Sequels often get a lot flack for rehashing what worked the first time but nothing seems farther from the case for Walt Disney Animation Studio’s upcoming FROZEN 2. Going back to the well wasn’t an option for directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck but even if they’d tried, they couldn’t draw water… it’s frozen!

So what exactly went into rebuilding the world of Arenelle? We were invited to the Walt Disney Animation Studio in Burbank for a special behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film to learn about what it took to revisit and rebuild this world.

Real-Life Inspiration

Finding new purpose and a new feeling for this film was of the utmost importance and they found that inspiration — as so many animation projects do — with a research trip!

Lee and Buck were both taken by sights and sounds of Norway, Finland, and Iceland. Exploring tons of sights including Kirkenes, Inari, Karasjok, Tromsø, Lofoten Islands, Bodo, and Oslo among others, they found a stark and interesting contrast of character between Norway and Iceland, not unlike their story’s two protagonists. Norway had a soft, warm, and almost fairy-tale like quality where as Iceland was decidedly more broody, icy, and uncertain. Anna and Elsa found their landscapes and story references.


Of course, other cues for real-world inspiration came from the filmmakers themselves, too. Becky Bresee (Head of Animation) shared that one scene in the first FROZEN found its inspiration in reference footage of her own two daughters and she found new ideas with them again FROZEN 2. But capturing reference footage is not about finding things to copy but things to pepper in to build authenticity; especially in smaller moments such as a tender interaction with Queen Iduna gently caressing young Anna’s face. “Once people relate to it” Bersee elaborated, “they start believing these characters and making them part of their lives.”

Arendelle, All Glowed Up

What could possibly be different about the village? Quite a bit actually! Aside from playing a little bit more of a bigger role in FROZEN 2, we’re seeing the township in a whole new light… literally! Our previous visits to Arendelle in FROZEN and even in FROZEN EVER AFTER were blanketed in snow but the autumnal time frame for this story meant a whole different set of lighting and more importantly COLOR.

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It’s no secret that colors are carefully considered for every inch of what you see on screen and the village was initially built to provide a beautiful contrast to the wintry weather of the first story. But one thing filmmakers quickly realized, as Lisa Keene (Co-Production Designer) shared with us, was the warm bright colors of fall worked in harsh contrast to the subdued cool icy tones that work so well with snow. So what’s the solution? Repaint the entire village! Yep, to pair better with the bright oranges and reds of the new film’s global color palate, the entire village shifted hues towards warmer tones and creams. These provided the perfect accent for the more jewel tones found in the fall leaves and colors with oranges, reds, and pops of yellow.

Beyond just color, there were further enhancements made to Arendelle for the purpose of story. Because more specific scenes take place in the village, it was important to flesh it out with more vibrancy of character to build in as much authenticity to the landscape as the characters. So instead of generic buildings copy and pasted, very specific thought was put into the details. “We needed to up-res or increase the resolution and fidelity [of the village],” said Svetla Radivoeva (Animation Supervisor), “so that it would hold up when you’re up close.” One such detail can be seen in a fun tribute to Mike Giaimo (Production Designer) and David Womersley (Art Director Environments) who were caricatured as wooden statues on one of the building facades.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

One of the undeniable traits of visiting the fjords and landscapes of Norway, Finland and Iceland is the HEIGHT. Dominating mountains and cliffs that give the land its unique qualities were adapted into the world of FROZEN. Elsa’s towering ice castle on the North Mountain and even Arendelle’s own palace provide a sense of scale with sweeping interiors and seemingly limitless heights of its hallways and rooms. For the new adventures in FROZEN 2 that same sense of scale was given with the enchanted forest.


Taking influence from artist Eyvind Earl — whose work you’ll undeniably remember from SLEEPING BEAUTY — filmmakers worked to create an environment that both matched the stylized art direction for the film but also created a believable landscape that could potentially contain real danger and mystery. Everything from the type of trees to the scatter of foliage on the ground and even the amount of mist in the air was carefully considered to continue the color and texture of the film. So the wild untamed landscapes we see on screen are actually laboriously constructed set pieces and a perfect example of “controlled chaos.” A lot of effort goes into making the forest seam so effortless and yet at the same time absolutely stunning and picturesque.

The efforts were undeniably not wasted and we’re incredibly excited to see how this whole world all comes together later this month!

See it for Yourself

FROZEN 2 opens in theaters November 22, 2019.