When Disney+ was unveiled as a home for both existing movies and television titles and also new and original content, I was excited to think of how Disney could mine their literal treasure trove of archives to produce new and interesting content. On Friday, INTO THE UNKNOWN: MAKING FROZEN 2 drops on Disney+ and it’s exactly the type of content I was hoping for when I plopped my hard-earned Disney dollars down at the D23 Expo last year to pre-purchase my three-year membership.
Going back to the days of its namesake founder, Disney has always found fun and interesting ways to take audiences behind the scenes into the magic-making that goes on at the house of Mouse and while we don’t have Unky Walt guiding us along for this journey, we get a no less fascinating look at the creative process into realizing last year’s phenomenal theatrical release. Traversing the halls of the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, we get an all-access pass inside!
Surprisingly candid, we see some pretty raw emotion (as raw as Disney will allow us to see at least) into the nervous and happy laughter and tears that are part of the creative process. There’s some really great glimpses into the days of directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck as well as producer Peter Del Vecho as they endeavor to coordinate the array of talents and efforts to bring the film together. From sitting in on emotional recording sessions with Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown to animation first-looks with Idina Menzel to passion-charged meetings with Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez to sweatbox screenings with animators and story supervisors, you get a really broad sense of the scope of this project and just how daunting it really is to make a movie today.
Whether you’re a fan of FROZEN 2 or just a geek for movie making, this new 6-episode docuseries will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of fans when it debuts on Friday. The contemporaneous footage showcases some really great stuff including Kristen and Robert riffing with each other at the piano, last minute changes to story development, deleted songs, alternate takes, cut scenes, modified animation, there’s something here for everybody making this an absolute must-watch — or at least worth the cost of admission for a single month of a Disney+ subscription.
For a better sense of what to expect with INTO THE UNKNOWN: MAKING FROZEN 2, you can see official summaries for all six episodes below, courtesy of Disney. Each episode clocks in under an hour at about 45 minutes a piece.
EPISODE 101 – “A YEAR TO PREMIERE”
As pressure mounts on the filmmakers creating Frozen 2, one of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ most highlyanticipated features of all time, the directors, artists, songwriters and cast open their doors (with 11 months until the world premiere), to reveal the collaboration, hard work and creativity it takes to make an animated film. With filmmakers screening their current, working version of the film to their fellow Disney Animation directors, writers and artists, it’s clear there is much work to do. But what is also just as clear is the film has the team to do it – with Frozen’s original directing team of Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and the original cast of Kristen Bell (“Anna”), Idina Menzel (“Elsa”), Josh Gad (“Olaf”), Jonathan Groff (“Kristoff”) all back for Frozen 2. While the Lopez-penned song “Some Things Never Change” is recorded by the talented cast, the songwriters and filmmakers realize the song “Show Yourself” is not yet earning its place in the picture. Director of Story Marc Smith revises his storyboards for the song after a rough creative session. Supervising animator of “Elsa,” Wayne Unten, and animator Malerie Walters, work on the visual character performance for Elsa in the song, “Into the Unknown,” and Idina Menzel, Jennifer Lee, and Chris Buck join the Lopezes for the orchestra record of this powerful song.
EPISODE 102 – “BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD”
As Frozen 2 continues to come together, with ten months until the world premiere, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez propose an 80’s rock ballad-inspired song for Kristoff. Directors Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck and producer Peter Del Vecho love the direction of the song, and “Kristoff” actor Jonathan Groff gets to, at long last, record a full song for his character with “Lost in the Woods.” Writer/director Jennifer Lee juggles her Frozen 2 duties with being Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer, as well as being a mother to a teenage daughter. With “Lost in the Woods” now in the hands of the brilliant Disney artists, animator Malerie Walters is assigned an incredibly challenging shot and Character Technical Director Iker de los Mozos must re-rig the reindeers in order to allow them to sing. With the next internal screening only a few weeks away, “Show Yourself” continues to be a challenge, with Buck, Lee, the story team and the Lopezes all having a tough conversation about its place within the film.
EPISODE 103 – “JOURNEY TO AHTOHALLAN”
Frozen 2’s March internal screening at Disney Animation proves to be a “live-or-die” moment for two songs: “See The Sky” and “Show Yourself.” As a result of the screening, one song is cut, and the other song, which was nearly cut just a few weeks before, earns its place within the film. Actors Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood record for their characters, Mattias and Iduna. Production designer Mike Giaimo looks back on the team’s research trip to Norway, Finland and Iceland and its deep influence on the film as visual development artist Brittney Lee proposes a look for Ahtohallan. Kristen Bell and director Chris Buck share the personal, deep meaning and emotional resonance behind Anna’s song, “The Next Right Thing.”
EPISODE 104 – “BIG CHANGES”
Just as the official Frozen 2 trailer makes its public debut in June, the first audience preview screening takes place. Just five months until the film’s world premiere, the stakes couldn’t be higher, with the audience seeing an unfinished version of the film and providing their feedback. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho nervously hope the preview audience embraces the film. With little time to make changes, the team of filmmakers exhaustively work and rework scenes to ensure the story is clear, the comedy sharp, and the emotion earned.
EPISODE 105 – “RACE TO THE FINISH”
As the whole filmmaking team works overtime every day to make changes to the film, bringing more comedy and clarity to the story, preparations are underway for D23 Expo. Disney’s biggest fan event, D23 Expo is always home to big announcements and showstopping performances. It is here that, even though film is still not finished, an audience of over 7,000 people will first see the final version of “Into the Unknown,” meet new Frozen 2 cast members Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood, and see Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff sing together for the first time “Some Things Never Change.” Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck and producer Peter Del Vecho interact with Frozen fans and cosplayers. At Disney Animation, Lee and Buck collaborate with the talented artists in visual development, animation, effects, technical animation and lighting on what they hope will be an iconic dress transformation for Elsa in “Show Yourself.”
EPISODE 106 – “THE WORLD AWAITS”
An incredible journey reaches its end. With the world premiere at last around the corner, and animation finishing their final shots, the work of the sound designers and Foley artists is just beginning as they create the sound of every footstep, every reindeer, and every moment of icy magic in the film. Orchestrator Dave Metzger arranges “Show Yourself” for the final orchestra record, with the Lopezes and Idina Menzel in attendance. Meanwhile, editor Jeff Draheim is preparing the final film mix for directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck to review. All of these last efforts put the finishing touches on Frozen 2, which will first be screened by the crew at their wrap party. From there, the billboards go up, the cast’s talk show appearances begin, and the public first sees the film at the premiere. Then, the film releases in theaters around the world. The efforts of hundreds of artists, musicians and technicians, over the course of several years, have at last, created final film, destined to become the #1 animated film of all time.
See it for Yourself
INTO THE UNKOWN: MAKING FROZEN 2 makes its debut on Disney+ on June 26, 2020.
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