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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Making of Frozen 2’s ‘Into the Unknown’

Brittney Lee, Tom MacDougall, Dale Mayeda and Justin Sklar reveal what went into the making of Frozen 2 song "Into The Unknown".

Written by A. Kameshwari | Los Angeles |
November 25, 2019 7:25:41 am

In a chat with before Frozen 2’s release, Brittney Lee (Visual Development Artist), Tom MacDougall (Executive Music Producer), Dale Mayeda (Head of Effects Animation) and Justin Sklar (Animation Supervisor) revealed what went into the making of the film’s song “Into The Unknown”.


Brittney Lee started the session by dissecting details of Elsa’s costume.

“For animated films, the role of design is to support and inspire the story. In animation films, we have the opportunity to weave narrative into everything that you see in the frame. I spent a lot of time working on the costume design, especially for the character of Elsa. Elsa is so complex and constantly evolving. It is a rewarding challenge to try to be able to tell a little bit of her story and show where she is at any given point in time through the things that she is wearing,” Lee said.

As Elsa becomes more secretive and secluded, her silhouettes become more restrictive and the palettes of the clothes that she is wearing become much darker.

“Because she is so linked to ice and cold, we really couldn’t go very warm with her palate. We stayed on the cool cranberry, magenta and violet side. We did that for a couple of reasons. One was because we wanted her to fit in. We wanted her to feel like she is part of this family and not stand out in bright bold colours. But we also knew that the song was going to involve some internal conflict. So, for us, it seemed like the opportune moment to go with something a little bit darker for her because it was a good point in time to illustrate conflict through a little bit of what she is wearing,” Brittney Lee remarked.

Lee said that when they moved to Frozen 2, they started working on the appearance with whatever information they had about the film. “We didn’t have the song, but we knew that a charades sequence is going to happen right before the song. We knew that Elsa was going to wake up from a dream state to start singing the song. So, this costume needed to be a nightgown.”


Tom MacDougall revealed how they found the purpose and meaning of “Into The Unkown” with songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who had also worked on the first film.

“To us, a musical’s success is contingent on our commitment to making sure we have the big emotional character moment in the song. “Let It Go” was about a character born and raised to be hidden. So, when she finally breaks out, it is magical. We looked at that moment as a great song moment. So, even if you look at the structure of the song, it starts slow, tentative, and then as she gains confidence, she ultimately ends the song singing in full voice. Frozen 2’s “Into The Unknown” is a song that can be about anything. We were brainstorming about what the song could be about,” MacDougall said.

He added that Robert and Kristen dissected all the emotional things that are happening to the character, penned the lyrics and recorded it in their home studio.

“They will write a song and then submit to us. We will listen to the song and think about the things we are trying to accomplish with that song. We decide if we are going to move it up through production and ultimately find it in the movie.”

“One of the great things about working at Disney Animation is we have got a long history with music and songs. We don’t spare any expense to make it everything it can be. We don’t use synth instruments to replicate real human beings. We get the biggest orchestras that we need. So you are going to hear 78 players on this song. You have got singers recorded around the world, multiple times, always making the changes and adjustments to make it everything can be,” Tom MacDougall concluded.


Justin Sklar revealed how they understood the kind of animation and effects to be added to Elsa for “Into The Unknown.”

“So for the animation department, what we are really building is the final character performance and the final character acting. So, the first thing that we did was we brought in a vocal coach. For us, we need to understand how you sing the song and what it feels like. So we spent a long time with this vocal coach talking about when to breathe, how to breathe, how it should feel and where to place your vowels. It was important to understand the physicality of it all. A lot of the animators found that helpful,” Sklar stated.

He also explained Elsa’s movement while she is anticipating something or when she is scared.

Into The Unknown vs Let It Go also asked if the team feels that “Into The Unknown” is going to be as successful as “Let It Go”.

“I think part of the reason people embraced it (“Let It Go”) so much is that they were able to relate to it, even to the characters specifically. Maybe they felt like they are not living to their full potential or they are not allowed to be who they want to be – those types of things. So, when we look at “Into The Unknown”, I would say we have a lot of similar things,” Tom MacDougall said.

He said people will relate to “Into The Unknown” in the sense that they will try ‘to understand why am I here? What is my purpose?’

But was it more challenging to make “Into The Unknown”? “There isn’t one single thing that is easy about an animated movie. We thought how do we make something that feels as substantial and important as the first film. But once we started to talk about it and get into the specifics, it came almost naturally. There are a lot of questions that we didn’t answer in the first movie. So, once we got to that place and sort of identified that Elsa really needed to find more about herself, we really rallied around that moment and came up with what I think is a pretty great song,” MacDougall told

Tom MacDougall concluded by saying that Frozen 2, muscially, gave them a lot more challenges and has the potential to surprise the audience. He added that some of the songs might get incorporated in Frozen’s Broadway musical.

Frozen 2 hit screens on November 22.

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