An Inside Look At The Making of Frozen 2!

Hey All!

In anticipation of Disney Animation’s Frozen 2, I was lucky enough to be invited back to Disney Animation Studios to check out an inside look at the making of Frozen 2. It felt like just yesterday we were there to cover the first film. We got to see all the amazing production design, some special effects created for the film and some never before scene footage. I can tell you from what I’ve seen footage wise, this film is going to be just as good or if not better than the original. The music from this film is just as incredible as the first film. It was such a magical day filled with so much behind the scenes info and fun.

We love seeing how they decorated the studio space for the film.

Photo by Amy Opaka.

These symbols on this stone also play a big part in Frozen 2 and are actually symbols of the natural elements. Each one symbolized earth, air, fire, and water.

They had Frozen themed lattes to drink and lots of great photo opportunities.

They also had this incredibly talented candy maker on site and we got to take home these amazing Nokk lollipop.

If you’re wondering what a Nokk is, It’s a mythical water spirit that takes the form of a horse with the power of the ocean in the charge of a stallion.

The Nokk is a fierce warrior and guards the secrets of the forest fiercely. In order to get past the Nokk, a person must prove they are worthy and earn its respect – an almost impossible task. It’s a big part of Frozen 2! I’ll cover more about it in a future post.

Photo by Amy Opoka.

We also got to interview so many amazing filmmakers and animators that are working tirelessly to bring this film to the big screen by November. We covered A LOT during this amazing media day and it’s far too much information to fit into one post. With that said, I’ve decided to break it into two different posts. Today I’ll focus on our Q&A with Jennifer Lee (Director/Writer/Chief Creative Officer), Chris Buck (Director), and Peter Del Vecho (Producer) and our Q&A with Brittney Lee (Visual Development Artist), Normand Lemay (Head of Story), Tom MacDougall (Executive Music Producer), Dale Mayeda (Head of Effects Animation), Justin Sklar (Animation Supervisor) & Michael Woodside (Animation Supervisor). Each spoke about what we can expect from Frozen 2, the from script to screen and what goes into making a visually stunning musical sequence. My second piece will post in October and will cover what it took to realize the many mythical creatures inhabiting the enchanted forests and dark seas and the evolving story of Anna and Elsa. Stay tuned for that! You definitely will want to read all about the amazing character the Nokk!

We kicked off the day with a look at some scenes from the film. Some featured new music from the film and it was incredible to hear. During and after the footage sneak peeks we had a Q&A with Jennifer Lee (Director/Writer/Chief Creative Officer) and Chris Buck (Director). From this Q&A we finally got to learn what the premise is of Frozen 2 is. It involves Else venturing into the unknown after she begins hearing a calling from a voice that no one else can hear. Even for a strong queen like Elsa, answering the call she’ll need to have courage, passion, grit, imagination—and a little magic doesn’t hurt either. The answers promised by the calling also threaten her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, Elsa faces a dangerous but remarkable journey into the unknown to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond Arendelle. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. “Frozen” hit theaters in 2013, becoming the highest grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office. It won an Academy Award® for best animated feature film of the year. The film’s iconic song, “Let It Go,” with music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won an Oscar® for best achievement in music written for motion picture, original song. Kristen and Robert are back with more amazing music for Frozen 2.

Photo by Amy Opoka.

We also learned about the pressure they felt in regards to the incredible success of the music.

Jennifer Lee:

We made a pact when we connected with Bobby and Kristen. We were just about a year out and didn’t know it would be picked up by later generations. We’re still naïve in that sense a little bit. But we made a pact that we would build the second one the same way as the first, and not let that pressure into the story room. Because every song has to come from the story, just like it did before. Every moment has to be true. And any time anyone of us was nervous, like I heard this, I heard that, we would just ground each other. And I think we had to or it wouldn’t be an authentic story. But I think in many ways at the end of the day we- just like we didn’t know what the world would think of Frozen. We can’t know, but we can know that we did build this the way we believed in and there’s a lot of real emotion and real sharing of experience and real sort of story that was driven the way the first one was.

