By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
“Frozen 2” will be unleashed in theaters on Nov. 22, six years after the original amassed $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales (a record for an animated film), sent the name “Elsa” skyrocketing up popular baby name lists and ingrained the lyrics of “Let it Go” on the collective consciousness of humankind.
To reflect on Elsa’s journey ahead of the release of “Frozen 2,” the two women most responsible for her creation: Jennifer Lee, co-director and writer of each film, and Idina Menzel, the Tony-winning actress who gives the ice queen her clarion voice, gave us some insight to the character.
Elsa was initially designed as the villain of “Frozen” but was reshaped as a new kind of Disney princess: fiercely independent, magically powerful and humanly flawed. She has ever since been a beacon of female empowerment to millions of young girls — and, as they explained, to Menzel and Lee, too.
How does it feel to have created the most powerful thing known to man?
Menzel: (Laughs) I don’t think we’ve created the most powerful thing known to man, but it’s nice to know we created something that resonates so strongly and beautifully within young people.
Lee: For (co-director Chris Buck) and I, everyday we’re still surprised. We always ask the question of “Why?” and there’s not a single answer.
But why do you think “Frozen” has so resonated? After watching it a few hundred times, I’d say its power is predicated on its portrait of sisterhood and a young woman coming to terms — letting out — her talent.
Lee: They had flaws. They were messy and real. They were misunderstood and they were alone at times. But they had in this journey a perseverance and looked out for each other. To me, it’s not trying to be perfect or polished. It’s trying to connect with real experiences and real emotion.
Menzel: It’s so refreshing that a man is not the answer to their problems. It’s (Anna and Elsa’s) relationship to one another, seeing the love affair of these two sisters. That’s unique to most films in general and especially in a Disney movie.
Idina, how would you describe your relationship with Elsa?
Menzel: It’s funny. The character has sort of catapulted me to be a role model for young girls and boys. Yet I’m a woman in her 40s who still has to remind herself of her own power and pick herself up every day and figure out how I want to tackle the day and approach my life.
It took some soul searching to initiate plans for a sequel. What kick-started it?
Lee: We weren’t thinking about a sequel at all. About a year after the film came out, our producer Peter Del Vecho had been traveling and came back with messages from around the world. He was trying to understand what it was about Elsa and “Let it Go.” The feedback was that she’s freeing for people who feel a lot of pressure, for people who feel misunderstood — someone who carries our pain and sets us free. And every one of them asked: Why does she have powers? Chris and I looked at each other and said: “There’s still more of this story.”
What should fans expect in “Frozen 2”?
Lee: At the end of the day, this film is still about two sisters. Life throws you curve balls post-Happily Ever After — how you cope and a family struggling to stay together.
Menzel: Elsa and Anna push each other and make each other rise to new levels. They evolve and through this journey they become the most gorgeous women they can be. They both find themselves.