We made it folks! It’s been a few months and our countdown is at last complete! Frozen II has arrived! That’s right, give yourselves a big pat on the back for sticking with us! To cap off everything, we wanted to take you all inside, perhaps, the most fun press conference we’ve ever covered here at The Nerds of Color. We got the chance to hear from (and bask in the glory of) national treasures Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Evan Rachel Wood, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez, and Peter Del Vecho! Here’s how the magic went down.
The moderator kicked things off by asking the cast and creative staff about what one word they would use to describe Frozen II.
“Perseverance,” started Del Vecho.
“Change,” continued Lee.
“Courage,” added Buck.
“Sexy,” joked Bell, before adding, “Adventure.”
“Soulful,” stated Menzel.
Natural comedian extraordinaire, Gad then commented, “Residuals,” which inevitably had everyone cracking up! “And I guess also growth.”
“Epic,” Groff chimed in.
“Resilience,” stated Anderson-Lopez.
“Jonathan took mine,” lamented Bobby Lopez, before settling on, “Music.”
After a good couple of jokes the cast and crew then got serious, as Lee and Buck were asked to describe what the journey of making Frozen II was like for them, and how they honored the original while taking new directions.
“I think it really started about a year after the [first] film came out,” stated Lee. “And when we saw the characters animated again, we got emotional. We said we missed them. And then Peter had been travelling, meeting artists around the world. And then this one question kept coming up, which was why did Elsa have powers. And then more questions, such as what the girls were meant to do with their lives. They’re on the precipice. They finally got together. What happened? Where were their parents really going? And it just kept talking and we had these questions. And we naively said, ‘we have more story to tell.’ And we weren’t ready to leave this world. We love this world. Not knowing what the journey would be — a journey Disney Animation doesn’t often do — there’s never been a second musical to a feature film. So we were going into the unknown completely. We just knew that we loved them and we wanted to be with them again, and we couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to them! And that was the beginning.”
When asked about the origins of meeting Menzel for the first time, as well as the sister relationship they and their characters developed, Bell had this to say:
“It was a very cool beginning — cool and terrifying — to be told by Disney, ‘So you know, maybe go to Idina’s house before the table read. Go and prepare a song just so we can hear what you guys sound like together.’ And I was like, ‘okay…’ So I pull up to her house, and stood by a piano. And I was terrified. My palms were sweating. And it was almost immediate–this genuine sisterly bond. And she put her hands on my shoulders and said, ‘You sound so beautiful! This is going to be great!’ And I just melted!”
When asked what song they prepared, Menzel added, “It was Kristen’s idea to do a duet of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,'” which was promptly followed by a cooing of “aww’s” from the crowd. The duo was then pushed into doing a few bars of the song, but in their delight and shyness, were smiling and giggling through the whole attempt.
“And then as a testament to Bobby and Kristen,” continued Menzel, “Elsa was written more as your quintessential Disney nemesis. And it was these guys who wrote this complicated, beautiful, passionate song called ‘Let it Go’ that I think inform you that there’s a complicated young woman here that we didn’t have to stereotype or paint her into a corner.”
Anderson-Lopez then discussed the origins of ‘Let it Go,’ and their work on helping to create Anna and Elsa.
“The first thing I was going to say was the irony that it was greenlit based on the idea of these two women singing together, and they only actually sing together in the films for about two minutes,” she said joking. “I do have to say that I need history to be correct. There would be no complicated villain turned into Elsa, ‘Let it Go’ song if we didn’t have Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck being the story crew, inspiring us. And we were talking so deeply in a way we never talked about songs or characters before… It was the story about the emotion between these two sisters, and that Jennifer specifically had been talking about their own sisters… And that’s what really made us think that ‘you know I think Elsa’s not a villain. I think we need to go deeper than that.’ And so ‘Let it Go’ wasn’t just in a vacuum… it was really all about story and character that was inspired by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and the story team who made us think about a more complicated, more layered sisterhood story.”
“My greatest hope for ‘Let it Go’ after we had finished it was that Maria Menounos would introduce it on Movies with Maria Menounos,” joked Bobby Lopez.
The moderator then turned her attention to Gad. She asked him what the best part of making Frozen II was.
“The coolest part about watching Frozen and Frozen II with my daughters, is that they have these guys as their role models,” he began. “That is just the most incredible part of this journey. I get to share this with two girls who get to look up to two fiercely independent Disney princesses, who, I think are changing the way we view what a princess is, and I love that. And that’s the greatest part of this journey.”
He was then asked about how Olaf, who’s arc revolves around growing up, has evolved in this film.
“He got a license. He took out an insurance policy. He’s done a lot of growth,” he joked. “We talked early on… I was thinking about this story right around the time that we were going into production about Ava, who was 5 years old… My oldest child was one day sitting at the table. She was laughing. Then all of a sudden tears started rolling down her face. And she looked at me and my wife and said, ‘What if I don’t want to grow up?’ And she started crying. And it was really so unbelievable. Because I think we’ve all had that experience as kids… And that is the way I feel about Olaf in this movie… in this movie he’s almost gone from toddler to fully grown child. Where now he’s starting to ask those questions that don’t always have the easy answers. And from a comedic perspective, it gave me so much to play with. But more importantly, from an emotional arc, it was such a beautiful journey of that moment in life, where you start to realize maybe the world isn’t just raindrops and lollipops… but that is such a beautiful thing to play.”
During the panel, Groff was asked about Kristoff’s arc in the film, regarding overcoming his fear of love, and confronting his feelings regarding Anna.
“Someone made the point yesterday that oftentimes it’s girls who are singing about pining after a man… And like the first Frozen and this one, it subverts that. And so here’s a man pining after a woman, trying to come to terms with his emotions and singing about it. And I think that making the true love in the first film about familial love, and making the center of the story about two sisters is part of what Frozen does. It continues to challenge your expectations of what the stories are.”
The moderator, turning her attention to Wood, commented that she was a long way from Westworld. When asked about what it was like joining the cast, Wood responded saying, “I grew up doing musical theater. And Disney and musical theater go hand in hand. And all of my favorite Disney movies have a musical element in them, and those are the ones that I feel really stick around forever… These are the most talented people I’ve ever worked with in my life, even though I didn’t actually get to be in the room with any of them. But the artistry behind the films — they’re breathing, living works of art… I was singing Disney lullabies to my son since he was born. And so to be welcomed into the Disney family is already huge. And then to be part of this phenomenon. And then to be given a Disney lullaby of my own was really — I’m still processing it.”
One of the most iconic earworms in the film (of many) is the signature tune, “Into the Unknown.” The cast was asked to speak about the song, and the pressure of following up the iconic ‘Let it Go.’
“I always know my songs are going to be hits, so that’s great!” joked Gad.
Menzel then chimed in, “I feel I’m so trusting of the situation and the creative process… They [Lee, Buck, and the Lopez’s] have got our backs. They’ve gotten to know us as people and as singers. So they make our lives easier. There’s just something about how Kristen and Bobby can write such memorable, and impactful melodies, but also tell stories and evolve character through all of that is quite a gift. So I can just go in there and have fun. The only thing I do is I warm up a lot. Because I know they’re going to push me to hit the tops of my range. And on a good day I do…And if I’m out in the middle of Amsterdam on a tour and I have a cold, I just want to go home, I have to take it down… They’re really challenging songs.”
“Amsterdam. They won’t notice. They really won’t,” giggled Anderson-Lopez. “Here’s the thing: If you’re given a stratovarius, you write for a stratovarius… I knew Idina’s voice and one of the things that’s so amazing…is that it feels like a warm hug… She has this warmth and this vulnerability down low. And as she goes higher and higher she gets stronger and stronger, and more powerful. So she just reaches into your soul, when she’s singing these big giant songs. So really think we are the lucky ones to get to write for her. I don’t know if ‘Let it Go’ or ‘Into the Unknown’ would be a hit without Idina. She’s our muse. And she inspires us.”
I think everyone who reads this would be in full agreement on that! As the panel wrapped up, the cast took a group photo, before everyone began crooning along to the tune of “Heaven” by Bryan Adams, an inspiration for the song, “Lost in the Woods” from the film. Why? Just because they are awesome! And so is the movie!
Frozen II hits theaters today!