Chris Buck:

And I think the response from the audience was actually very exciting because the audience loved the characters as much as we did. So it showed that, we wanted to tell more story and we felt that the audience wanted to know more of the story. So that propelled us and that kept us going, so.

Photo by Amy Opoka.

Jennifer and Chris spoke of the seven new songs that will be in the film, but I just had to know if all the characters in the film get their own songs this time around and if Kristoff gets a whole song.

Chris Buck:

We won’t say what the song is. What’s great about this version of the story is they each have a song in the movie, each of their needs.

Jennifer Lee:

Elsa has two.

Chris Buck:

Which you heard one. She has another one later.

Jennifer Lee:

We can’t tell you what they sing. Actually, they all have very powerful songs in the sense of they’re not just driving the story forward but I think Bob and Kristen really out did themselves. It’s extraordinary music.

Chris Buck:

And yes, Kristoff does get a whole song this time.

There you have it folks! Kristoff will have a full song this time around! I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Photo by Amy Opoka.

They also shared if there any specific folk tales or literary examples that inspired this film.

Jennifer Lee:

I mean I read a lot books, went back to Hans Christian Andersen, but even deeper into some of the old – even deeper, older folklore. And some of the song stories that were indigenous to Scandinavia. And interestingly, because Iceland was mostly founded by Scandinavian folks, there’s a bit of a bridge. Then the Nokk stood out a bit because the Nokk had come from old Norse myths and the wind spirit from the Nordic region and Scandinavian culture. The fire spirit, which I can’t say what it is yet, have come from that. And then – oh what am I missing? Oh the earth. We were walking in Norway, the concept there were earth giants throwing rocks around and things like that. And so that was awe inspiring. But the big thing was the discovery. I know we joke that we knew this in Frozen 1, but we didn’t, which was the mythic story is a tragic story and it’s about a super, sort of superhuman character, someone with special powers who carries our sins and our flaws and our mistakes for us. And then usually has a tragic fate.  I looked at Frozen 1 and we were talking and we said in Frozen 1, Elsa would have had a tragic fate, and so would the world have. Imagine if Hans had killed her and the storm raged on. That would have been the mythic version. But the fairytale of Anna came in and saved the day. And the power of the two of those tug of warring together was the biggest discovery. And that really came from the research about the difference between a myth and a fairytale.

Photo by Amy Opoka.

Lastly, they shared about why they didn’t go with the typical one big bad villain formula for their film.

Jennifer Lee:

You know, it’s interesting. We’ll let you see when you see it who you think the villains and antagonists are in this. There are certainly a lot of antagonistic forces. Frozen 1 had a thematic villain – fear versus love. We have a lot of great Disney films and we will continue to do so, and I believe in the Disney flipping tropes in the writing, and that was important to Chris. So we can say this, in terms of obstacles, antagonism and villainous forces, we’ve got that. But we’re gonna do it the Frozen way. Put it that way.

Chris Buck:

And one thing that first film and second film, it really boils down to Anna and Elsa and their relationship. And that real and the struggle between, you know, siblings and people who are very close. You’ve got your own sort of antagonists right there, so every time we would stray we’d always go back to Anna and Elsa and use them as the core of that. And that would always really land beautifully, so.

 

Photo by Amy Opoka.

We then moved on to what goes into making a visually stunning musical sequence in Frozen 2. We can’t share everything we learned, but here are some of the few amazing tidbits we learned from the amazing team bringing these sequences to life.

Brittaney Lee shared how every detail in her costume in every frame counts.

BRITTNEY LEE :

We utilize every frame and every bit of the frame we can to tell, tell the story, right down to the very last bit embroidering, every thread, every bead, every sequin. We design to hopefully reinforce who she is and what she’s going through at any particular point in time, and here it was really important, in straying a little bit with her, that we infuse this costume with snowflakes because that is Elsa and we want you to know that she is her true self, self still. She’s still adorned with snowflakes are everywhere, and they’re important for her.

 

Photo by Amy Opoka.

