Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Fairy tales are the bedrock on which many of us grew up learning about the dangers of the world. Whether it be from the Brothers Grimm, or cultural folkloric tales, or Walt Disney animated classics based on all of the above, they’re the stories that fueled our imaginations. Disney’s FROZEN 2 from directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, gives the all-ages-appropriate audience a healthy dose of thought-provoking ideas within its story about two sisters on a journey to figure out where their place in the universe.
Not only have sisters Anna and Elsa’s relationship been put to the test, positively perky snowman Olaf has also evolved. Josh Gad, at the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, said his character’s journey in the sequel was inspired by his young daughter’s comment one day at the table.
“We talked early on about my oldest child, Eva. She was laughing and all of a sudden tears started streaming down her face. She looked at me and goes, “What if I don’t want to grow up?” I think we’ve all experienced that, but it’s so traumatic as kids.”
That next level enlightenment was something Gad wanted to explore in Olaf’s life. He continued,
“In the first movie, he was this innocent ball of naiveté, who was willing to go out into the Summer sun and embrace it, because he doesn’t know any better. In this movie, he’s gone from toddler to fully grown child, where now he’s starting to ask those questions that don’t always have easy answers. From a comedic perspective, it gave me so much to play with, but, more importantly, for an emotional arc. It was such a beautiful journey of that moment in life where the world isn’t just raindrops and lollipops and roses.”
One of the many things that resonated with star Kristen Bell about this film is that it inspires us to evolve from previous generations mistakes.
“It puts this very complex idea in front of kids in a totally simple way, which is, “Have you ever thought about the fact that maybe past generations didn’t behave that great? That they could’ve done it better?” That’s called learning from the past. That’s called evolving. This generation because of our social connectivity and online connectivity, we are able to talk about things, feel our feelings and collectively decide that evolving is a pretty cool thing. In order to evolve, you have to learn from history. In order to know history, you have to learn it. That subliminal current of wanting to know origin stories comes from wanting better for humanity.”
Another element the filmmakers wanted to do was give younger audiences a safe space to explore the intimidating, scary world outside of themselves in hopes to prepare kids for things they might not feel capable of controlling. Jennifer Lee said that meant traversing darker material – something that’s natural in a fairy tale format.
“You go back to old traditional fairy tales, they always have a moment where it gets a little scary. That’s part of what fairy tales are for – so that you, as a child, or grown person, can experience things safely in your seat and it helps you cope with life. We didn’t go with the characters being full of fear and violence. We went to things that are evocative, that are mythic fairy tales. PINNOCHIO and BAMBI – this is part of fairy tale land. “
Kristen Bell felt that younger audiences will be able to explore their feelings safely thanks to this film.
“I really think we don’t give kids enough credit for their ability to digest complex situations, trauma and struggle. That’s why the first one hit. [Elsa] hit in kids because they identified with what do you feel when you feel shy and vulnerable and incredibly powerful. In this second one, that’s the power of story: you don’t have to tell them the world is a scary place, but you can let them see a story that has a resolution. I think it’s great for kids to be on the edge of their seat, because it’s a safe environment to try on those emotions.”
FROZEN 2 opens on November 22.