To countdown to the release of Frozen II, we are providing all of you with an inside look at the making of the movie, as well as interviews with the filmmakers and artists who worked incredibly hard to bring Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and, of course, Olaf to life. Last week we brought you a look at the evolution of the sequel’s story. This week we’re excited to reveal another new sneak peek at the magic to come!
One of of the very exciting panels The Nerds of Color got to attend during their visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios for our behind the scenes look at Frozen II, was a discussion with the artists behind the gorgeous and immersive production design of the film: Sean Jenkins (Head of Environments), Lisa Keene (Co-Production Designer), and David Womersley (Art Director Environments). As the Environments team, it was the trio’s duty to bring all of the settings in the sequel to life. And as a treat, they took us all through the ins and outs of creating the kingdom of Arendelle and the world of Frozen.
“I was always really excited about the Frozen universe that’s been built up,” began Jenkins. “And I think particularly the stylization and the kind of the consistent stylization throughout that whole universe. Environments here is really about building the world… We start with basically an empty sound stage in the computer, and we have to build everything. You know, so we have to build kinda the entire universe, the entire world.”
Keene, a veteran of the first film, chimed in about the overall start of their process.
“We get a script and a treatment, and we start with the words that are literally written there and try to build our world up from that. And we have a whole lot of art that we create, some moves forward. Most of it doesn’t,” she added chucking. “As we go through creation of the story and the story evolves, this is one environment that did sort of land and help us define what our forest world in fall might look like. One of the conceits that in Frozen, well, first of all, it’s all covered in snow for the most part. So now we have to take all the snow off and reveal our design concepts underneath, which was verticality. That was something that very early on in our trips to Norway that we took back from us.”
She also continued to discuss the importance of color in the film,and how that enhanced the differences between the first and second films.
“Color was another important thing. In Frozen we focused around a jeweled palette. That was something that was sort of a winter palette, and it worked beautifully with snow, because snow is a blank canvas and we can put any color of light we wanted onto that. Dealing with fall [for Frozen II] was a completely different palette for us. When you look at all the fall color range and it’s everything from yellow to dark reds and, and browns, and it was all on the warm side of the spectrum, which was completely opposite to everything we had trained ourselves to do for the first one. So we had to figure out a way to bring the Frozen sensibility of hue into Frozen II.”
The film takes place primarily in an Enchanted Forrest, which proved to be a challenge for the crew. Art Director of Environments, Womersley, describes the experience of working on the forrest.
“Obviously you go into a forest, it can be a very complex place. There’s a lot of stuff going on in a forest. So we had to find ways to take those trees, the various species of trees, decide on which species and take those trees and try to design them in an elegant way so you would feel like as you entered the forest, and it felt like a real forest that the characters were entering. But at the same time we wanted to put a stamp, a Frozen stamp.And so we went back to the design conceits of the original Frozen and tried to take that forward into Frozen II… So we actually talked to a botanist. We did our research. We, we got the right trees and the right — all the right flora. And we decided on a certain number of trees.”
Womersley then discussed the challenge of effectively blending the characters of the film with the busy settings that contain great deal of background details, which have the potential to overshadow the focus on the characters.
“We played with a lot of atmosphere. And a forest can be very busy as I said before. So, you try to get the business. You find the business or you create a composition where the business is away from your characters. So the mist really helped us a lot that we could actually push a lot of that stuff back and create nice, nice areas against the backdrop there where you could actually see the action of the characters without too much competition from the background.”
In addition to the Enchanted Forrest, Frozen II also gives audiences the ability to explore and interact more with the Kingdom of Arendelle than in the original film. Jenkins, head of Environments, discussed the changes in greater detail.
“Early on, we knew that we were going to have a song in the village. And we knew that the song was going to be the characters traveling through the village. So where a lot of the original movie took place in isolation. This was a point where we were really going to have to fill in all of the rest of Arendelle,” stated Jenkins. “And make sense of some of the icons that we had seen before, say like the clock tower and the port but really give it an overall consistency, a sense of history, a sense of place.”
Jenkins continued to describe the “city planning”-esque tasks required to build out Arendelle for the sequel.
“In addition to kind of connecting all the pieces and giving it like a real city layout, we were also getting a whole lot closer to a lot of the places in the village than we ever really have before. So things that kind of held up in the distance for the first movie now will rise up again,” he stated. “So we really needed to go back through and renovate and make sure that everything held up to a close-up with the character standing right next to a building. Technology wise our tools are so much better now than they were for the original. So there’s so many more options to be able to add the little details that really give a richness to it. So we took that moment to be able to do that… One of the nice things about having a consistent village is it’s like it’s a virtual back wall. It’s a virtual stage. You can do things like take your virtual drone out and, you know, and see the whole village.”
And I’m sure audiences everywhere can’t wait to revisit Arendelle and learn all about the new settings like the Enchanted Forrest in the film. Jenkins, Keene, and Womersley have really, genuinely outdone themselves!
Frozen II hits theaters November 22, 2019! And keep a look out on The Nerds of Color for more on the film to come, as we count down to the film’s release!