Normad Lemay gave us a breakdown of the emotions they try to convey in each musical sequence. He broke down the musical sequence for the new song “Into the Unknown”.

NORMAND LEMAY:

At this point in most animated musicals, there’s this moment where you finally get to hear from one of the main characters their song. Their “I want” song. Like, what do they want. What’s a bit different with Elsa in this, in this movie she’s sort of doing the opposite. She’s, she’s trying to not let it out. She’s trying, she’s shying away from what she truly feels. Those deep down, deeper questions that she has. And that voice, that outside force is gonna, bit by bit try to kind of bring it out of her. Those questions, her truths deeper. I’m gonna go through the storyboards that I created for this sequence and just kind of tell you a little bit about the thinking that goes behind taking a first visual stab at it after the story team gets the scripts or we hear the songs. We’re trying to create a sort of a prototype of what the sequence could be. Here we go. We start at night. Both Anna and Elsa are asleep. We find them in middle of the night and, of course with bad timing, the voice comes, shows itself again waking up Elsa. At this point in the story, Elsa doesn’t want anything to do with the voice. It’s stirring things in her that she wants to keep quiet. She’s going to use everything around her like bed sheets or pillows to kind of just cover her ears and block it off. It’s not the right time. She just doesn’t want to deal with it. It’s too much.  But the voice is persistent. It keeps coming to her and she keeps hearing it. She leaves the bedroom, closes the door behind, leaving Anna behind and we get to hear from her own voice, but also how Elsa feels that the voice is calling to her, but she doesn’t want to answer it. It’s about her inner conflicts. It’s about that back and forth. These deep questions are inside her that she doesn’t have an answer for. In fact, this voice is trying to let her to get them out, so I used a lot of self reflection visuals, like mirrors or water. She’s pacing into the hallway still questioning herself. We see an ever-present sort of invisible eye, the voice. It was a challenge to have this invisible character or this invisible thing connecting with Elsa, so we accomplished that through the idea of an invisible eye watching her in these shots. Still she dismisses it,. She’s not ready. It’ll pass. She’s connected with her family her friends, her loved ones that she’ll protect at all costs from anyone, anything, but here, in this shot, when she looks to the North, when she looks in the fjords, that pull is just too much. She needs to go!

Photo by Amy Opoka. 

Tom MacDougall spoke about working with Bobby and Kristen Lopez on the music and when they first heard the new songs they had written.

TOM MACDOUGALL:

Bobby Lopez is a great musician, piano player and also singer, and Kristen Lopez is a singer, so they will literally write a song for us and then in a rough demo form, send it our way, and then we’ll listen to that song and we’ll decide if we think that song is doing what it needs to be doing to help propel that character, propel that scene. We thought it might be fun to share a little behind the scenes here, so this is one of the first demos for ‘Into the Unknown’ played by Bobby on the piano and with Kristen singing along, so here’s Kristen. (We got to hear the raw demo of the song “Into the Unknown” being sung by Kristen Lopez. ) So you can see that’s very raw, but it’s perfect us to assess. The the melody’s there, the lyrics are there, it’s our job to imagine what it’ll be sounding like when it’s in theaters because most of us are used to songs that are radio ready; they’re fully produced and mixed and the singers are singing and doing all the magic. At this point, we’re trying to decide is this the song going to help this movie? Because one of the ways we look at it, you know, if someone magically delivered us a song that was determined to be the greatest song that was ever written, if we put it into the movie and it doesn’t help make the movie better, we’re not going to use that song. It’s always about helping the movie with music and with ‘Into the Unknown’, you know, when we do it well, you almost look back and you couldn’t imagine any other way of accomplishing that.

This is just a little taste of all we got to learn and see on this incredible Frozen 2 filled day. The soundtrack is actually now available for pre-order and it features Seven Original Songs from Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, Score by Christophe Beck, and Returning Voice Cast, Including Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff

Check out a preview of the music of Frozen 2 below:

Stay tuned for our next post in October for even more details on the making of Frozen 2.

Be sure to also visit the official FROZEN 2 website for more info!

FROZEN 2 arrives in theatres everywhere on November 22nd!

 

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