. Anna feels at home in Norway with its fairytale setting, while Elsa feels at home in the dark, mythic Iceland. Anna is the perfect fairytale character because she’s an ordinary hero who’s not magical and she’s optimistic. Elsa is the perfect mythic character because she’s magical and carries the weight of the world on their shoulders. Mythic characters often meet a tragic fate, and it’s that fate that Anna is worried about and trying to protect her sister from.
- Because they knew that they would need new original songs for the sequel, the filmmakers brought songwriting team Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez back in to work their magic. They worked very closely together, every day, either via video conference or in person, to deliver the seven songs that are included in the film. And not only does Elsa have two songs in the film, but Kristoff will finally get his own song.
- Along with returning voice actors Kristen Bell (“Anna”), Idina Menzel (“Elsa”), Josh Gad (“Olaf”) and Jonathan Groff (“Kristoff”), the sequel includes the addition of Evan Rachel Wood as Anna and Elsa’s mother, Queen Iduna, and Sterling K. Brown as Lieutenant Mattias, a character who’s been trapped in the Enchanted Forest since a fierce battle broke out over 30 years ago, when Anna and Elsa’s grandfather was king. Co-director Jennifer Lee voiced Queen Iduna in the first film, but was replaced with Wood when they needed someone who could sing.
- With the initial question of where Elsa’s powers come from, the film will ask a variety of questions like, where are Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven now? What’s going on with them? How have they grown since Anna saved Elsa’s life? Why was Anna born the way she was? Where were the parents going when their ship went down? And is there really such a thing as happily ever after? Frozen II is ultimately a mythic fairytale about home and family, self-discovery, courage and the power to never give up.
- While Frozen 1 had the thematic villain of fear vs. love, Frozen II has antagonistic forces and obstacles, instead of a single big bad villain.
As children, Anna and Elsa are told a true story by their father, King Agnarr, about the enchanted forest that he visited as a boy. That forest was ruled by the magical spirits of nature – air, fire, water and earth – and while those spirits can be enchanting, they can also be dangerous. On his visit, something went very wrong and enraged the spirits, and Agnarr barely survived. And while he doesn’t know who saved him, he knows that a haunting voice cried out and a magical mist enveloped the forest and shoved everyone out. Their father warns Anna and Elsa that they forest may wake again and that they must be prepared for whatever it may bring. Because young Anna and Elsa are so concerned about this possible danger, their mother sings them a lullaby about a place that has all of the answers to everything you could ever want to know. The lullaby is the first song in the film, and the first time that audiences will hear Evan Rachel Wood sing.
- Present-day Arendelle in the film is actually three years after the gates were opened, and Anna couldn’t be happier. She has her sister back, the gates are open, Elsa is queen, and she has Kristoff, Olaf and Sven. Olaf now has a permafrost that allows him to fully enjoy Summer without the worry of melting. But all of that changes when Elsa begins to hear a voice that’s a distant cry that only she can hear, and that’s from the Enchanted Forest that their father told them about as children.
- With Elsa waking up the forest and the spirits, Arendelle is in great danger, and the trolls warn her that, in order to save her kingdom, she must go into the Enchanted Forest and find the voice that’s calling her. Once in the forest, the spirits of nature will challenge Elsa at every step of the way, and Anna promises not to let anything happen to her sister, as she sets out on her journey. But an enchanted forest is a metaphor for life, and change comes for you whether you like it or not, so it’s hard to avoid wherever that will lead. When everything you thought you knew proves to be wrong, relationships will be tested and powers that were once too strong may suddenly not be enough.
Elsa realizes that, as much as Anna wants to help, she must embark on this transformative path alone. On her journey, she will have to face the Dark Sea, which contains a majestic and foreboding water spirit, called the Nokk. The Nokk comes from old Norse myths from the Nordic region and Scandinavian culture, and is a horse that’s made of water. In creating the character, the designers had to think about the Nokk not only above water but in water, and decide how much or how little water they would need to describe a horse while playing with the abstraction of that design. As warrior and protector of the Dark Sea, the Nokk is like a wild stallion that hasn’t been tamed yet. Another challenge with the Nokk was the fact that it has eyes that you don’t really see where they’re looking at, so you have to track the horse’s attention by looking at where its ears are pointing and you can get a sense of its emotion by how its ears are reacting.
- Frozen II introduces the Earth Giants, who are made of rock. They’re asymmetrical, which makes them very difficult to move around, and they’re also super heavy. While designing their visual look, they had to take the enormous scale of the characters into account and integrate them into the environment, as beings made of rock. They also infused some of the DNA of the trolls from Frozen 1, as they developed the living and breathing creatures. In order to be able to have them walk, they devised a way to have the rocks slide around rather than bend, to help preserve their stone-like features.
- The challenge in creating Gale, the wind spirit, was figuring out how to draw wind, when it’s not something you can actually see. So, the solution was to think about debris, sticks, leaves and things that might be in the forest and that they could use to define Gale. The designers also used color, pattern and light to help bring the character to life. With a character like Gale, the audience also has to be able to track her through a scene, so it was important to have the right elements in each scene to be able to show that she’s there.
The goal with the creation of Bruni, the salamander, was to make him appealing, super cute and as adorable as possible. They looked at salamanders, lizards, iguanas, and all sorts of reptilian creatures for reference in designing the character. Salamanders move very slow, but they wanted a little more speed with Bruni, who’s more of a cartoony character than a realistic one.
- In Frozen 1, they focused on a jeweled winter palette that worked beautifully with the snow. In Frozen II, they deal with fall and the fall color palette, which includes ]everything from yellow to dark reds and browns, and it’s all on the warm side of the spectrum. So, in order to way the two sensibilities together, they went more with magentas and reds with a lacing of yellow, instead of focusing on straight oranges and yellows.
- In Frozen II, Anna’s costumes and colors signify the fall season. The filmmakers decided that Elsa will always be in a light color, so that she looks like ice, which makes it challenging to find a color that’s brilliant and strong enough, when they’re next to each other. Anna’s chosen travel costume is actually number 122, and it was actually originally meant for Elsa, but they ended up shortening the hemline and giving her a heavy cape, which ultimately had more of an Anna feel. They think about every component and detail on each outfit, like the embroidery, where the orientation is, and the seams.
- For a character like Elsa, who is complex and constantly evolving, her costumes are constantly evolving with her. When audiences first met little Anna and little Elsa, they were both really bright and effervescent, but as Elsa becomes more secretive and more secluded and closed off, so do her silhouettes. She has higher collars and gloves, longer sleeves and longer hemlines, and her colors get darker, which is meant to show you that she’s becoming more and more closed off to the world. “Let it Go” was the first time that she returned to the first colors that we met her in, with a silhouette that was more freeing and meant to show you the authentic Elsa. With “Into the Unknown,” she’s in the darker color again, which is an important piece to her puzzle in Frozen II. Elsa can also make her own clothes out of ice, so there’s more freedom with the use of more ethereal materials, including some tulles and silks. She cannot wear anything that feels too warm, so magenta and violet are as far as they can push things with color.
- In the first film, Elsa’s movements were based more in ballet. In Frozen II, her movements are more modern dance-like. They balance the breaths the character takes with the movement of her body, when conveying the emotion of each scene. Elsa also has a grace to her, and her fingers have a nice flow to them when she’s casting magic, instead of forming into a claw-like shape.
Frozen II opens in theaters on November 22nd.