Although Frozen 2 wasn’t the critical darling like the first one was with critics, the sequel is the highest-grossing animated film of all time. And even if there is a six-year gap between the two films, in which there is an animated short and a holiday special, fans are going to follow Anna and Elsa, and the rest of the gang to Riverendelle and beyond. So they will be especially excited to know that they can revisit that world by watching Into The Unknown: The Making Of Frozen 2.
The six-part docuseries will cover the various aspects and complexities of making one of Disney’s most successful films to date. There are interviews with director Jennifer Lee, co-director Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho, stars Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff, along with songwriters Bobby and Kristen Lopez.
Like Galleries: The Mandalorian, it is a behind the scenes look at what goes into the production, but on a bigger scale than any bonus feature, you will see on a Blu-ray. Filmed a year before the film’s scheduled release, Into The Unknown: The Making of Frozen 2 chronicles every moment with the cast and crew as they all start to feel the pressures of completing the film before its release date. This includes meetings with the story trust who has some harsh feedback, juggling various responsibilities that come with the job, and so much more.
ThatsItLA had a chance to get a preview of the three episodes of the docuseries. We get to see how emotionally invested the team is to deliver a film that will ultimately make fans proud of the latest chapter of the Frozen film franchise. That is no easy task, especially since the same team members at new points in their lives. Lee is now the Chief Creative Officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Not only is she a single mother directing a major animated blockbuster sequel, but she also has to oversee the future projects.
Our first episode takes a look at what it’s like for everyone to be “A Year to Premiere.” In it, Lee and Buck open up about not being afraid to dive back into the world they knew so well, only to realize that fear grew as they got closer to the premiere. Buck says that this point in time “is the toughest time in production.” “It’s when all the balls are in the air, and the balls start falling,” Buck says with crashing sound effects emphasizing the mounting pressure.
And even though they are familiar with the production process for any sequel, it doesn’t make the feedback process any less scary, for its difficult for the creative team to hear some of the scathing feedback from the story trust. To be fair, the story trust is set in place to help the creative team improve on some of the weaker aspects of the story.
Lee talks about how important it was to relate to the characters who are also venturing into the unknown. “I think that the concept of our characters all journeying into the unknown was important to us, and that feeling in life where you have to dare to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown,” she said.
The episode eventually veers to the animator’s perspective, where they talk about their processes, use reference videos to improve upon some of the musical sequences, and interview voice talent like Menzel to get a better idea of how the character should move during some moments or scenes.
All of that is done to better the final product. It’s an extensive process that takes years to nail down. We rarely get to see how emotional everyone involved can get. Watching Lee, Buck, and a teary-eyed Menzel nodding their heads to “Into The Unknown” during the orchestral recording resonates with anyone who is a fan of the character. It’s hard not to get choked up watching them get choked up. This is especially true when Elsa animation supervisor Wayne Unten reads a little girl’s letter about how watching the first Frozen and hearing “Let It Go” saved her life.
“Back To The Drawing Board” simply takes a look at the struggles of finding how “Show Yourself,” Frozen 2’s second ballad, fits into the themes of the story. The feedback they are getting is that the song is confusing, and the story and music team can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. But it is an important song as it connects to Elsa’s identity across two films.
And that wasn’t the only song they had trouble fitting in. While the Lopez confesses their regret not giving Kristoff a song, they promise Groff the opportunity to sing an 80s Power Ballad in the sequel. That song would be “Lost in The Woods.” But now that they have agreed to add the song, it would be up to the animation team to board it that would be funny yet very sincere. It would soon be time to show off the untested song at a screening, which would be the point where the team decides if it stays or if it gets taken out of the film.
But it’s “Show Yourself” that proves to be most demanding because of what the storyboarded sequence is asking of people like production designer Michael Giaimo. In one meeting, he expresses how he wishes the song was linear like “Let It Go.” And we get to see some of the tension that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to making sure that the audience understands the true meaning behind the visual metaphors of the musical sequence.
