Growing up as a bookworm child with a frightening desire to absorb all things story-related, I was obsessed with fairytales. Having been raised in the era known as Disney’s Animation Renaissance, I had been instilled with a love for princesses but was always puzzled by this idea of a happy ending. My mother, after having to put up with my constant questions about these movies, introduced me to the actual fairytales that inspired these films. This opened up a whole new, considerably darker but more realistic world where bad things do happen to people and, despite what I had been shown previously, sometimes there weren’t happy endings. But, as a result of being introduced to these original fairytale stories, I was able to learn important life lessons while also experiencing safely emotions like fear, rage, sadness, and elation.
With so many kids no longer being exposed to these original fairytales, Disney and other animation studios like Dreamworks have taken up the mantle of teaching kids on how to safely explore and learn about the world through an animated scope. However, with parents being safeguards to what their children are exposed to, how these films are marketed plays a hand in whether or not a parent feels comfortable letting a child watch a film. The marketing of FROZEN 2 has had some parents wondering whether or not the film, as was revealed at the recent press conference for the highly anticipated film, was too dark for kids. There were also questions as to the intentions of Disney to make the film seem darker than it might be perceived.
When asked why the film was being promoted as darker than its predecessor, producer Peter Del Vecho stepped in to explain the intent behind the darkness and the general sense of foreboding that the teaser trailer and the trailers released that some viewers felt after watching:
“I think it was important to us to remind people of the scope and scale of the first movie that they had perhaps had forgotten. The first movie had a lot of action in it. It had a lot of emotion and drama and I thought it was important, I think we all thought it was important to very quickly re-establish that and that this was a movie for everyone.”
Part of the appeal that FROZEN 2 contains is the fact that the characters and the situations and emotions that these characters go through are immensely relatable regardless of a person’s age. This is part of the reason why we as a society generally return back to reading fairytales and exploring folklore because there is always something for us to discover or rediscover when we go back to the stories that captured our imagination as children.
Co-director and writer Jennifer Lee further dove into the topic of fairytales and how we as an audience have forgotten what these original stories used to make us feel:
We go back to old traditional fairytales. They always have a moment that gets a little scary and little moments and that’s part of what fairytales are for. They are so you as a child and as a person in your life can experience things and go “Oh!” and you are safely in the seat and it helps you cope with life. And I think those are really important and kids reach up. So, I think we didn’t go into the characters being full of fear and violence in that way. We went into those things in you that are evocative, that are mythic, that are fairytale. And Pinocchio and Bambi and Dumbo; this is part of fairytale land. And I think we’ve had an incredible response of kids going through those moments and just coming out the other side with a triumph. And I think for us we grew up with those fairytales and didn’t want to be afraid of it.
This need to provide stories to help out kids experience these emotions and to overcome the fear when faced with situations similar to what is found in fairytales is important. Yes, they may be a little dark but stories like FROZEN 2 and the fairytales of yore that many of us have grown up with are essential in providing a safe space for children to explore and prepare themselves for situations and feelings that might happen in the world beyond the scope of a film or book. It can be difficult though as a parent to feel comfortable enough to let a child be exposed to these things. And actress Kristen Bell, who voices Anna in the Frozen franchise, further explained that these feelings and concerns are 100% relatable and valid when dealing with what to expose to one’s children, but that we need to let them watch films like FROZEN 2 in order to let them grow:
[W]e’re always asked, “Why do you think the first one hit?” I think, my conclusion is we don’t give kids enough credit because they are projections of us and we want them to be happy and we want ourselves to be happy all the time. We don’t give them enough credit to digest complex situations and trauma and struggle and I think that’s why the first one hit because this character identified in kids what do you do when you feel like two different things – when you feel shy and vulnerable and incredibly powerful. And I think in this second one, it’s the power of story. You don’t have to tell them that the world is a scary place even though it really is. But you can let them see a story that has a resolution. It’s kind of like when toddlers have tantrums because they are trying on all of these emotions that don’t yet fit. Because they are practicing. It’s why puppies play fight. They want to feel adrenalin and cortisol, so they know how to handle it when they are older. So, I actually think that it’s great for kids to be a little bit on the edge of their seat because it’s a safe environment for them to try on those emotions.
Without my mother allowing me to explore the traditional fairytales of yore and, later on in middle school, allowing me to dabble in the horror genre with films like The Exorcist and all of the Universal Monster films, I don’t think I would have felt personally as comfortable with horror and – in the grand scheme of things – the world. What we are exposed to as children, if given permission, helps to inform our ability to deal with situations as adults.
While the marketing of FROZEN 2 may be a bit darker, the film itself shouldn’t be avoided for the perceived darkness much like the original tale of Cinderella shouldn’t be avoided due to bodily dismemberment (seriously, this happened in the original tale). Stories like these help us learn more about the world and humanity and how to react to situations. Avoiding something or keeping someone from seeing something because of being concerned or scared is valid. However, in order for kids to learn and grow and be prepared, sometimes you need to expose them to a little bit of darkness. And FROZEN 2 provides a safe environment for kids to be exposed while learning from the story and characters contained within the sequel.
From the Academy Award-winning team – directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho – and featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, and the music of Oscar-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Also lending their voices to the film are Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”) and Sterling K. Brown (The Predator).
Walt Disney Animation Studios FROZEN 2 opens in U.S. theaters on November 22, 2019.