Recently, Walt Disney Animation Studios invited a group of journalists to a press day at the studio for a sneak peek at the much-anticipated sequel, Frozen 2.
It’s been six years since the first film opened and became a worldwide blockbuster. So how have Anna, Elsa, and their world changed when we meet them again?
Here’s what we learned…
For the First Time In Forever, Family
As we join the story, the family has finally had a chance to settle into their Happily Ever After. The sisters are closer than ever and Kristoff wants to take his relationship with Anna to the next level and get married. Even Olaf is growing up, with Elsa-provided permafrost that makes weather conditions no longer a problem. He’s also taken up reading.
Elsa is content in her new normal, but for a little voice that keeps calling out to her, beckoning her towards adventure.
Elsa Answers The Call
Elsa is thrilled to have her sister back and to rule over Arendelle, but obviously, there is something more to her, and that mysterious voice won’t allow her to let it… Well, you see where I’m going with this. Frozen 2 will explore how Elsa came to have her gifts and what her place in the world is. In fact, it was that question that inspired the idea to make the sequel, which comes from the same two directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, as the first film.
Peter Del Vecho, Senior Vice President of Production for Animation, explained, “A few years ago, when I was traveling around the world presenting to artists and students I kept hearing the same question over and over again. ‘Where did Elsa get her icy powers?’ Well, it turned out that question was one that Jennifer and Chris were beginning to wrestle with as well. We realized that there was more story to tell.”
As Elsa begins to call back to this voice, she realizes she has awoken the spirits of the Enchanted Forest. She’ll have to follow this voice to save her kingdom, which will take her into the forest. However, Anna will not let her go alone, and she, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven join her as she makes her way into the unknown.
Going Beyond Arendelle
At the beginning of Frozen 2, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven are in Arendelle, but their home looks quite different from Frozen. The Arendelle of Frozen 2 is experiencing the lushness of fall. Reds, browns and yellows permeate the landscape. We’re promised a closer look of the village itself, but we won’t be there for long. This adventure takes the gang out of Arendelle and into two magical locations: The Enchanted Forest and the Dark Sea.
The Enchanted Forest is ruled by the spirits of nature: earth, air, fire and water. In a flashback scene we were shown, we saw Anna and Elsa being told about the forest by their father, King Agnarr, who had an adventure there when he was a boy. The spirits were displeased during his visit, and he nearly didn’t make it out alive. The details on his escape are fuzzy, even to him. He only knows that he heard, yep, a mysterious voice and was pushed out of the forest by a cloud of mist. He warns his daughters that the forest still poses a danger, one they should be prepared for.
The Forest itself is rich with the feeling of autumn. VIbrant leaves spread on the ground and are surrounded by trees so tall as to reach the sky itself. Each character will face their own challenges in the forest.
The Dark Sea poses its own threat. As seen in the trailer, the churning, gloomy water pushes Elsa’s powers as far as they will go. From what we saw during our visit, she’ll need every bit of them to overcome the sea and its protector (more on him below).
New Faces, New Voices
Evan Rachel Wood joins the cast as Anna and Elsa’s mother, Queen Iduna. She was briefly featured in the original Frozen voiced by a different actor, but as director, writer and chief creative officer Jennifer Lee said “She just couldn’t cut it.”
No need to run to IMDB to see who she was throwing shade at, as Lee was the original voice of the character and her single line read. “It turns out for this one you actually have to act and sing so, yeah, Peter fired me,” Lee joked. Wood will sing the first song of the movie, a calming lullaby to Anna and Elsa.
Also joining the cast is Sterling K. Brown who plays Lieutenant Mattias, a character who’s been trapped in the Enchanted Forest for over thirty years.
The Spirits Within
In Frozen 2, we learn that Elsa isn’t the only being with extraordinary gifts. The spirits of the elements reside in the Enchanted Forest and Dark Sea. Each of the four represents one elemental force: earth, wind, fire and water.
Earth giants are made of stone. This, combined with their large stature, makes it hard for them to move.
Gale posed a special challenge. Made entirely of wind, the animators had to figure out how to show something that isn’t physically there. In a collaborative effort across all departments, they figured out the solution was to animate Gale’s path and the effect it has on the world around her. This path was constructed using lines in either VR or drawn directly on the screen. From there, they could animate around how that path affects her environment by showing leaves and debris swirling or the movement of curtains and bedding. Gale is a very playful character, so there were many opportunities to show how she moves.
Then we have the Nokk. There’s no other way to say it: the Nokk is a water horse. A horse made water. But a rather fierce and even scary one, as glimpsed in the trailer. The Nokk is the Protector of the Dark Sea that Elsa must overcome on her journey to finding out who she is.
As for the fire spirit, Lee intriguingly noted, “I can’t say what it is yet.”
We were however given a look at Bruni, a salamander seen with Elsa in the trailer. Said Frozen 2‘s Art Director of Characters, Bill Schwab, “Our goal with this character was to make Bruni as adorable as possible.”
Could a fire spirit also be super cute salamander? Anything’s possible. Either way though, when it comes to Bruni, start saving up for that Christmas merch now.
Frozen 2 will hit theaters on November 22.