Monday, March 23, 2015

Suggestions For the "Frozen" Sequel

Many viewed the recent announcement of a "Frozen" sequel as an inevitability, but I was more skeptical.  Since Disney resumed production of its animated features with "The Princess and the Frog," it's quietly avoided sequels.  Maybe they were wary of the overreliance on franchises over at Dreamworks and Blue Sky.  Maybe Disney's own brand tarnishing direct-to-video sequels of the '90s and 2000s were still too painful a memory. 
However, with subsidiary PIXAR having found success with new installments of old favorites, and Disney profits getting a noticeable boost from the runaway success of "Frozen," the prospect of a sequels proved irresistible.   "Frozen 2" is now officially in development, as announced by John Lasseter at the recent Disney shareholders' meeting.  Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are back, despite having made previous comments to BuzzFeed that they haven't really thought about what they'd do with a "Frozen" sequel.
I, however, have a lot of ideas.  "Frozen" is one of the a handful of the recent Disney films where I can actually see some benefit in returning for a sequel.  "Tangled" and "The Princess and the Frog" told complete, finished stories.  "Frozen," which I didn't like nearly as much as those movies, felt like a much more slapdash affair.  I liked a lot of the ideas and a lot of individual moments, but the movie overall feels rushed and all over the place.  It seems to forget it's a musical halfway through.  Elsa never really gets a full character arc.  Groundwork is laid for emotional payoffs that don't happen.  A lot of this could be tidied up in a sequel.
Those years of isolation surely took their toll on Elsa, right?  And the rift between the sisters needs to be addressed.  "Frozen" was sensible enough to keep Anna's relationship with Kristoff in its nascent stages, so it should take some time to undo the damage of all those snowman-free years on Anna and Elsa.  There are lots of ways to do this without being glum - Elsa's powers are a metaphor for her inner turmoil, so any kind of emotional conflict can play out like a disaster movie.  Though there's been lots of speculation about a love interest for Elsa, I'd prefer if "Frozen 2" stuck with the sisters' relationship as its focus, since the depiction is so unique.     
Aside from that, the sequel can do anything.  Give Anna some magic powers.  Let Kristoff find his original family and have his own musical number.  Show the response of the rest of the world to Arendelle having a magical ruler.  The scope can widen so we see more of Scandinavia - maybe even all the way to the Arctic.  And there are a lot of options for new characters.  First and foremost we're going to need a new villain. I'm all for the return of Hans, but we also need someone who Elsa can really show off her powers going up against.  Evil sorcerer?  Troll turned bad?  Long lost third sister that Anna and Elsa never knew about?
Or maybe even the original Snow Queen from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale.  I'd really love for "Frozen 2" to draw more from its source material, which offers a lot of great characters and concepts: the troll school, the magic mirror, the little robber girl, the garden of talking flowers, and the ice puzzle.  Technically, Elsa is never referred to as the Snow Queen in "Frozen," so you could have the Snow Queen as a separate character.  ABC's "Once Upon a Time," which uses the "Frozen" characters in Season Four, has already introduced such a character, a villainess with a cursed mirror who is Elsa and Anna's aunt.  Or Elsa could still be the Snow Queen, but we see a retelling the original story from her point of view, the way "Maleficent" revamped "Sleeping Beauty." 
There are a lot of ways that a "Frozen" sequel could go wrong, and we've already seen Disney explore a lot of these ways in its direct-to-video sequels.  However, there are also a lot of ways that it could go right and even improve on the first movie.  I'm pretty optimistic, because expectations are being set very high and Disney is going to give the creative team all the resources it needs.  Everyone involved seems committed to not disappointing an entire generation of little kids who know all the words to "Let It Go" by heart.           
Fingers crossed that they'll figure it out.

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