Premiering in Hollywood on Thursday night, Frozen II aims to replicate much of what made the 2013 Disney film such a global phenomenon, while bringing in bigger themes about maturity and adapting to a changing world. And with seven new songs, it’s also doing what might previously have seemed impossible: debuting a power ballad to rival “Let It Go.”
The Frozen II version is “Into the Unknown,” a big emotional anthem that represents the film’s overall themes about experiencing and embracing change. ”The song ’Into the Unknown’ forces Elsa to ask herself some important questions: Who is she and where does she truly belong,” said songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez on the red carpet outside the film’s Hollywood Boulevard premiere. “The song plays a very important role in the movie. It’s the catalyst for change.”
“For the first time, Elsa gets to say what she wants in the song,” added co-songwriter—and Anderson-Lopez’s husband—Robert Lopez. “And she takes her first step metaphorically and physically into a bigger world. It represents her growing up and taking responsibility.”
The second installment takes place three years after the conclusion of the first movie. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is queen of Arendelle and has learned to control her magical ability to create ice and snow. But she starts to hear an enchanting voice that no one else can hear. She answers the call and embarks on an adventure with Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and Olaf (Josh Gad) as they leave their home and travel to an enchanted forest in the north in an attempt to save their kingdom and learn the origins of Elsa’s magical powers.
“Elsa is experiencing change, which is one of the big themes in the new movie,” Menzel said on the red carpet. ”I love that Elsa now has a sense of pride about who she is and not apologizing anymore for her power. She’s more mature and knows what makes her special and owns it. She’s changing, and now that she gets to be herself, she’s trying to find her purpose.”
For Bell, Frozen II continues to break the mold set by other animated films by focusing on familial love and self-love instead of romance.
“In the first movie, the girls were metaphorically facing each other, and now they are facing out with the support of each other more than ever,” said Bell. “It’s all about familial love and how you can lift each other up. The movie’s theme of loving your siblings and loving yourself no matter what your differences are really resonated with me. I personally think it’s way more important to expose kids to movies about familial love than romantic love. It’s not your typical princess movie and that’s what makes it even better.”
Elsa and Anna make another major change to the princess mold this time too: wearing pants. “The idea of Elsa and Anna wearing pants was more of a practical choice,” said codirector Jennifer Lee. ”They are going to an enchanted forest. They are going to wear what’s right for them and that’s pants.”
For Evan Rachel Wood, who joins for the sequel to play Anna and Elsa’s mother in flashbacks, it was a particularly welcome change—she made headlines for wearing an Altuzarra pantsuit to the Golden Globes in 2017 as a statement about gender norms. “When I wore pants on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, it was a reminder for women that wearing a dress was not a rule,” Wood said. “We can wear anything, it doesn’t have to be a dress, and I love that the creators of Frozen are doing the same thing with Elsa and Anna. It’s so important to show little girls that you don’t have to always be in a dress. I hope we’ll see more Disney princesses after this. Maybe even in a suit. Women can be pretty in pants too.”