In the 96th year of the Walt Disney Company, it presented the sequel of one of their newest full-length animated films, “Frozen 2” in cinemas all over the globe. Not even their classics like “Snow White,” “Mulan,” “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty” had a sequel that was screened in mainstream cinemas.
“Frozen 2” follows the first installment “Frozen,” first seen in 2013 and is the 53rd Disney animated feature film. Inspired by “The Snow Queen,” a fairy tale penned by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in the 1840s, the animated movie tells the story of Elsa, a princess turned queen in an alter-world set in winter and ice and her journey to find herself alongside her younger sister Anna and a few of her friends.
Set in a magical kingdom called Arendelle, Elsa grew up without her parents, who died in a shipwreck. She was left with her sister, a loyal snowman to their family who they both made from their childhood, and an iceman named Kristoff alongside his reindeer. Elsa had magic powers and part of these include the ability to turn an entire space around her into ice and snow. It included the commonly seen and read themes in literature such as the winter spell. Because of her power and the strength of this, she had to run away from the castle to discover herself and shut herself away from her people.
It was a musical presentation that featured the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Gross, Josh Gad, and more. After six years, the filmmakers and Walt Disney decided to launch a sequel, which retained the musical, the stunning visuals, the elaborate costume changes animated-style, and of course, the romance and the adventure.
“Frozen 2” featured another alter-world, this time, the enchanted forest, a land area near Elsa’s castle, its people who resided in the woods, and the theme of the main character finding answers about their family’s past. She was haunted by a voice, which was later revealed to be from her grandmother and her forest-dwelling community. What’s even more fascinating is the showcase of various real-life locations like the aurora in the skies, the fjords, and a few more others.
The reception to these two movies is also interesting to note. Forbes reported “Frozen 2” has already earned an estimated $651 million worldwide and still counting. Its predecessor made a profit of over $400 million, making it one of the most successful Disney movies of all-time.
‘The Snow Queen’
Children and young girls have come to love the story of Elsa and Anna, and there are several depictions in pop culture also. This includes school bags, balloons, dresses, and more. However, for those interested to uncover the literature that inspired “Frozen,” you can clearly see the colorful connections it has with European history, particularly that of Scandinavian history.
Official Disney reports say that “Frozen” loosely based on “The Snow Queen,” a fairy tale Hans Christian Andersen published in 1845. The article adds, “While the Disney version pulls from elements of the original fairy tale, the finished product is a largely original story.”
“The Snow Queen” is one of the highly recognized stories of Andersen. It narrates the story of Kay and Gerda, two children and neighbors in their city. They are also best friends. During the coming of the winter, their grandmother tells them the tales of the Snow Queen, who walks on Earth with the power to turn things into ice crystals. One night, Kay chances upon a gigantic snowflake turning into a beautiful woman who summons him.
Looking at it, there are several parallelisms on first read. It also revolves around two main characters, but the difference is that, Disney’s Elsa and her character may be associated with one of the siblings and at the same time, she embodies the Snow Queen herself. Then, the stories of the grandmother are seen depicted in the second movie, only that the stories came from Elsa and Anna’s mother.
This is not the first time “The Snow Queen” was used as inspiration and reference to many 20th and 21st century stories, books, and movies. The classic fairy tale of “Snow White” uses the elements of mirrors on the wall, which are also in Andersen’s tale. Then, the Queen in C. S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” also saw depictions, particularly the way the Evil Queen lived in her snow castle and banishes her people.
Moreover, even Daenerys Targaryen, the main character in the hit TV series “Game of Thrones” may also be loosely based from the queen of the snowy lands. Another darker version of “Snow White” shown in the live-action movie series “Snow White and the Hunstman” also has references from Andersen’s story. In a few of these literature, the queen is presented as evil and this is the most proximate to the Danish author’s works. Disney may have transitioned Elsa, the snow queen, into a heroine, but there are scenes that showed her “evil side.” This included shutting her sister Anna out of her room for several years during their childhood, and banishing her away toward the waterfalls in the second film.
Disney, European references, and locations in real life
Much of the heart of Disney’s animated classics are inspired by European mythology and folklore. Critics who studied the film in-depth would say that “Frozen” championed the Scandinavian sub-continent in Europe. Scandinavia is located in Northern Europe and covers the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. If you are to re-imagine the animated movie and find out which part of the real world it could have happened, it has to be in the places in this area in Europe. The movie featured and the characters even mentioned the fjords, aurora, and forests that are said to be locations that gave Scandinavia its personality. In this region, you can find the famous Aurora borealis, the Western fjords, and the Scandinavian coastal conifer forests.
Disney has been known to take inspiration from real-world stories and locations, translating this to animation. If China were to “Mulan,” Arabia were to “Aladdin,” and New Orleans were to “The Princess and the Frog,” Norway and Iceland were to “Frozen.” Norwegian, Norway… Norse? Do we also see parallels to the Marvel hero Thor? Well, Disney is now partnered with Marvel Studios during its recent acquisition. Whether or not this has something to do with it, we’ll never know, Thor is indeed the actual name of a god in Norse mythology. Norse is Norwegian, similar with Greek and Roman myths. Now back to the discussion…
Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, together with producer Peter Del Vecho even visited Norway, Finland, and Iceland to understand the culture of its people, the natural landscape, and the tradition of these Nordic and Scandinavian regions.
“Just by being in that environment where all these myths and fairy tales evolved from, your imagination starts to grow and you get an appreciation for why these developed in these areas, because you can just feel it in the environment,” the movie producer shared in a full article online.
In Norway, they walked through forests with huge boulders and the audience saw these in the movie. “Frozen 2” featured their take on these boulders by giving them life in the character of the “Earth giants.” They also noticed how the geography in the middle of those forest lands seems to be out of place. They painted this in their mind, perhaps took photos, and showed in the movie. It has been said that the Ice Age formed this type of landscape several years ago. Then, it was in Iceland where they decided on the character of the trolls, also read in many literary works.
Of course, the mythical white horse at the ending of the movie. The creature with its characteristics is identified as Nokk, a water spirit in Scandinavian folklore. Even Del Velcro confirmed this reference. In the folklore, Nokk was “traditionally equivalent to a siren,” singing enchanting tunes, stringed-toned ones to attract women and children in the water and swim.
Trust was the main theme that the filmmakers seemed to have generated. In the article, they revealed, “This was the idea that if there’s a body of water, there is this mythical horse made of water that might rise up to help you cross that body of water.”
They added, “If it sees the truth in your heart and goodness in your heart, it will take you safely across that body of water. But if it senses you’re holding something back or haven’t been truthful, or haven’t led a truthful life, it will drown you instead. And that concept, although we treat it differently in the movie, the idea that a water horse being an obstacle that they have to get past was very intriguing to us.”
Another remarkable point of interest in the movie “Frozen” was the scoring. It is inspired by Scandinavian traditional music known as the Joik. It is characterized as the chant-like tunes that come from the Sámi people of Norway, Finland, and Sweden. These chants are also heard from the people in Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
Even before Disney introduced “Frozen,” Joik music is already part of Norwegian music scenes. The locals combine this with RnB, pop, and electronica. If you are familiar with the “Eurovision” competition for the performing arts, one of the finalists sang in this style.
Nothing beats Walt Disney productions from being world-class, and it has to be because they have become part of the childhood of many generations across the decades. Sad to say that the millennials of today are too mature enough to be the primary audiences of “Frozen” and “Frozen 2” but they can always bring their nephews, nieces, and children to the movies for these animated pieces.