The episode also covers some of the difficulties the voice cast may have keeping up with the constant changes to the script. Additionally, Lee talks about her marathon routines of being a single mother while also working on Frozen 2. Her days start by perfecting the script early in the morning, followed by taking her daughter to school, then arriving at the studio to work on the film, picking up her daughter, dinner, and then returning to work at night. It may sound like a vicious cycle at first, especially since the repetitiveness of it all can be tedious. Buck calls it the “Groundhog Day” of production because it can feel like they are doing the same thing over and over again. But it is an inescapable but essential process.
It later goes into how work life can overlap their personal lives. Which can be a sort of challenge for Lee, a single mother who is honest and has to prioritize, but always includes her daughter in conversations. She is also someone who isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it. By opening up, we get to see a state of vulnerability from Lee, and yet, she displays great strength in being a mother and a leader of an iconic studio.
The final preview is a “Journey To Ahtohallan,” which takes a look at the final “live-or-die” moment for two songs, “See The Sky” and “Show Yourself,” the latter of which is still an unsolved mystery as to whether or not it has a place in the film. Buck says the last thing anyone wants to do is change the song this late in the process, but if that’s what the story requires, then so be it.
Thankfully, they get their answer during another production screening. So to speak. Although “See The Sky” did not land the way that Del Vecho had hoped, they were able to get people on board for “Show Yourself.” Now there is the matter of whose voice is calling out to Elsa during that song.
It’s a huge collaborative effort from everyone who must come to terms with some of the changes that comes to the script, whether that means a song stays in or gets taken out. Ultimately, it’s to better the story. “You trust that Jenn [Lee] and Chris [Buck] have a vision for what the overall story needs to be,” Sterling K. Brown said. “And if it didn’t fit now in the story – ‘yeah, okay, it didn’t fit in the story.’ But you’re like ‘Oh that was really really fun.’ But then they come up with something that is really really fun.”
Overall, I have to say that I cannot wait to see the final three episodes of Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2. The docuseries is not only an education on how the production process across the board works, it also informative in regard to the emotional investment that goes into making a film on and off the studio lot. It’s something that you just don’t see in any bonus feature for any film. And because you get to see these moments in its purest form, there is a desire to see more of it. We see both the highs and the lows, the achievements and the letdowns. What we see is both the magic of Disney animation and the crew’s humanity that works hard on the film. The three episodes can express all that so well that you wish you were in the room where it happens.
Into the Unknown: The Making Of makes its streaming debut exclusively on Disney+ on June 26, 2020. Episodes will then be released on a weekly basis for the next five weeks.
Disney has released a new trailer for Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2, a six-part documentary series that takes a behind the scenes look at the challenges and breakthroughs, the artistry and complexity of creating the #1 animated film of all time at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The trailer reveals a lot of pressure that the creative teams and the cast is under as the release date draws near. By focusing on that small window of time, we get to see what sorts of changes are needed so that they can deliver a quality film. That includes taking criticism from some iconic Disney names like Ron Clements, who had some things to say about the film after a very early screening.
Unlike some of the smaller, more casual long lead visits that some bloggers take, Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2 provides a more intimate look at what it takes to make a feature film at the legendary animation studio. This includes preproduction, script work, animation, lighting, voice acting, music, and so much more.
Honestly, I cannot wait to see all six episodes. While I didn’t love the sequel as much as I did the first Frozen, I appreciate the kind of effort that goes into making a film of this size. And to be fair, following up a movie like the first Frozen is no easy task.
Here’s the official plot synopsis for Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2:
“With the clock ticking and less than a year until the world premiere of Frozen 2, the creative team opens their doors to cameras for a 6-part series to reveal what it takes to create the #1 animated film of all time. For the first time, cameras capture the challenges and breakthroughs, the artistry and complexity of creating a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film.”
What’s particularly exciting about this is that it is another docuseries that centered on another successful Disney title. One of the first to appear on Disney+ was the Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, a behind the scenes docuseries that focused on the various aspects of the first live-action Star Wars TV series. Needless to say, it was hit amongst everyone who was a fan of the Mandalorian and Star Wars. So I imagine Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2 will be the same thing.
Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2 debuts exclusively on Disney+ on June 26, 2020.