Inside the making of the hit ‘Frozen II’ song ‘Into the Unknown’ and why it originally wasn’t in the movie
Category : entrepreneur
- Oscar-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez talked to Business Insider about how they created the songs for “Frozen II.”
- Known for making the hit song “Let It Got” from the first movie, they broke down how the equally catchy “Into the Unknown” came to life for the sequel.
- They also explained how, at first, another song was to be in its place, and why it was replaced with “Into the Unknown.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Though it’s been six years between “Frozen” movies, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez haven’t really taken a break from Elsa and Anna.
The duo were brought on at the tail end of production on the first “Frozen” movie, and helped directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck recalibrate the story and power it with nine songs, including the huge global hit and Oscar winner, “Let It Go.” After the first “Frozen,” the pair quickly jumped over to the Broadway musical version of the movie. For that, they wrote 12 original songs (oh, and they also found time to write another Oscar-winning song, “Remember Me,” for Pixar’s 2017 release “Coco”).
“We have not stopped working since 2012,” Anderson-Lopez told Business Insider.
Despite all that time in Arendelle, the husband-and-wife team didn’t hesitate to dive into work on “Frozen II” (in theaters) when Walt Disney Animation came calling in 2015. But they said the last thing they were thinking about was how to duplicate the success of “Let It Got.”
“Thinking like that would have completely —,” Anderson-Lopez paused.
“Shut us down,” Lopez chimed in.
“Yeah, we would have gone off and been farmers,” Anderson-Lopez said.
In fact, they kept their song books and instruments packed away for the first two years of working on the sequel.
This time around, the duo was invited to not just write the songs for the movie, but also be voices in the creation of its story (both have “story by” credits). It led to daily video conference calls with Lee, Buck, and the other creatives at Disney, as well as trips to Iceland and Norway.
“You gather feelings in your mind and save the thoughts later when you will be writing,” Lopez said of the process.
Once there was a story foundation, the pair then found the moments when songs would be vital in moving the story forward. In early story meetings, songs like “All Is Found” and “The Next Right Thing” were locked in. But getting a song for a major Elsa moment in the movie was a little more challenging. They needed a “Let It Go” song for it to work.
In “Frozen II,” Elsa travels to an enchanted forest in search of a mysterious sound that only she can hear. Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff (with Sven) tag along leading to self-discovery for all through comedy and songs. Toward the end of the movie, Elsa finally finds the mystery sound and has a duet with it titled “Into the Unknown.” Like “Let It Go” in the first “Frozen,” the song has an addictive hook and shows off the incredible vocal range of Idina Menzel (who voices Elsa).
But the Lopezes said that wasn’t the first song to be placed in that scene.
“We had written a whole other song for that same moment,” Lopez revealed.
In that scene, a song titled “I Seek the Truth” was placed in. At the time of story development, Lopez said that the mysterious sound Elsa is in search of was not in the story yet.
“We wrote a bit of a generic song,” he admitted, looking back. “You can hear why it’s less exciting.”
Here’s what “I Seek the Truth” sounded like:
But once the plot revolved around Elsa seeking out a mysterious sound, they got another crack at the scene, and wrote “Into the Unknown.”
“Some of the songs are inspired by story innovations, and we got this idea with the team that there was a voice from the past singing out that only Elsa could hear, and once we had that thought, a duet song came into sharp focus,” Lopez said. “We realized that first the voice is going to be calling out to Elsa and she wants it to go away, and by the middle of the song, she’s admitting maybe part of her is curious about what’s out there, and by the end of the song, she’s going for it. She’s singing back to the voice: ‘How do I follow you into The Unknown?'”
But like “Let It Go,” it wasn’t until Menzel got her hands on the song that everyone was excited by it.
“She ended up doing it in the key we wrote it in, but I think part of the other thing is she can do these amazing intervals,” Anderson-Lopez said of Menzel singing the song’s chorus. “When she first sings the words ‘into the unknown,’ it’s an octave and then she says it again and it goes up one step outside of your boundaries, but you come home. And then a third time she just takes it to an 11. You have gone way out of your boundaries. And it mirrors the story. And I think Idina just nailed that feeling of howling at the moon because you need to find your purpose.”
The song is a surefire best song Oscar contender, as “Let It Go” was in the first movie. But the duo said they never know when a song they write will be a hit. They are more focused on if it serves the story.
“You look for the most emotional moments where a human is feeling something strongly and goes from one emotion to another emotion,” Anderson-Lopez said. “In this case, we knew we needed Elsa to sing about wanting to find the truth about herself and why she has these powers, but it wasn’t until it was in a duet with an otherworldly call that we got that kind of strong emotion.”
“It’s impossible to state how much emotion the animations bring to each sequence,” Lopez added. “That’s when I really felt that the song worked, to be honest. It was exciting and thrilling.”
Listen to “Into the Unknown” here: