Into the Unknown: Behind the Music of “Frozen 2”

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen 2 is just days away from release. With the soundtrack now available on Walt Disney Records, it’s time to dive deeper into the music. During a visit to the animation studio in September, I got to hear a few of the songs early and many of the creative talent presenting that day shared some early information about the songs that would live to follow hits like “Let it Go,” “For the First Time in Forever,” and “Love is an Open Door.”

“When it came to music, we once again collaborated with our original songwriters, and that’s Bobby Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez,” Co-Director Chris Buck shared. “These Oscar-winning songwriters brought so much to Frozen and we’re thrilled to work with them again on Frozen 2.”

Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios and the Writer and Co-Director of Frozen 2, expanded on the collaboration with the songwriting power couple. “Just like the first film, we collaborated with them every day via video conference or sometimes they were here and they delivered seven amazing songs that we can’t wait to share.”

There’s a returning character from the first film who was recast because the part now required singing. Jennifer Lee provided the voice of Anna and Elsa’s mother in the original Frozen. “It turns out, shocker… it turns out for this one you actually have to act and sing so Peter (Del Vecho) fired me,” Jennifer joked. “But Evan (Rachel Wood) is amazing and her singing voice sits beautifully between Kristin Bell and Idina Menzel in terms of its power and sweetness and that was an amazing discovery as we got to hear her sing.”

To cast the first Frozen, some powerful Broadway veterans were brought in to provide vocal talent, but not everyone got the chance to display the full range of their vocal talents. “What’s great about this version of the story is that they each have a new song in the movie, each of our leads,” Chris Buck shared. Jennifer Lee responded, “Actually they all have really powerful songs not just in the sense that they drive the story forward but I think Bobby and Kristen really outdid themselves. It’s extraordinary music.” To settle the biggest concern, Chris added, “And Kristoff does get a whole song this time.”

Executive Music Producer, Tom MacDougall, was on hand to provide more context into the musical direction, explaining that songs in a Disney animated musical should serve the purpose of moving the story along and revealing new information about a character. “When we started talking about this movie and Elsa in particular, on the first Frozen we had ‘Let it Go’ which was obviously a powerful song. A great musical moment song introducing a character that had been told to, you know, conceal, don’t reveal anything. And then when that song starts and she starts to make that evolution as a character, even the first chorus of that song is very sort of gentle… But by the end of the song, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs, even declaring the cold never bothered her anyway. So that is a real transformation of that character that we felt was best covered in music and in musical moments.”

“For ‘Into the Unknown’ we had a new situation for Elsa,” MacDougall continued. “She’s got this literal voice calling her that she can’t identify who it is, what it is, where it’s coming from, why, but she’s had these lingering questions about why does she have powers? Why is she different? What is her purpose? So we started to really circle this moment as a unique opportunity to musicalize and the process-wise of how this works is the writer, filmmakers and the story team will come up with the literal pages that we’ll look at to see what the storytelling component of that moment is and then how to musicalize that. Then, we’ll send those pages to Robert and Kristen Lopez, our songwriters, who work out of Brooklyn, New York. We’re actually quite fortunate to work with them again.”

Most Disney films feature an “I Want” song early in the show, but Frozen 2 contains an “I Don’t Want” song with Into the Unknown, as Animation Supervisor Wayne Unten shared. “One of the moments in the film where Elsa goes through a great deal of change is the ‘Into the Unknown’ sequence… She’s singing ‘I've had my adventure I don't need something new.’ But it's not like the voice said you want to go on this adventure. She's saying I don't need another adventure. And it kind of felt like the analogy for when I was animating. It was like imagine I'm in a kitchen, and there's a plate of cookies over there. And I'm like I'm not going to eat you. I know you're chocolate chip. No, no. You smell good. I know. And you're freshly baked, but no. And then what does she do? She eats the cookie. And then she has regret.”

Audiences can join Elsa on her musical journey “Into the Unknown” with seven brand-new songs from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez in Frozen 2 beginning November 22nd.

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).