How Frozen 2 Still Breaks The Mould Of Disney Films
It’s no Frozen, but it still has the heart of it. It’s still unique in its own way.
In terms of sequels from films, one example of it done right is the Frozen series thus far.
Over the years, we’ve seen series fall by the wayside. Like Pirates of the Caribbean parts 4 & 5, Cars 2, the later half of the Ice Age films, amongst others. But I wouldn’t throw Frozen 2 into that same lot.
There were wrinkles for sure, but not too much that it would diminish the quality of the movie.
Be warned: some minor spoilers ahead.
The number of songs brought it to a point where it felt like an hour and a half long music video. It was obvious they were milking for memes (and attempting to make the next “Let It Go”) with the number of songs.
Perhaps the sheer number of songs in there is enough to make a meme out of it?
The new characters that were introduced in this film made little to no impact in the film. The general and Hans were more memorable characters in the first film and created more tension. The royal guard and the Northuldra felt they existed and were quickly forgotten.
And you can also say that corporate greed mired this film too.
Though that last point is rather moot as Frozen 2 is officially the highest-grossing animated film in the world. Surpassing Frozen ($1.28 billion) by earning a total of $1.446 billion in the box office.
So what made it succeed so much compared to other films whose sequels flopped?
Of course, marketing, promotion, and adorable characters play a significant role in sales. But I’d also look to the writing and the overall direction of the film.
Because — to my surprise — this film had the same core team in the writing and direction of the film more or less. And by the end of the film, I thought that Frozen 2 was a weaker sequel due to the reasons mentioned above.
But the more that I’m digging into this film and digesting it, the more I can see why it’s a strong film. Between the two, I’d still go with the original, but Frozen 2 is still good in its own way.
More Time, But The Same Care
The creative process that went into the first Frozen film was nothing short of remarkable. Part of the process was outlined in Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better.
The team had only 18 months to put together a new story.
Elsa and Anna were written and re-written a few dozen times.
Olaf was a hated character.
The songwriters — the same in the Frozen 2 movie — struggled to come up with proper songs.
And the team was in complete disarray after their lacklustre performance with the story trust. In this case, the story trust is a group of executives at Disney who watches a film well in advance before it’s released to the public.
These executives are in a theatre-style room where they are given a pen, paper, and tissue paper. The tissue paper is there to show a sign. They know it’s a good movie is if the film can get these individuals to shed some tears.
But during the screening with the story trust, not a single tear was shed. That was the sad part.
And the team had eighteen months to fix this film.
During that time, emotions of panic, anxiety, and nervousness was a common theme. This idea has been in the pipeline for decades. First brought up in the late 1990s, it’s exchanged hands several times. This story needed to be told by this point.
With the team backed up against the wall, they turned the film into the masterpiece that it is today. Recognizable, breaking the mould, and iconic. The song “Let It Go”, as obnoxious and overdone as it was at the time, is still a powerful and catchy song.
It was born from the creative process that stemmed from these strings of events and situations.
Overall, Frozen was given a much tighter deadline than Frozen 2 — which was announced in March 2014 and released in November 2019. And while I’ve felt that Frozen 2 was weaker (due to the points mentioned above), I couldn’t help but find a lot of the elements in it that called back to Frozen.
The characters were still true to who they were by the end of the first film.
They placed more emphasis on the bond Anna and Elsa shared compared to Christophe and Anna. This pulls away from the same stale theme of the girl falling in love with the prince.
How these characters were defined and what the team wanted to put into the story seemed to follow the same process between both films.
I know this because Charles Duhigg outlined how the film developed in his book. The writers wanted to make Frozen unique and avoid all the clichés you’d find in other films.
They wanted the story to focus on the two sisters and their relationship.
We still see those elements in Frozen 2.
Near the end where Christophe proposed to Anna, it was more of a side thing. Sure that was Christophe’s entire arch in the film, but the writing made it not as played up when compared to other films.
Christophe proposed when everything was solved and safe.
He’s also far from a prince.
He also placed more precedence over the gang staying together over just him and Anna.
And that was only one element.
It Stretches The Team’s Core Values
What I discussed above is what I’d call the team’s core values.
They wanted a story to focus on the bond between sisters. They also didn’t want to make it cliché.
Frozen 2 satisfied that criteria, but it pushed the boundaries beyond that in a few ways that felt natural and not at all forced — unlike some of the music numbers.
The biggest one to point out is again the sisterly bond between Elsa and Anna.
There was a point in the film where the two went off and had to do their own thing. Elsa had to answer the call that only she could hear from the beginning of the film.
Since that point, she started to be more independent, distancing herself from Anna little by little. Not out of spite or hatred, but more out of a duty and care for her sister. She knew where she was going was somewhere Anna couldn’t follow easily.
For Anna, it happened near the end, when she realized Elsa was counting on her.
Both were connected at the end, but it pushed that bond further. Similar to any relationship, it’s great to do things together, but sometimes the best way to move forward is to work things out yourself.
This was further reinforced by the fact that both sisters ruled over different territories. Elsa stayed in the forest, Anna came back to Ariendelle. But the distance isn’t keeping them apart.
It shows me that the two are still growing and are learning about themselves. Not to mention the obstacles they are facing are all unique and change over the film.
Frozen 2 Is An Experience
The music felt pushed in and some of the numbers are forgettable but other than that, the movie was an experience. It is nice to see the core team come back and were given more time to develop and explore the characters.
But more importantly, the writing is unique and still true to the characters from film to film. There is a style there that is unlike the older Disney films. You can tell there is a difference in the writing between the live-action films and the films that cover different stories.
This is why Frozen 2 is still breaking the mould from the standard Disney formula.