It’s one thing to try and follow up a ridiculously successful movie. It’s another to try and follow up a ridiculously successful movie with the added pressure of topping an inescapable pop anthem with enormous cultural impact (the billions of streams online are just the tip of the iceberg).
That was the task that faced Peter Del Vecho and the team behind Frozen 2, who were staring at global box office receipts of over $1.2bn when they made the decision to retread hallowed ground.
“We felt in Frozen that we’d told the whole story and we’d wrapped everything up so nicely that to unravel that seemed daunting at first,” Del Vecho tells RadioTimes.com. “It wasn’t until a year afterwards where we started working on the short and realised how much we missed these characters.
“That led to questions like… Anna and Elsa were apart most of their lives, this is the first time they’ve been back together, Elsa is now accepted as the queen, what’s next for them? And those questions kept percolating in our minds till we realised there was more story to tell.”
RadioTimes.com got a sneak preview of footage from the film, taking in a few of the new songs, and sat down with Del Vecho to talk about new music, new characters and what happens next for Anna, Elsa and the gang. Here’s everything we learned.
Del Vecho presented about twenty minutes of footage from the film, and walked us through the first half.
It opens with a young Anna and Elsa listening to their mother (played by Evan Rachel Wood) sing a lullaby. Then, in the present day (it’s set three years after the original), we see the sisters, along with Olaf (now perma-frost, so he can stay frozen all year round) and Kristof, enjoying relatively normal lives in Arendelle.
We see them play charades, and there’s some excellent visual humour with Olaf contorting his snow into all sorts of shapes and sizes. All seems well, but a mysterious force out in the woods appears to be calling out to Elsa, and it is putting the kingdom in danger.
After a little deliberation and some advice from the trolls, she decides to go and find out what it is.
Anna being Anna, she refuses to let Elsa go alone, and the whole gang ends up heading off for the adventure together. Soon, they enter an enchanted forest, where they encounter some sinister magic, which splits the gang up. Olaf sings his song to comfort himself amongst a myriad of things he doesn’t understand.
Then, we see Elsa go forward alone to a raging sea (as seen in the trailer) – she knows she needs to cross in order to discover more about the origin of her powers – where she encounters a horse made of water that seems to be trying to derail her efforts to cross. She struggles with it, thrashing about in the sea, before seemingly taking control and riding it across the water.
Del Vecho tells us that Anna and Elsa’s relationship will remain at the forefront of the film. “Right now we’re not developing a romantic story [for Elsa],” he says.
The New Music
Del Vecho says that they worked with songwriters (husband and wife duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez return for the sequel) from the very early stages of writing in order to interweave the songs into the fabric of the film.
“When we’re working with Bobby and Kristen, we’re not talking about songs, we’re talking about story and subtext, and what it is that characters are thinking and feeling, and as the story grows, they begin to be inspired by the story and write a song,” he says.
Frozen 2 has seven new original songs, including one from Kristof (allowing Mindhunter and Glee’s Jonathan Groff to belatedly showcase his Tony-nominated vocals), one from delightfully naive snowman Olaf, and an Elsa anthem called Into The Unknown.
RadioTimes.com got to hear Olaf’s song and Into The Unknown. The former is more of the kind of bright-eyed comedy that we saw from the snowman in the first film, as he attempts to convince himself that all the creepy, magical things happening in the enchanted forest are “totally normal” things that he’ll understand when he grows up (Del Vecho refers to him as a three-year-old, having been “born” in the first film). Spoiler: they’re not…
And Into The Unknown is a high-reaching pop tune that borders on power ballad, one that may not have the emotional resonance of Let It Go, but showcases Idina Menzel’s tremendous vocal range better than anything from the original film.
“We believe we have a few songs that have that same potential [as Let It Go],” Del Vecho says. “We didn’t know that Let It Go was going to be the standout song the first time, likewise its hard to say which song [could emulate Let It Go’s success], I mean I love Into The Unknown. Anna has an incredibly powerful song, Elsa has a second song…”
Sterling K Brown’s Lieutenant Mattias and other new characters
Del Vecho says that there are new characters in the film who have not been announced yet.
“We do meet other people as they journey on in the movie, we haven’t quite unveiled everything yet,” he says. “Part of that is we want to leave that for the discovery of the film, but even beyond the characters we have announced there are a few other characters and environmental elements that we meet along the way.”
And while he stayed mum about the others, he gave us a bit of insight into how Sterling K Brown’s Lieutenant Mattias fits into the story.
“He’s obviously an amazing actor and he worked really closely with us to develop this character and brought a lot of himself to the movie,” Del Vecho says of Brown. “We do see him in a prologue, he is alive when Anna and Elsa’s father King Agnarr was a boy. So he’s known their father from a very early age. He also knew their grandfather, King Ruinard.
“Later in the movie when they meet its 30 years later, he’s probably in his fifties. He is able to impart some knowledge to Anna and Elsa about their own father and their own history from a different point of view or maybe give them additional information. He also is a very strong character and has a strong core and has philosophy that he imparts, particularly to Anna, that Anna uses later in the movie.”
Frozen for a slightly older audience
Despite the dark vibes of some of the clips released for the movie thus far, Del Vecho says the movie is tonally very similar to its predecessor. He points to the darker side of Frozen as evidence.
“The first film, we forget, had its moments of being very dark and very emotional, and the same is true of this one,” Del Vecho says. “But we try to balance it with fun and humour and light-heartedness. ”
“In the first film we had that scene where a mob of soldiers come up and they catch Elsa and drag her down, and Anna does die…”
However, he says that Frozen’s original audience – now six years older – will not be alienated.
“There is a maturing of the characters and a maturing of the story, and a maturing of the songs that happen in the second film,” he says. “We go a bit deeper into the emotions behind these characters. If you think of a Broadway show, often in the second act the songs get deeper and more emotional, so we try to do that in this film as well.”
Frozen II will be released on 22nd November