This article was originally published by Russell Matthews on 27/11/19 for Reel Dialogue.
Following the cultural phenomenon of Frozen was not going to be easy. It has taken six years and a multitude of speculative considerations of how Disney would back up this groundbreaking film and soundtrack. A smart initial move was to bring back the creative teams behind the original movie with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the married songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and composer Christophe Beck. Next they needed to determine what to do with the beloved characters of Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and everyone’s favourite snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad).
Arendelle has seen relative peace since the last chapter of the orphaned princesses. Elsa has served with her magical powers as the queen of the picturesque community with Princess Anna faithfully serving as the connection with the villagers. They work to maintain tranquillity during the day and enjoy nights in with their friends, until a restlessness begins to grow in Elsa when she hears a call from a distant land. Her drive to leave behind her beloved kingdom comes when mysterious events occur that cause the evacuation of the people. The two sisters are joined by Kristoff, Olaf and Sven the reindeer to search for a legendary land far from the borders of their country.
Her father and mother had shared of an enchanted forest where the Northuldra people lived in harmony with the four spirits of earth, air, fire and water. They were told that the girl’s grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto), had tried to keep peace with this tribe by building a dam to protect their water source. On the day to celebrate this act of unification of these two people, an unexplained battle ensues. This action leads to the death of their grandfather and the Northuldra leader. This action enrages the elemental spirits and they bring down an impregnable fog upon the forest, leaving a shroud of mystery around the wooded area. The foursome must search for the answers to saving Arendelle by entering the forbidden mist without knowing if they will ever return.
By digging into Arendellian royalty’s past, the innovative team manage to find a rich backstory that opens the door to a new future. The only challenge is that they manage to go back into the storylines of many Disney and animated classics to unpack this journey of sisterhood and magic. There is the spiritual and visual elements reminiscent of Pocahontas and Moana, the artistic stylings and the gecko sidekick from Tangled and the magical and familial aspects of Brave, amongst other nods to past classics. Even though they were grafted together with sufficient precision, this left this chapter with a less than inventive tone.
The highlights of this instalment rest on the shoulders of Josh Gadd’s performance of Olaf, the advances in animation and the new soundtrack. Due to the darker mood of this outing, the little snowman is expected to provide the humour and the more touching moments. This is complemented by the advancements in animation over the past few years. Even though this has become an expectation of every new Disney production and can be minimised with each further progress in this artistic field.
Behind the stunning animation, the musical team has delivered singable, even though a less memorable soundtrack. A whole new set of songs that will be on perpetual repeat in every family’s car during the holidays. Giving fans an admirable and magical follow-up to the first snow-bound adventure and a crystal-clear option for mums and dads during the holidays.
What should parents know about Frozen 2? Disney knows how to deliver films that will provide families with an option to choose during the Christmas holiday season. This one does double down on the spiritual content. Proving that animism (attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena) continues to be all-pervasive at Disney studios. A warning for some parents, but more importantly, an opportunity to talk with your children about their spiritual beliefs.
Frozen 2 is more mature and sombre than the first. Still, the relationship between the sisters and Olaf do provide heartfelt and humorous elements to keep it from a truly dark path.