During the event at Walt Disney Animation Studios, I was lucky enough to take part of a roundtable interview with the creative team behind Frozen II, director/screenwriter Jennifer Lee, director Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho. Through this we learned a lot about the process of how the movie was conceived and completed. There are some spoilers about the end of the movie.
The first question was why they decided to do a sequel to Frozen. Disney doesn’t normally do sequels for their animated movies, what was different this time around? The answer was simple: they loved the characters too much. But they also concede that there were a lot of questions at the end of the first movie. They admitted to being inspired by their children and the journeys that they were about to embark on with going to college and such.
Was there a difference between how the two movies were approached? It turns out there wasn’t. As Lee stated, “It has to come to the filmmakers. It has to be inspired by them, there has to be something that speaks to them and we knew if we didn’t build it the same as we built the first one, we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t stand there. And I’m so proud of it and we knew we were never going to be everything, you know, but if we stay true to the characters that we built it for the reasons that we all tend to believe in and we could go proud of it and it would it would fit with Frozen 1.”
It was interesting to hear that they worked on journals for all the characters. In regard to the music that has become so important to these films, Lee said, “Music-wise, it’s all driven by story. It wasn’t driven by outside and what should be the song and I think for us that was because we were taking on something we’ve never done before ‘cause there’s never been a theatrical release animated musical the way we do have.”
The team was asked if there would be shorts on Disney+ involving Kristoff and Sven or even Olaf. Nothing was confirmed, but maybe one day we’ll learn more about Kristoff’s childhood.
We circled back to the music and how they went from the anthem of “Let It Go” to the new songs. “I like on the first film we have to put that expectation outside the room and really again goes back to character in story and let the songs go from there. And we did talk a lot about the Broadway plays in the first act, how they establish the characters.”
Elsa’s songs were evolutions of “Let It Go”, instead of just copying and pasting her journey from the first film. “Let It Go” is a rebellion song. “It’s that moment we’re just like fire and there’s the moment we have to go, ‘Okay, well, now you have these powers are accepted. What you going to do with your life?’ “Into the Unknown” dares her to go forward. ‘Are you going to step out of your comfort zone and really give your gift to life and that means you have known?’ And then “Show Yourself” is the arrival of Elsa full essence as an adult as someone who accepts her place in the world to someone who had all of her power and understand this is it for me. Then, hearing what those songs were, we were in love when we just did look. And it felt true and we felt like that was the best way to approach it.”
The first choice for the film was figuring out what would be a satisfying ending for Anna and Elsa. Anna’s ending was decided very early on because of her leadership qualities and “You know Anna kind of deserves to be Queen. She just is that character.” For Elsa, they felt it was a shame that with her connection to nature she was cooped up in a castle. “We kept thinking Elsa needs to be free and so those two things would have guided us.”
Did any character arcs take the team by surprise? They acknowledge how crucial Kristen Bell was for the character of Anna and where she ended up at the end. “Optimism is a choice.” And even with all that optimism, she still struggles. “Having her have to confront those feelings at that part of the journey. And that moment and do the next right thing when she’s all alone and she has to face it all alone. And she has to make a choice.”
About “The Next Right Thing”, they said “We talked about being the one that you have a moment where she hits a point you don’t think she could hit to say when we all do. And I think that when we found that is when every single choice in the movie had to happen. Getting off the floor in that one decision that was everything, but it was really hard. We were willing to go there, but we felt like that was in important right she did the right thing for everyone.”
For me, this discussion was important because that song is very intense, especially for small children. But we all have those moments and it’s great that children were seeing a healthy way to cope with difficult situations. And the filmmakers know that a major coping mechanism is fairy tales that help you through life.
A major question asked after the movie was why Elsa didn’t get a partner. The team decided that she was nowhere ready to be in a relationship. “She barely can talk to people and kind of connects to the world with her sister.” It was essential that they weren’t going to force anything on the characters. “They’re going to tell us where they go where they’re ready to go. I loved the idea of her having a beautiful romantic love is and that she got to step into a power with the memory of her mother looking over her meant so much more to us and what it was.” Sister and family love is just as important as romantic love, which is a great message to send to children.
There was some discussion about the Broadway musical that’s also touring across the country. Lee helped write the book, but did she include elements for the sequel within there? She says there are hints, but mostly it was helpful to stay connected to the characters by the experience. Since the sequel was released, the musical has incorporated some jokes from the sequel, like Samantha.
What were their favorite scenes/sequences? Lee answered the charades scene at the beginning and “Show Yourself”. Buck answered Elsa’s final scene, while Del Vecho said (*spoiler*) Olaf’s death.
Since we were shown deleted scenes earlier in the day, we asked them about those and how hard it is to get rid of certain scenes. Lee spoke about the scene where Elsa shows Anna the memory of their parents. “It made me teary-eyed where Elsa shows Anna the memory.” But the pacing and energy wasn’t right for that moment.
“Elsa was back in Arendelle with her and we didn’t want them to ever say goodbye ‘cause they’re not. They’re just next door to each other. It was never a goodbye and there was something about having to each other.”
At that point in the film, Anna had more insecurity, but it wasn’t necessary. “It was a reinforcing look at your own family. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe in you, it was me they’re worried about. I’m glad it’s on the DVD.”
The next deleted scene that was asked about was “Get This Right”, which was Kristoff’s proposal to Anna. “We love the song. You know we loved it from the beginning of the movie.” But it didn’t fit in act one where it was originally placed. “They would have no journey together or they had to flip the journey. And then they start breaking up. What was a genuine part of the struggle was this idea of him wanting to move forward and it was but having to connect with his feelings so it was kind of broke this story for us. Anna and Elsa is the main story. The journey was how he grows up and he understood those things were bigger.”
All in all, it was an informative interview and the amount of care they have for these characters was wonderful to hear.
Frozen II will be released on digital February 11th and Blu-ray on February 25th.