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Animated movies are unlike their live action counterpart in almost every way. The biggest one however is that even when "production" begins on an animated movie, the actual story is usually far from over. Into the Unknown; Making Frozen 2, the new documentary series debuting on Disney+ on Friday shows just how much things can change, even only a few months before a movie is set to release. The docu-series picks up about a year before Frozen II's World Premiere, and at that point, the movie's climactic sequence, and the song "Show Yourself," were far from complete. And there was disagreement within the production as to how it would all even play out.
CinemaBlend had a chance to check out the first three episodes of the six episode Into the Unknown series. Those three episodes have something of a storyline of their own, as they follow writer and co-director Jennifer Lee, co-director Chris Buck, and the rest of the production and musical teams, trying to crack the problem of making "Show Yourself" work. At this point, a year before the movie needs to be done, Jennifer Lee admits there has never been an actual decision as to what the voice Elsa has been chasing through the film even is. According to Lee...
We’d been playing with this voice. Is it Elsa’s destiny? Her magic? Is it Ahtohallan itself? Is it the memory of her mother? And we all have different opinions, so we have to make a choice.
It's sort of bizarre to see that, years after the story was first written, and months before the movie needed to be complete, this not insignificant detail hadn't been figured out. It's decided that Elsa is following a voice, but what the voice is actually supposed to be nobody really knows. While we know at this point what the solution actually was, the documentary takes us all through watching the filmmakers get there and it's a surprisingly emotional journey.
At one, point, it was suggested that the voice was, somehow, actually the voice of Elsa, calling herself to Ahtohallan. Director of Story Marc Smith explains at another point in the series how this would have looked. With Elsa looking into a mirror of ice and seeing the source of the voice is herself....
She was following this shadow, this is the voice that’s been calling her from the very beginning. In this version, she sees the mirror reflection of herself and she said “It’s been me” and she actually walks into this spirit and as she does, she transforms and takes her full shape as the Snow Queen.
Originally, it seems the idea for "Show Yourself" was a much more aggressive song. The title was more a command than a request, with Elsa demanding that whoever has been calling her show themselves to her. At one point, there's a suggestion that "Show Yourself" actually be cut and replaced. Jennifer Lee thinks that a song about Elsa "coming home" would be more appropriate. Songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are really unimpressed with this idea. We can see these people pushing against each other and while there is real tension, it's clear that everybody is working together to try and make this movie work. In the end, the song writers softened that tone to make the song more request than demand. "You are the one I've been looking for" became "Are you the one I've been looking for?"
This idea gave the song a reprieve, so it wasn't cut, but even then the idea to have the voice be that of Elsa's mother didn't come until still later. However, once that idea was found, complete with adding a reprise of "All is Found" to "Show Yourself," there seems to have been a general consensus that the answer had finally been found.
Of course, if the decision had been made that "Show Yourself" wasn't working and needed to be changed, that just means writing an entirely new song and changing even more, and there's no guarantee that the new idea is going to work any better, right? Sometimes it's amazing that these movies even get completed in the first place.
According to the documentary, the answer is found in April of 2019, seven months before the movie needs to be finished. Of course, this means that they are only just then calling in Evan Rachel Wood, the voice of Iduna, to record the new lyrics to "Show Yourself" and then the entire new sequence needs to be animated. It's remarkable how much work is put into this all so late in the game, considering just how important the sequence is to not only Frozen II, but according to Jennifer Lee, "Show Yourself" is the moment that both films have building toward...
Show yourself not only is carrying the entire storyline of Frozen II, it’s carrying Frozen I with it. Everything we know about Elsa and her life to that moment all has to line up.
For my money, it's a good thing they put that work in, because "Show Yourself" is worth it. It's a great song in a solid and incredibly emotional film. Give it a listen and remind yourself how good it is.
If the second half of Into the Unknown is as good as the first, then fans not only of Frozen II but also of animated movies in general are in for a treat. The series does a remarkable job showing the inner working of production and even though we all know what the end result of all this hard work will be, there's no lack of real emotion and tension as everybody works to get it all done in time. The series also give a peek at a number of other concepts and songs that ended up not making it into the final version of Frozen II
All six episodes of Into the Unknown Making Frozen 2 debut on Disney+ on Friday June 26. If you want to get refreshed before the series arrives. Frozen II is available on Disney+ right now.