When “Frozen 2” directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck plunged Disney’s monster franchise into an enchanted forest, they collaborated even more closely with the Oscar-winning husband and wife songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Let It Go”). They provided seven original songs about coping with change and righting past wrongs, taking advantage of Anna’s fairy tale traits (Kristen Bell) and Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) mythic burdens. Musically, the songs ranged from lullaby to pop opera to power ballad.
“We were going for the maturity and depth of an opera,” said Anderson-Lopez. “Every song holds up a lot of storytelling and the directors were really great about giving a story point to every song. We worked closely with them on that. And there’s no difference between the dialogue and the words they sing. It worked as a piece and unified everything.”
The first song they composed, appropriately enough, was the prophetic lullaby, “All Is Found,” sung in a flashback prologue by Elsa and Anna’s mom, Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood). It served as their roadmap. “It’s patterned after the quest-like quality of Scandinavian lullabies,” continued Anderson-Lopez. “We tried to give all of Elsa’s songs a bit of a pop opera aspect,” added Lopez.
Elsa’s quest begins with the rousing (and most likely Oscar contender) “Into the Unknown,” as she follows a mysterious voice in her head to the enchanted forest, sung as a duet with Norwegian pop star Aurora. “It’s the catalyst of the movie when she responds to this call,” Lopez said. “She starts singing that theme and they start interweaving as a duet [an operatic convention].”
The tour de force allowed them to dramatize Elsa’s restlessness about her role as Queen of Arendelle. “Robby and I were very excited to write a duet that tells her: ‘You’re not where you belong,'” said Anderson-Lopez. “The resistance is in the front end of the song until she embraces it. Her longing to be on a cliff, out howling at the moon, is what that song is all about. It’s the past reaching out and acting through her in a really powerful way that leads everyone into this enchanted forest, where they all transform.”
By contrast, “Some Things Never Change” serves as Anna’s “I Want” song about keeping everything the same in Arendelle — safe and secure. “Anna has the most of what she wants in life,” Lopez said. “The other characters to a certain degree long for something else, and Elsa is worried that something is going to mess it all up. It’s a song about fall and autumn.”
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Meanwhile, Olaf (Josh Gad), the adorable snowman, laments his lack of understanding the ways of life in the humorous song, “When I’m Older.” “Olaf is lost in the woods, and we wanted to write a song that introduced the forest and all of the crazy elements, but also gave Olaf the chance to express the anxiety that, I think, a lot of people can relate to today,” added Lopez. “And the music is his way of soothing himself and processing all this information, with the hope that he has synthesized it when he’s older.”
“Lost in the Woods,” the ’80s-inspired power pop ballad, gives Iceman Kristof (Jonathan Groff) the chance to voice his romantic frustration (backed by reindeer doing harmony). “We were paying homage to a time when men could express their feelings in a big, powerful way, inspired by Bryan Adams and Jon Bon Jovi, and which I think has subsided a bit in a our culture that we wanted to bring back.,” said Anderson-Lopez.
In “The Next Right Thing,” Anna’s cheerful optimism melts away when all seems lost. Crucially, it was inspired by the passing of director Buck’s son during the “Frozen” junket tour. “I was so in awe and inspired by how he got through the unimaginable each day of showing up to work and [dealing with] the grief,” said Anderson-Lopez. “And the only way through grief is just to do the next thing and feel the next step. We were never sure what the next right thing was in the story and had to try a lot of things to get that right. We felt just as confused as Anna at that moment — a dark pit.”
But then Elsa enters the point of no return with “Show Yourself” and unleashes the full force of her magical ice power. “‘Show Yourself’ is her arrival and being ready to unlock the voice that’s been calling her,” Anderson-Lopez said. “It had to be really triumphant and the process took us about six months to do because all the rest of the story was still locking. We just had to keep rewriting the last three minutes of the song so much [assisted by story artist Mark Smith]. But now I really love the moment when she [tames] Nokk, the water horse, and you feel this joyful settling in Elsa.”