As many of you will probably remember, the first ever trailer for Frozen II was quite dramatic. It featured Elsa on a stormy beach with clear intent to make her way across the water. The footage saw her use her special ice powers to try and conquer the raging waves, but repeatedly find resistance and struggle.
Of course, as those of you who have seen the movie now know, this is actually a rather crucial scene in the finished film, as it proves to be the last barrier standing between Elsa and understanding the mystery behind her special gifts. Knowing all this, it also makes sense to learn that it was a scene that existed as a part of Frozen II for just about the entire length of the movie’s development:
Because of the way that films are developed at Walt Disney Animation Studios, with projects being repeatedly constructed and deconstructed throughout production, it’s somewhat rare for any single scene to exist as part of a feature from the very beginning to the end of the whole process. As I learned while recently sitting down with co-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and producer Peter Del Vecho, however, Frozen II was atypical in that regard.
I interviewed the filmmakers during the recent Los Angeles press day for the film, and while I didn’t expect to learn that there was any scene that made its way through the entire production, I was curious which scene lasted the longest. As a result, it was surprising to learn about the origins of the Elsa vs. The Dark Sea sequence, as explained by Jennifer Lee:
The Dark Sea, for sure. We had that, I think, before we ever had a script. I'd say in different iterations of it, but I think that showed us the potential of Elsa up against nature, and trying to learn more about her powers in the situation, and it was so inspiring and I think it helped shape a lot of the movie. That one was from very early on.
It’s an interesting detail to learn when thought about in the context of the larger film. While that particular scene has Elsa going up against the water spirit, the bulk of the narrative finds the character – along with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven – traveling into the Enchanted Forest to ultimately tale all of the elemental spirits, including Wind, Fire, and Earth.
I followed up asking if the scene proved to be the backbone of Frozen II from which everything else stemmed – and while Chris Buck explained that wasn’t exactly the case, having the concept for the scene definitely did help all of the filmmakers figure out what it was that they wanted to do with the film’s story. Said Buck,
That was our first connection that she had with one of the nature spirits. At first she was just battling it. I don't even think we had her…tame it, and then connect with it at the end of it. So that helped us with the other spirits too, is that if she could connect with all of them... There would first be this dangerous sort of dance they all had, but then she was sort of oddly attracted to all of them too. But then it was like, how did she connect?
That narrative, of course, was married with the question of how Elsa developed her powers, and the secret history of Arendelle, and the end result is Frozen II!