It’s become passé to include a “Making of” documentary with a home video release. Even the Oscar-winning, highest grossing animated film in decades, Frozen, could only scrape something together as a joke with the cast singing a new song called “How Did We Make Frozen?,” at the end of which they just said “We don’t know” and left it at that. For fans of Frozen 2, wrongs will be righted on June 26th with the launch of the six-part Disney+ docuseries Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2.
What sets Into the Unknown apart from your typical exhaustive bonus feature is that it takes the time to get to know the filmmakers. Primarily, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Writer/Co-Director of Frozen 2, Jennifer Lee. She makes a statement in the second episode that she’s not superwoman, but everything shown very much contradicts that statement. Things also get personal for Co-Director Chris Buck in the third episode, which deals with the recording of “The Next Right Thing” and the conversation steers to the loss of his son when production wrapped on the first film.
Speaking of the music, the sometimes virtual back-and-forth with Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez is a recurring theme along with some late-in-the-game changes. In the third episode, for example, they introduce a new song for the Northuldra people to sing. Fans of the music will also delight in seeing recording sessions with the cast, scoring sessions with a ninety-piece orchestra, and the husband and wife writing team at their home studio making changes as the story evolves.
Nothing demonstrates the iterative process of making an animated film better than the drama surrounding “Show Yourself,” which starts almost at the beginning of the first episode. Like Ross and Rachel in Friends, the song goes through a will they/won’t they back-and-forth regarding if it will even be in the final film You’ve surely seen Frozen 2 so you know its final fate, but it’s fun to watch the filmmakers in retrospect trying to figure out what the right thing to do is (not to be confused with “The Next Right Thing”).
The series covers the final year of production, with some occasional footage of earlier in the process. Viewers will likely be surprised that the story is still very fluid a year out and still not finalized three months before release. The third episode, fittingly titled “Journey to Ahtohallan,” shows Production Designer Michael Giamo and Visual Development Artist Brittney Lee designing and building the magical glacier just three months before the world premiere.
What I really appreciate about Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 is the opportunity to see inside the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank and getting to meet some of the unsung heroes on the project. It also shows the bigger picture of making these films, stepping outside of Disney to see scoring and satellite recording sessions with the voice cast. Like the final film, Into the Unknown is full of magical moments that give you a deeper appreciation for the animated artform.
I give Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 5 out of 5 Olaf stuffed animals on people’s desks.
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2 premieres Friday, June 26th, only on Disney+.