CS Visits Disney Animation to Learn Frozen 2 Story, Music Details
At an early press day at Walt Disney Animation Studios, ComingSoon.net was invited to see scenes from Frozen 2 that included a look at Elsa’s next musical showstopper: “Into the Unknown,” her big follow-up to “Let it Go.” We also got new story details and react to early footage!
Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck were on hand to share a preview that started by taking us into the past. In the film’s opening, we see the royal sisters as children being told a story by their dad, King Agnarr about an Enchanted Forest that he visited as a boy. In it, he encountered the magical spirits of nature: air, fire, water, and earth. In the enchanted environment, he experienced a dangerous brush with the nature of these spirits that almost cost him his life but doesn’t remember what angered them or what saved him. Only that he heard a haunting voice cry out and push everyone out of the forest and creating a thick mist to keep them out.
Little Anna and Elsa are enraptured by the story but their father warns them that the forest is shrouded in a mystery that they should prepare for if the fog lifts and the spirits are awakened again. Excitedly they want to stay up with questions but their mother Iduna sings them a lullaby that was sung to her as a child about a river that leads to a place that leads to the answers of everything they’d want to know.
Expanding on Anna and Elsa’s history through a good memory of their parents raises a lot of questions about what they might have been keeping from their children. In the first Frozen, we had scenes of the sisters being kept apart when they were younger. Getting a glimpse at the royal family happy and acknowledging the magical nature of their world outside of Elsa’s powers, builds the groundwork for the Queen and King perhaps knowing more before their journey to the sea. Having her father be someone who experienced trauma due to elemental spirits in a forest, may have been why he encouraged Elsa to conceal her magical abilities in the hopes that she wouldn’t encounter the dangers he did.
Having the counterpoint to his fears be a lullaby about ancestral knowledge in nature that’s sung to them by their mother. Jennifer Lee (who voiced the character in the first one) shared that she fired herself and cast Evan Rachel Wood to take over, “Evan is amazing and her singing voice sits beautifully between Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel in terms of its parent sweetness and that was an amazing discovery as we get to hear her sing.” And the lullaby she performs plants newly introduced mythology into their head that will come into play when we pick up on Anna and Elsa following the events of the first film.
Serving as the Queen of Arendelle with Anna at her side, Elsa is settling into a routine as a leader. It’s so exciting to see more adventures of a Queen and the challenges she faces in not only governing but also figuring out the new personal relationships she has after being isolated for so long. Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven round out their found family and they share an opening ensemble scene over a game of charades. Olaf uses the power of transformation that flexes his shorthand with Kristoff and Sven but Anna and Elsa don’t quite have the hang of effortless communication with one another. Something is stopping Elsa from being in tune with her sister and while Anna assures her it’s not a big deal with a lullaby–something still keeps Elsa awake at night.
There are voices in Elsa’s head that won’t let her sleep!
We were able to watch the full sequence of “Into the Unknown,” Elsa’s first number of TWO, and were completely blown away by this musical number. It’s yet another all-timer vocal performance from Idina Menzel that will make you feel empowered. Prepare to hear it on repeat over and over.
When asked if there was stress to follow up “Let it Go,” Lee talked about their approach with composers/lyricists Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, “We made a pact when we connected with Bobby and Kristen that we would build the second one the same way as the first, and not let that pressure into the story room. Because every song has to come from the story, just like it did before. Every moment has to be true. At the end of the day we- just like we didn’t know what the world would think of Frozen. We can’t know, but we can know that we did build this the way we believed in and there’s a lot of real emotion and real sharing of experience and real sort of story that was driven the way the first one was.” They would also take scenes from the film that Lee and Buck would share and highlight moments where musical moments could occur naturally.
“Into the Unknown” follows Elsa as she considers the call she hears outside the castle walls she is in by choice. Through the song, Elsa expresses her frustration over a voice that’s calling to her and her refusal to listen even though she REALLY wants to! The distant voice taps into a part of Elsa that she’s ignored for fear that it would only lead to danger and threaten the happy life she has with Anna and the kingdom. Her powers jump out to connect with the voice and unleash an elemental force on Arendelle that propels her, Anna and company on a new adventure.
At the heart of the film, Chris Buck described the through line of the film as something that jumped out to them from their research trip. He said, “It was kind of a stark contrast between Norway and Iceland that framed the concept for us. Anna felt at home in Norway with its fairytale settings, but Elsa felt strangely at home in this dark, mythic Iceland.”
So, while in the past her parents evaded exploring the root of Elsa’s powers, and maybe were lost at sea when they did try to find out more, we have a new story where Anna and Elsa choose to face it on together. That’s the most exciting thing about Frozen 2, seeing how Anna’s potential as a human gets put to the test while we also see Elsa push her powers against elements bigger than her.
In the sea sequence, we’ve gotten a glimpse of Elsa manifesting her ice powers against the sea and a mythical water creature that she encounters. And while her ice bridge is built-in defense, the animators took special notice to make sure Elsa doesn’t regress with her abilities. Also on hand was Animation supervisor Michael Woodside, who worked on Elsa’s power moments, “We’re really looking at what we had established on the first film. She’s been kind of groomed to be the queen. But there’s this nice grace to her.”
He recalled how in the first film, we saw how her powers involuntarily externalized to protect her–which Hans used to describe her as a threat so they decided to step away from that through rooting her movement to who the core of who she is, “Her fingers, when she’s casting the magic, there’s a nice flow to them. Instead of, like, a claw, type of thing. We did something like that in the first film– that moment where she was being attacked by those guys. And, you know, she was kind of doing kind of like a monster type claw. In this film she creates things. Huge pieces of magic like, quickly. She envisions something and it’s, and it’s created.” Michael likened the shift of her power being like going from Ballet in the first film to modern dance in this one.
Solidifying Elsa as a mythically powered heroine going on a journey with her sister who isn’t, creates intriguing stakes. Jennifer Lee proudly brings the sisters to the forefront, “Anna is your perfect fairytale character. She’s an ordinary hero, not magical. She’s optimistic. Whereas Elsa is the perfect mythic character. Mythic characters are magical. They carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. In fact, the mythic characters often meet a tragic fate and we realized we had two stories going together, mythic story and a fairytale story. In the mythic aspect of it, the fear of that tragic fate is something that Anna’s been worrying about and thus protect her sister from.”
It will be interesting to see how despite their differences, Anna and Elsa will find a way to overcome obstacles to protect their kingdom together and strengthen their bond. We can’t wait to follow them “Into the Unknown” in Frozen 2 which opens November 22nd!