It was a long time coming. Walt Disney always wanted to adapt Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, so when Elsa sang “Let it Go” the Mouse House’s loose take on his classic fairy tale had arrived. Fans immediately wondered if a sequel would be made and, finally, after 2015’s short Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure from 2017, Frozen II was released.
It’s been six years since Frozen became the highest-grossing animated film of all time. A new generation of kids has emerged to sing “Let it Go” at loud volume, while the original audience has grown a little older. There’s even a list of ‘production babies’ included in Frozen II’s credits! A lot of love and care has been taken in crafting this belated sequel, trying to live up to huge expectations because of its predecessor’s phenomenal success.
Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee returned to write and direct Frozen II, feeling passionate about exploring their imagined world and its characters even further. Songwriters Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon) and his wife Kristen Anderson Lopez are also back, given the enormously difficult challenge of composing equally memorable tunes.
Of course, the incredible cast of Kristen Bell (The Good Place) as Anna, Idina Menzel (Glee) as Queen Elsa, Josh Gad (Beauty and The Beast) as Olaf, and Jonathan Goff (Mindhunter) as Kristoff, all return to their voice their roles. Only now they’re joined by Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) as Elsa and Anna’s mother, Queen Iduna, and Alfred Molina (Frida) as their father, Angarr. Plus, did I mention there are some new songs?
Frozen II begins three years later, with a flashback to a story once told to little Elsa and Anna by their father, and preparations for celebration on a perfect Autumn Day…
A siren call (sung by Aurora) is enticing Queen Elsa from precious domestic bliss to discover the reason for her magical ice powers. So when their kingdom and subjects are threatened, her sister Anna, boyfriend Kristoff, reindeer Sven, and Olaf the snowman, join Elsa on a journey to the Enchanted Forest to make peace with the elements and uncover her past. This is all more mythic than a fairy tale this time around, as we’re introduced to Scandinavian folklore in a beautiful way as the sisters go on a darker quest.
The visuals are once again stunning. The Scandinavian Forest is rendered in loving realistic detail and the magic is breathtaking (particularly lovely water horse the Noxx). But the plot, compared to the original, gets a bit lost in the woods alongside Kristoff and his reindeer backing singers (a fun homage to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” music video). Frozen II’s more grown-up and uncertain about things, which is a good message in itself, but unlike the original (where the sisters united to defeat villainous Hans), the only thing close to an antagonist now is Anna and Elsa’s late grandfather, whose fear of the Ullandra people and their magic led to tragedy. The sisters’ journey elicits a new harmony between them, after learning bitter truths that resonate with environmental issues in real-life.
There are no selfless acts that made the original film so powerful to behold, only perseverance and a message to do the right thing ‘one step at a time’ until redemption is achieved. And, in the process, discover one’s true self and inner power, which is indeed a positive message. However, some admittedly funny scenes, such as the whole reindeer ceremony thing, feel tacked on as an afterthought. Surely something better could’ve been devised for Kristoff and Sven?
There’s a marvellous rendering of Scandinavian landscapes with keen botanical accuracy, too. I loved it when the snow became suspended crystals, and enjoyed Elsa’s gorgeous song-and-dance battle to tame the elements (a bit of a Kate Bush routine) which culminates in her encounter with the water horse and the song “Show Yourself”.
Unsurprisingly, Frozen II was a massive box office success last year (grossing $1.4BN compared to Frozen’s $1BN), but this time it’s didn’t win the Academy Award for any of its songs. Maybe that’s why it’s fallen short of the original’s cultural impact, without another “Let it Go” on heavy repeat across the world… but “Into the Unknown” is still catchy and was at least nominated for an Oscar.
Ultimately, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck have succeeded in crafting a sequel that again tried to subvert Disney clichés as Frozen did, but it’s difficult to pull off the same trick twice. That said, those who loved the first Frozen will enjoy Frozen II just fine… and it remains excellent fantasy entertainment for children.
Blu-ray Special Features:
- Sing-along version to the movie. Essential.
- Song selection. All the songs for easy access, yay!
- Voice-over outtakes. The funniest is when Josh Gad worries he may be replaced by the ubiquitous Jack Black if he goofs another line.
- Deleted Scenes: These are substantial scenes exploring plot alternatives along the way. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee provide introductions which offer fascinating insights into the development of such an important sequel. See if you agree with them on their final decisions! Personally, I think the secret room scene may have added emotional depth and helped clarify the plot for the young audience. It’s also a revelation to see sketchy thumbnails of animated storyboard which begin the whole process before they are transformed by the team of 80 animators, headed by Tony Smeed and Becky Bresse, and a credit list of around 800! Someone once remarked that our culture’s effort to realise major fantasy films is almost like building Cathedrals in medieval times – I think they have a point.
- Deleted Songs. These are fun, especially “I Want To Get This Right”, but can see why they were left out in the end.
- The Spirits of Frozen II. A little background on the Scandinavian research trips to explore Scandinavian mythology and how to create the Enchanted Forest. The Sami people are the inspiration for the people of the enchanted forest, and it’s easy to see how the breath-taking landscape found its way into the movie.
- Did You Know? More fun facts about the film via Olaf’s favourite question.
- Scoring a Sequel. A brief look at Christophe Beck’s work with the ensemble orchestra and choir to create the score.
- Gale Tests. How the most challenging element, air developed its playful personality in screen tests.
- “Into the Unknown” in 29 languages. Great fun and indicative of Elsa’s universal appeal to little girls everywhere… however, some of the languages are woah-woah’s sung with an accent so not sure if that counts!
- Music videos. “Into the Unknown” by Panic at the Disco and “Lost in the Woods” by Weezer. Both good takes on the songs—particularly enjoyed Weezer’s cosplay re-run of the film’s choreography!
Voices & Crew
directors: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee.
writer: Jennifer Lee (story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez).
voices: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad & Jonathan Groff.