Why the Second Time’s the Charm for ‘Frozen’ Filmmakers

Jennifer Wolfe

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Disney’s “Frozen” turned the fairytale paradigm on its head when it swept into theaters in 2013, inspiring a generation of freshly empowered Annas and Elsas to “Let It Go” on its way to winning Oscars for animated feature and original song.

Six years later, directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and the original voice cast have returned with “Frozen 2.” The princesses have grown up, as have their fans, trading the upheavals of adolescence for the adjustments of adulthood in a new story that journeys beyond the kingdom of Arendelle.

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The first “Frozen” made $93.5 million for its domestic debut, going on to earn $1.27 billion worldwide to become the top-grossing animated feature of all time. While it’s still too early to predict if the sequel will topple that record, “Frozen 2” opened Nov. 22 to $130 million domestically and $223 million overseas for a global tally of $350 million. Also unknown is whether the new film will become another awards season juggernaut, striking Oscar gold for a second time.

Like the first film, rather than pitting good against evil, “Frozen 2” expands “on the strength of this sisterhood, the power of love over fear,” according to Lee. And male characters such as Kristoff are put into a supporting role where they are “searching for love,” says Lee, who also serves as chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

“I do think the women are stronger than they’ve ever been, made stronger by their bond,” she says. “They really surprised us with the courage they have, to do the right thing to persevere, to look out for their kingdom and each other.”

Only time will tell if “Frozen 2” will deliver another iconic musical hit such as “Let It Go,” but “Into the Unknown” is a definite contender. “I do love that song,” Lee says. “It’s so significant because it launches this entire journey. It’s amazing to transition from ‘Let It Go,’ which was a song of rebellion, to ‘Into the Unknown,’ where Elsa can feel the pull of her passion calling her.”

Buck finds himself drawn to Anna’s “The Next Right Thing,” which he describes as “this wonderful song about being able to pull yourself out of the darkest place and just get up and do the next right thing. Being our optimistic character, it’s so great to see her at that place.”

Along with a more grownup story and fresh songs, “Frozen 2” delivers a crisp new color palette developed by franchise production designer Michael Giaimo. “We still use the same vertical design that Mike is so strong on,” Buck says. “But on this one, we wanted to support the story and our characters, who were maturing, with an autumn palette. Autumn, to us, is a season of change. It’s a season where the year is maturing and so we felt like that supported the character’s journey.”

Unlike many directorial duos who divide tasks, Buck and Lee found that they were able to work together more as a team on this second installment. “I think we balance each other very well, where our skills are additive, so when we’re together it always feels like that’s the best because if one of us stumps on something, we have a way to push through to better third way,” Lee says. “You’re carrying a huge crew and a lot of ideas and a lot of notes and a lot of thoughts, and so being able to collaborate on that is so important to us.”

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