ANNECY ANIMATION FESTIVAL PREVIEW OF FROZEN 2
Every year at the Annecy film festival Disney Studios treats the guests with special work-in-progress sneak peeks for their upcoming movies. This year we got to see footage from Frozen II, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s enormous hit, their biggest cash cow since The Lion King. I’m among the people who adore the original and heavens knows I tried to get the Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez penned earwormy songs out of my head. That being said, I wouldn’t put it among my top 10 favorite Disney movies. Elsa, in the original script, turned to the dark side and became a full-blown Disney villain. Perhaps that’s part of why I felt like they could have done something more interesting with the characters, concepts, and story-line.
I’m happy to report, that Frozen II is darker and more epic than the original but also expands the world of Arandelle’s mythology in intriguing ways. Head of animation Becky Bresee and effects animation supervisor Marlon West presented the footage. They explained that the goal was to evolve the story in a natural way as well answer any questions raised by the original movie, most notably, why was Elsa born with these powers.
The film opens like the original with Elsa and Anna as little girls and their father telling them a bedtime story. This one is about the time he visited a mysterious woodland inhabited by strange creatures which personified the elements. He noticed a fight breaking out between humans and the forest people, which he tried to prevent, and encountered a mysterious creature who was observing him. The story then shifts to present day Arandelle, three years after the events of the original Frozen. Anna and Kristoff lead a happy life as a couple while Olaf the snowman has become dedicated to studying life. The “little scientist” comes to the conclusion that life is permanent and always stays the same, a result he’s not entirely pleased with due to his personal belief that life always changes. Elsa, on the other hand, wishes life would stay the same but begins hearing a mysterious sound brought by the wind…calling her. She tries to ignore it by spending quality time with her friends and family, but eventually, she confesses to Anna. When she receives a vision of strange shapes representing the elements and sees Arendelle being destroyed, she decides to follow the voice to the north to save the land from potential destruction. Elsa ends up in the mysterious forest from her father’s stories, full of amazing but sometimes dangerous creatures.
As simple the story sounds, it looks breathtaking. Expanding on what you’ve seen in the trailer, the scene with Elsa trying to get to the middle of the sea by freezing the waves and being attacked by a Water Horse is very intense. It almost plays like a horror movie with the phantom animal vanishing and appearing in different places, sometimes jumping out of the waves, charging toward our Elsa in order to drag her to the bottom of the sea. At one point she tries to freeze the spirit but even that doesn’t hold him for very long. It was action packed but also a spectacular surreal nightmare.
It is interesting that the most super-powered Disney Princess also appears the most emotionally vulnerable. Elsa spends most of the time startled, insecure or nervously waiting for something. Anna and the rest of the gang, on the other hand, are as fun as we remember them. While the creators didn’t mention any of the new songs, one scene has the characters play a game of charades with Olaf making a hilarious impression of Elsa doing her iconic “Let it go” number (hip movement included). The film is very funny and a lot of the character-oriented humor works quite well. We learn that Olaf thinks Sven can actually talk and hasn’t figured out that it’s Kristoff who is doing the voice. There’s also a quick nod to Hans, the villain of the original, but while Santino Fontana is set to return it’s not clear if will he play an actual role in the story or is just there for a cameo.
Overall Frozen II looks promising and if the creators play their cards right we can finally have a Disney sequel worthy of the first movie (other than the sadly forgotten and underrated Rescuers Down Under). Making it a quest through a brand new mystical land is a great way for the animators to do something truly spectacular. The creators are promising to give fans all they ever wanted to see after the first movie, although you Elsa/Jack Frost shippers will still have to wait for the day where Disney buys Dream Works, I’m afraid.
~ Maciej Kur