Why the Second Time’s the Charm for ‘Frozen’ Filmmakers

Disney’s “Frozen” turned the fairytale paradigm on its head when it swept into theaters in 2013, inspiring a generation of freshly empowered Annas and Elsas to “Let It Go” on its way to winning Oscars for animated feature and original song.

Six years later, directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and the original voice cast have returned with “Frozen 2.” The princesses have grown up, as have their fans, trading the upheavals of adolescence for the adjustments of adulthood in a new story that journeys beyond the kingdom of Arendelle.

The first “Frozen” made $93.5 million for its domestic debut, going on to earn $1.27 billion worldwide to become the top-grossing animated feature of all time. While it’s still too early to predict if the sequel will topple that record, “Frozen 2” opened Nov. 22 to $130 million domestically and $223 million overseas for a global tally of $350 million. Also unknown is whether the new film will become another awards season juggernaut, striking Oscar gold for a second time.

Like the first film, rather than pitting good against evil, “Frozen 2” expands “on the strength of this sisterhood, the power of love over fear,” according to Lee. And male characters such as Kristoff are put into a supporting role where they are “searching for love,” says Lee, who also serves as chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Popular on Variety

“I do think the women are stronger than they’ve ever been, made stronger by their bond,” she says. “They really surprised us with the courage they have, to do the right thing to persevere, to look out for their kingdom and each other.”

Only time will tell if “Frozen 2” will deliver another iconic musical hit such as “Let It Go,” but “Into the Unknown” is a definite contender. “I do love that song,” Lee says. “It’s so significant because it launches this entire journey. It’s amazing to transition from ‘Let It Go,’ which was a song of rebellion, to ‘Into the Unknown,’ where Elsa can feel the pull of her passion calling her.”

Buck finds himself drawn to Anna’s “The Next Right Thing,” which he describes as “this wonderful song about being able to pull yourself out of the darkest place and just get up and do the next right thing. Being our optimistic character, it’s so great to see her at that place.”

Along with a more grownup story and fresh songs, “Frozen 2” delivers a crisp new color palette developed by franchise production designer Michael Giaimo. “We still use the same vertical design that Mike is so strong on,” Buck says. “But on this one, we wanted to support the story and our characters, who were maturing, with an autumn palette. Autumn, to us, is a season of change. It’s a season where the year is maturing and so we felt like that supported the character’s journey.”

Unlike many directorial duos who divide tasks, Buck and Lee found that they were able to work together more as a team on this second installment. “I think we balance each other very well, where our skills are additive, so when we’re together it always feels like that’s the best because if one of us stumps on something, we have a way to push through to better third way,” Lee says. “You’re carrying a huge crew and a lot of ideas and a lot of notes and a lot of thoughts, and so being able to collaborate on that is so important to us.”

More Artisans

  • George MacKay as Schofield in "1917,"

    '1917,' 'Jojo Rabbit' and 'Parasite' Lead Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “1917” continued its award-winning streak on Sunday night when it took home the feature motion picture – dialogue award at the MPSE Golden Reel Awards, recognizing outstanding achievement in sound editing. Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” won for feature motion picture – music underscore. The Golden Reel Awards presented prizes in 23 categories encompassing feature films, [...]

  • Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Tony Stark/Iron Man

    How 'Avengers: Endgame' Publicity Team Made Headlines By Saying Nothing At All

    Secrecy and strategy were fundamental when it comes to marketing the MCU films. After 14 years and 22 films, those two factors were crucial when it came to planning the rollout for the final installment,  “Avengers: Endgame.” Earlier this week, the publicity team behind the film’s campaign was nominated for the ICG Publicist Awards. Union [...]

  • The Farewell Movie BTS

    Academy Falls Short on Diversity, but Foreign Films Crash ACE Eddies Party

    The American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards, which will be handed out Jan. 17, will for the first time give voters a choice of selecting a foreign-language film in each of the three categories. The trio in contention are: “The Farewell” (comedy), “Parasite” (dramatic) and “I Lost My Body” (animated). “This is the first time in our [...]

  • Best Documentary Scenes from 2019

    Directors Describe Their Key Scenes in the Past Year’s Top Documentary Films

    The directors of this awards season’s documentary hopefuls explain the ticking hearts at the center of their shortlisted films. Apollo 11, Director: Todd Douglas Miller  Setting the Scene: The pre-launch sequence for the first mission in which humans landed on the moon, featuring NASA workers and regular citizens alike. “It encapsulates everything and highlights a lost [...]

  • Paris Recreated for Movie Productions on

    TSF Recreates Paris on Former Air Base for Movie and TV Shoots

    As French outfits move to expand their studio offerings, industry eyes have turned to a 20-hectare stretch of land 20 miles south of Paris. There, in the commune Plessis-Pâté, sits the TSF Backlot 217, a converted air base that has become one the Gallic industry’s banner initiatives. One of France’s leading production suppliers, TSF scoped [...]

  • DSC07163.ARW

    Streamers Urge French Production Sector to Go Green

    For the French industry, the drive to open up additional studio spaces has gone hand-in-hand with the push for green production, because for the most part, they share the same root cause: The international streamers that are causing a surge in audiovisual production tend to have strict criteria when it comes to sustainable development. “Companies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content