‘Frozen 2’ stars Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel assure fans it’s more of what they loved in the first one
“Frozen 2” arrive in theatres this week and with it comes an iceberg of expectations.
The original film arrived in 2013 and became an instant Disney classic, eventually making over $1.2 billion at the box office and driving parents crazy with the song “Let It Go” becoming every kid’s favourite earworm.
Now, six years later, much of the creative team behind the original is back as well as many of the voice actors, including the films’s biggest stars, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, who reprise their roles as Elsa and Anna respectively.
“Frozen 2” picks up three years after the first film and life has continued splendidly in Arendelle — until Elsa starts hearing a mysterious voice that calls her to an enchanted forest. The producers say the film will explore where Elsa’s ice powers come from as well as other mythical elements, inspired largely by research trips to Norway and Iceland.
That all sounds good but, with the notable exception of the “Toy Story” films, animated sequels have a terrible history of being, well, terrible. This film is the first ever sequel to a Disney musical, so one of the first questions for Bell and Menzel, who were in Toronto in early November, was if they felt any pressure to follow up such a beloved hit.
“Look, you bake a cake with certain ingredients. If you try it again the next day, chances are it’s going to be a great cake,” said Bell.
“With the first one, in my gut, I felt pride when I first saw it because I knew we had broken some stereotypes and some moulds, and really made a great film. I had no idea that the response would be what it was. And I don’t think anybody knows. It’s all, like, what’s the emotional temperature of Earth at that moment?”
“I feel like I’m a little bit more results-oriented on this one,” said Menzel.
“For the first one, I was not at all. I was just proud to be in a Disney movie playing a princess character that was going to sing. But I feel like I’m in such good hands with the creative team on this project. They really didn’t exploit this for a sequel for monetary value, for commercial value.
“They … wanted to only do it if there was a story to be told. It wasn’t until they were travelling all over the world and people would ask them why? Why does Elsa have these powers? So they started to delve into that storyline.”
I tell Menzel a story I know she has heard a million times. I distinctly remember my 2-year-old daughter started singing “Let it Go” quietly to herself after seeing the film. It was one of the first popular songs she sang, which then led to constant YouTube plays and a house filled with “Frozen” merchandise — which Disney had to scramble to make at the time, because even the House of Mouse underestimated the demand.
“I’m flattered and honoured. Thank you. And I also feel sorry for you a little,” she says.
“I think it might be because I’m a creature of the theatre. I’m used to doing eight shows a week. I’m used to finding the nuance in every single show and breaking up the monotony by finding those moments. And so when I’m on tour and I get to sing this music, ‘Let it Go’ onstage every night, it’s sort of a little reminder of how lucky I am,” Menzel says.
“You wanted a big song like this your whole life. It also connects me to the audience in a way, to all these young people, in a way that I think is sort of hard to explain. But I feel a tremendous responsibility and gratitude for it.
“It also reminds me that because I am a quote, unquote, role model, that I need to walk the walk, talk the talk. And that song about empowerment, and celebrating what makes you unique and exceptional in the world, and not walking away from that, stepping into it, owning it, is something that we as human beings can stand to be reminded in life in general, but especially for women.”
“Get ready for ‘Into the Unknown,’” adds Bell, of a song from the new film. “Idina does it again.”
“I can say I have two amazing songs in this film,” acknowledges Menzel. “One they don’t talk about as much because they think it’s more of a spoiler, but I think it’s equally as good. I think they’re both really special and emotionally epic.”
One of the reasons the original “Frozen” was lauded was because it subverted some of our traditional ideas about Disney films, like the prince who turned out to be a cad or the fact the main love story was about a pair of siblings. Bell says the second film shares that quality.
“It’s not what you think it is. The underlying metaphors are beautiful learning lessons. I think the reason children gravitated toward the first one was because we underestimate their ability to be drawn to complexity and suffering. Elsa was suffering. She was two different things at once. She didn’t know if she was too much for this world or enough.
“In this movie, whereas the first one was about a sort of intimate problem, you know, breaking down the walls between family, becoming vulnerable and fighting for one another, this movie is … ‘Who are we in the world? Who am I in the world? Who are you in the world? Is that at odds with one another?’” says Bell.
“Everyone has a really good arc in this one. No one is a bystander character.”
Menzel says she and Bell “take great pride in being a part of something that’s pretty groundbreaking in a number of ways,” including doing so well at the box office despite having two women as lead characters.
“I think this film remains true to itself,” she says.
“It explores love in many other ways, not just romantic love, it’s about familial love, the love of these two sisters and their love for each other being so unconditional that it helps them understand self-love. And it’s just so refreshing to be in a movie, especially a Disney film, where it’s not all about the love being by another man.”
“Frozen 2” opens Nov. 22.