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Frozen, Disney’s 2013 hit that won two Oscars, launched “Let It Go” and became the highest grossing animated film of all time (only to be surpassed this year by The Lion King), is back for round two with new songs, darker adventures and deeper themes. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel return as sisters Anna and Elsa, along with Josh Gad’s Olaf and Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff, who gets his own ’80s-tinged rock ballad in the sequel.
Groff said he wasn’t even sure of the film’s final plot until he screened the movie because it was “rewritten 8,000 times,” and told The Hollywood Reporter at Frozen 2‘s world premiere in Los Angeles on Thursday that “there’s a really beautiful, profound maturity to the writing, and there’s a grief storyline in the movie that I don’t know any Disney movie has really explored.” He added that Bell has a solo song, one of seven new originals, near the end of the film “that brought me to tears — I was a total puddle ?— about loss, and I think that’s one of the really profound things about this movie.”
Along with the familiar faces (and voices), the sequel brings some new additions to the story, including performances from Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Martha Plimpton and Jason Ritter. Brown said that when he first read the storyline for the film and his character Sergeant Mattias, “I was as giddy as a school child on his first day of school and his last day of school, at the same time.”
Detailing his audition process, Brown remembered how Disney showed him what the animated character would roughly look like and pitched him the arc of the story, then asked him to come back two weeks later to perform an audition song.
“I haven’t had to sing for a job ever,” he said, and rehearsed his selection, “Wheels of a Dream” from the musical Ragtime, with wife Ryan Michelle Bathe’s vocal coach. When it came time to perform, in a studio in front of Frozen‘s directors and producers, Brown asked to close the curtains in the booth so he couldn’t see his high-pressure audience. “We sing it, and I’m like, ‘That wasn’t half bad.’ So then they go off and audition a few other people and then about a week or two later they’re, like, ‘OK, Sterling’s our guy.’ And I was like, ‘Oh snap, crackle, pop, I’m going to be in Frozen 2!'” Brown laughed.
While the first film largely focused on Elsa’s struggles to get her magical ice powers under control and repair her relationship with her sister, the second movie goes deeper into the family’s backstory and the origin of those powers, all while on an adventure to save their kingdom of Arendelle.
“These two sisters who have each other’s back no matter what. There is the idea and the truth of women being able to save themselves and not needing any male character to come through for them,” Brown says of the sequel’s focus, which also includes a timely message about “people of different factions coming together and working together” in a time of crisis where “you have to put aside your small differences in order to serve the greater good.”
Co-director Chris Buck echoed a similar message from the sequel, that although Anna and Elsa have been empowered characters from the beginning, “we take it deeper with this one, they’re even more powerful and they find an inner strength,” and because of their sisterly bond, “when they get together it’s even more powerful.”
While Anna continues her romantic relationship with Kristoff, the creators decided not to introduce a love interest for Elsa in the film, though some fans have called for her to have a relationship with a woman. Of the choice to keep Elsa single, writer and co-director Jennifer Lee said, “In this movie, she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and it’s a huge thing about the origins of her powers. I did a lot of work to see is she ready for a relationship in her life, and boy, she’s barely able to talk outside of being with her sister. She’s a shy lady and she’s got a long way to go, so we’re going to do what’s right for Elsa in this moment.”
The premiere, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, also welcomed castmembers Alfred Molina, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto and Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie, who has a song in the film. A number of celebrity guests also attended the event, including Selena Gomez (with sister Gracie Teefey), Busy Phillipps, Yvette Nicole Brown and Patton Oswalt. Frozen 2 hits theaters Nov. 22.
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