With Disney’s 2013 “Frozen” ranking as the highest-grossing animated film of all time and its Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” now an iconic empowerment anthem, how can the filmmakers and songwriters, reunited for “Frozen 2,” top the tale of sisters Elsa and Anna?
“It was all about wanting to tell more of the story,” explains co-director Chris Buck. “We felt like the first one hadn’t quite ended. We let the characters guide us as to what their journeys would be.” Co-director and writer Jennifer Lee adds, “We all committed to telling it the same way, working on the story and integrating music in a way that drives the story forward.”
Their partners in storytelling were songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who penned “Let It Go” and are on their fourth “Frozen” project (including the animated short “Frozen Fever” and the 2018 Broadway musical). Daily story conferences with their tunesmith collaborators began four years ago, Lee says, and the new songs began taking shape in 2017.
Music plays an even greater role in “Frozen 2” than in the original. The siren song that beckons Elsa to the mysterious enchanted forest is the sound of Kulning, a high-pitched Scandinavian yodeling call that composer Christophe Beck discovered and used in the score of the first film. For “Frozen 2,” Norwegian singer Aurora performs an enticing, wordless aria throughout the film.
The Lopezes, too, drew inspiration from the region. “We took a Disney cruise up to Norway and Iceland, where we got to experience the terrain, the glaciers and forests,” Anderson-Lopez reports. “That trip inspired our choices. The first movie looked at love and family through the lens of love versus fear. This movie looks at love and family and life through the lens of change and growth.”
The Oscar-winning songwriting duo penned seven songs for the film, including “All Is Found,” an evocative lullaby that introduces the magical land where the action occurs, and “Some Things Never Change,” a fun early number for the whole cast. Idina Menzel returns as Elsa and delivers a vocal tour de force in “Into the Unknown.” There’s also an emotional number for Kristen Bell’s Anna at her lowest point (“The Next Right Thing”); a showstopper for Elsa at a key moment in the drama (“Show Yourself”); the inevitable comedy song for Olaf (“When I Am Older”); and perhaps most unexpected, an amusing, ’80s-style power ballad for Kristoff and reindeer Sven (“Lost in the Woods”).
“Show Yourself” took six months and three different versions before they landed on the right tone and content, says Robert Lopez. At least four more songs were written and discarded along the way, adds Lee — including one titled, ironically, “Get This Right.”
Score composer Beck highlighted the autumnal colors of the kingdom of Arendelle with an impressionistic use of woodwinds, but his 93-piece orchestra also came in handy for the stormy scenes on land and at sea. Along the way, he incorporated the song melodies as necessary, he says, “to create a musical journey with a beginning, a middle and an end.”