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What filmmakers can learn from the Frozen films

Frozen 2 has just hit cinemas and there is no doubt about it becoming another success for Disney. If you’ve got children and find yourself being dragged to sit through this musical sequel targeting pre-teens, just remember that as a filmmaker there is a lot we can learn from the way Disney tells stories. We’ve broken down some aspects of the original Frozen movie that could inspire you as a filmmaker.

Create a relatable story

Animated movies have come a long way since the 80s. Not only have the graphics improved but the content of the films have evolved too. Modern storytellers are taking on the challenge of tackling relatable complex subjects and re-packaging them for children (and adults) in animated films. A great example of this is Zootopia (you may also know it as Zootropolis) that deals with the subject of racial profiling, genetics and different ethnicities co-habiting in the modern world. 

Traditionally, typical Disney princess films would be centred around a prince/hero rescuing a princess and them living happily ever after (Sleeping Beauty, Tangled, Aladdin etc) but in 2013, the animated musical Frozen broke the mould from this traditional narrative. One of the main underlying subjects that the film deals with is the relationships between siblings and self-discovery. The latter may seem like a complicated subject to deal with but Disney tackled it through the story of two sisters who grow up together but cannot bond with each other due to the fear of the elder sister’s secret powers being a potential danger to her younger sibling. Though the scenario itself seems far-fetched (as magical powers are involved) the underlying sentiment is actually quite relatable for parents and children alike. Very often older siblings are getting in trouble for accidentally hurting their younger siblings and this is definitely a concern for parents too. The film then continues to explore the relationship which ends in the act of true selflessness and love (something previously only seen happen between lovers in a Disney film). 

Create a believable environment

Eric Larson, who was one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men always said ‘We don’t have to create a real world, but we do have to create a believable world.’ 

Although Arendelle isn’t a real location, it’s very clear that the inspiration for this imaginary world comes from the Nordic culture. In a loose way, the film is considered by its creators as a ‘road-trip’ type of film where the characters are immersed in action by travelling through this land and that meant that the setting needed to resemble a believable location. The fact that the script was also inspired by Hans Christien Anderson’s tale for children meant that the film was always going to gravitate towards a setting that was Scandanavian in spirit. The Disney production team flew out to Norway to learn about its culture, traditions and architecture which helped inspire the fictional town of Arendelle. 

Everything from the intricate embroidery on the characters’ clothes and their braided hair to the beautiful scenic backdrops that resemble the Fjords were a homage to Scandanavian culture. 

Create music that moves

It’s needless to say that music is an important part of any film and can really help gel all of the other elements together. However, this does not mean that music has to be representative of Scandanavian culture for it to work. The objective of music is to create an emotion and, although there are lots of bells and chiming present that is resemblant of the Scandanavian culture, the music in the film predominantly supports the emotions of the characters. From twinkling bells and emotive piano pieces to large inspirational orchestral sounds, the audience is taken on an emotional journey of magic, darkness and overcoming struggles purely through the music.

We’ve put together a breakdown of how we scored the new Frozen 2 trailer using Filmstro (and a free track download in the video description), check it out below: