Following the cultural phenomenon of Frozen in 2013, marking Disney’s biggest film in decades and paving the path for a new classic franchise, fans and Disney animators collectively joined together in wondering just how Disney will follow-up this incredible classic when the inevitable sequel does arrive. We got that answer with the release of Frozen II last November, a stunning and meaningful movie that expands upon the ideas of the first film in mature themes and a whole lot of fun; with Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II, we see through the final product and understand the very process that defined those creative decisions in an honest, candid look into the making of an animated movie, warts and all.
Into the Unknown is a six-episode miniseries running at about forty minutes each, taking a look at the entire production pipeline beginning from about a year out from the release of the movie in November of 2019. To a die-hard Disney fan like myself who craves and consumes all forms of behind-the-scenes content, I was amazed and thrilled by how deep this show went, and how much information was new to me. Considering that these animated movies take years to create, I was fascinated to learn how much of the production pipeline comes down to the very last minute. Six months out to release, the film is only about 30% animated and still needs to go through several steps of production, including lighting and effects – on top of that, audience screenings have sent the film’s leaders into a frenzy to rewrite large portions of the script to become more accessible to children, tossing out a large chunk of the movie which needs to be re-animated and re-recorded. The clock is ticking on the biggest animated movie of all time, and the filmmakers are stressed, to say the least.
Directed with meticulous story and tension by Megan Harding, the show delves into the deeper problems of making an animated film, including the collaborative effort of managing the animation of elements for weeks for a few seconds of footage, much of which also risks getting cut from the movie entirely. Every test screening in-house and to the public shape the direction of how the movie will be formed; after a test screening to the public, the filmmakers found that children found the plot too confusing, and so much was done to make the story more accessible through Olaf, who recounts the story of the previous film and the overall purpose of this movie in order for clarity toward younger audiences. Filmmaking in any form is a constant game of problem-solving, and this show is a wonderful crash-course in animation filmmaking and the problems and solutions that arise because of it.
One can’t help but gain a deeper appreciation for the finished art once you learn about the inspiration that created it, and this show is the much-deserved spotlight of the thousands of talented people responsible for a classic film. Walt Disney Animation Studios director of public relations, Amy Astley, serves as Executive Producer of Into the Unknown, in her role positioning the studio as a leader in animation, and shining a spotlight onto the work of the talent that would otherwise go unnoticed. Walt Disney never shied away from informing audiences about the techniques used on his animated films, and this project led by Astley taps into that creative and informative spirit so deeply ingrained in the DNA of The Walt Disney Company.
Into the Unknown truly marks one of Disney+’s best shows so far, and is the perfect weekend binge-watch for any fan of animation or all things Disney. Hopefully, this will pave the way to even more Disney+ series that pulls back the curtain on the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making a project as big as Frozen II.
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II is now streaming on Disney+