When it was first released, no one could predict how rapidly Frozen would take the world by storm. The faces of Elsa and Anna were everywhere while both kids and grown-ups alike were singing ‘Let It Go’ wherever they went. While the film itself stood alone and was a massive success, there were still some unanswered questions that still lingered from the original film. Where were Elsa’s and Anna’s parents going when their boat crashed? Why does Elsa and not Anna have magical powers? And what was the world outside of the kingdom of Arendelle like? What magic and mystery was there left to explore in this world that directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho had created for audiences? The team took a leap of faith in exploring all of these questions in the follow-up film, FROZEN 2. While the film itself lacks the absolute dramatic impact that its predecessor possessed, the screenplay, music, and the characters within the film show the depth of growth, maturity, and simplicity without needing massive dramatic plot points to emphasize these elements of life.
FROZEN 2 opens three years after the events of the preceding film (and I can assure you that you don’t need to have seen the two shorts that were released prior to the sequel.) The kingdom of Arendelle is thriving and the seasons are changing. Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and reindeer herder Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) are still going strong, with a couple of miscommunication hiccups here and there. Olaf (voiced with hilarious, millennial meme-tinged abandon by Josh Gad) is dealing with his own existential crisis concerning the changing of time and trying to make sense of abstract life concepts that keep coming to his mind. Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has managed to keep the kingdom of Arendelle running smoothly, but something has been calling her outside of the kingdom. It’s almost like a siren’s song, with how tempting it is to just react to it but she has resisted its sound.
However, one night she decides to finally give in and answer the song’s call, which triggers a massive tidal wave effect that is now threatening the kingdom. With her kingdom’s collapse imminent, the gang decides to venture outside of the comfort of the kingdom to figure out what is going on. Along the way, each character experiences a change on their journey that will force themselves outside of their comfort zone and acknowledge what they need to do in order to create a future for themselves and Arendelle. Without acknowledging any of this, there may be no future for them or for the citizens they care so deeply for. This is as far as I feel comfortable explaining the plot before I get deep into spoiler territory.
While I initially had problems with the animation in the preceding film, the animation in FROZEN 2 is truly beautiful without any major faults. The smoothness of the movements in the characters and how much time and energy was spent in making sure the elements moved properly like clothes, hair, water, etc., definitely shows in the final product. There was one moment in particular that I couldn’t help reminding myself of that slightly mirrored an animation sequence involving water that took place in Disney’s Tangled, which is now almost a decade old. To reflect back on the differences between how much progress has been made just animating water between that film and FROZEN 2, I could already tell that the animation featured in this film was going to be the subject for many would-be creators and animators for years to come. My one minor complaint was the usage of black empty space in two sequences that I felt took the viewer out of the film. I’m not sure if this was an animation decision or just a matter of showcasing certain elements without the fuss of a cluttered background, but it was something jarring that I didn’t think matched well with the animated scenes we had seen throughout the film.
Another highlight of the film that I absolutely cannot skip out on discussing is the music. Many have been wondering whether or not songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez could replicate the success of earworms like ‘Let It Go’ when tackling the music in this sequel. Initially, after seeing the film, I was absolutely certain that the music was successful, but parents might be safe from the phenomenon that was ‘Let It Go’. As karma would have it, I then spent the past week having what has been promoted as Elsa’s big song (spoilers: there are two big songs) ‘Into the Unknown’ stuck in my head. Songs getting stuck in one’s head aside, I think that there is also a maturity in the music and that it is much more apparent this time around the complexities of the characters’ insecurities, struggles, and the like within the realm of the songs created. And, while I do love songs being the focus of animated films, I feel that having the songs serve more as a tool to illuminate the character development happening on screen was a lot more successful I think, especially since we didn’t have to spend time using songs to introduce characters this time around.
On a final note, I want to talk about the thematic material featured in this film because it’s a lot but it highlights the real reason why we keep coming back to Disney Animated Films in place of traditional fairytales nowadays. While the film explores the individual characters and their story arcs, in the course of all of this FROZEN 2 also tackles subjects like environmentalism, the disruption of our relationship with nature, colonization, the fear of the “other” and how detrimental that is on society as a whole, the importance of self-discovery and breaking free from co-dependency, and much more. And, you would think that all of these themes would bog down the overall story as there is just so much to really dissect and munch on as a viewer. However, I think co-writers Jennifer Lee and Allison Schroeder manage to subtlely weave these elements in without making it overbearing for the audience, especially the much more grownup audience members. The subtlety in which these themes are presented is not obtrusive and, as a tool to help kids both young and old deal with these particularly complex topics, it is delivered with such simplicity that you can’t help but admire the quality of the writing.
FROZEN 2 is an equal, if not better film than its predecessor. The animation is polished. The humor is on point, but this will not negate the inevitable heartbreak that you will feel once the film enters its second act. While the film itself lacks major dramatic sequences, each of the four major characters gets their own story arc which was something I felt the preceding film lacked. Overall, it is clear that you can see the maturity and growth that went into the development of the characters, the multi-themed plot and subject matter, and the lyrics within the songs we get to hear this time around which, I think, makes this film far more marketable to all age groups. So, yes. I definitely recommend you all taking your families to go see this film. Oh, and stay until the end of the credits. There is a little itty bitty something something for you to gaze upon once the credits stop rolling.
Walt Disney Animation Studios FROZEN 2 opens in U.S. theaters on November 22, 2019.