Disney’s mega-hit Frozen was planned to feature a collection of songs that would elevate the reimagining of “The Snow Queen,” but not all of them made it into the final cut. The film went through many iterations before its release in November of 2013, and that meant reworking and eliminating songs and figuring out the tricky formula for a beloved and endearing musical. A large part of the cultural impact of the movie was the soundtrack, which included the Academy Award-winning “Let it Go.”
Frozen went through decades of story treatments before it was commissioned in 2011, with original drafts painting Elsa as the villain — a version closer to the original fairy tale — and others including a prophecy from the trolls concerning a cold-hearted ruler that would bring about eternal winter. Some of these plotlines were included in early songs, but as the story changed, these songs were cut or replaced with others that fit the story better.
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In From Hans to Frozen: A Disney Documentary, the 70-year attempt to bring “The Snow Queen” to the big screen is illustrated in concept designs, set footage, and of course Disney’s signature musical style. The song “Let it Go” by Broadway alumnus Robert Lopez and partner Kristen Anderson-Lopez finally solidified the story. Elsa would no longer be a villain, but a sympathetic and sorrowful sister, and that meant certain songs like “Life’s Too Short” had to be cut.
“We Know Better”
The first piece written for the project, “We Know Better,” is a song Elsa sings to her baby sister that later becomes a duet between the two child princesses. Elsa is hopeful upon seeing Anna, saying to her, “You’re princess just like me, bet you’re thinking maybe it’s a pretty cool thing to be. But soon you’ll see that everyone expects a lot from you. They’ll say that there are things a princess should and shouldn’t do, but you and me — we, we know better.” She plans their future together and Anna joins in, singing of what people will expect of them with the delightful anachronisms Frozen is known for. They describe the princes that will one day pursue their hands: “With royal inbred D.N.A.” The song included more details about how the children in the village perceive Elsa as a “freak” and how the townspeople already fear her and spread rumors of her supposed powers.
“We Know Better” is joyful and upbeat, showing a tight bond between the two sisters. This would have altered the tone of the movie in a major way. The song that replaced it, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” changes the idea of Anna and Elsa being thick-as-thieves to sisters who long to be close to one another but can’t quite make it happen. The tone is one of sweet, sad longing. The final choice in song also furthers the feeling of isolation experienced by both princesses. Where “We Know Better” tells of their relationship to the folk in the town, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” shows both girls growing up not only cut off from each other, but from their subjects. This informs Anna’s character in her excitement to be a part of festivities and her naïveté when she meets her first paramour. She would have been much more cynical and less likely to immediately fall in love had their discussion of “royal inbred D.N.A.” been at the back of her mind.
One of the earlier drafts of the story involved a prophecy of eternal winter from the trolls. “Spring Pageant” is performed by the children of Arendelle as part of a folk festival before the coronation. The song was the Lopez’s fun and lighthearted way to introduce the prophecy while inserting a bit of comedy in the form of giggling children and a finicky drama teacher: “Stop! Stop these shenanigans! This is not some silly comedy, Neils Norberg. This is the trolls’ prophecy. This could be our fate! Give me your gum. Take it from, ‘your future is bleak.'” The song is charming and silly and reminiscent of Scandinavian folk music, with harpsicord and lute playing out the simple melody. Without the storyline of the prophecy, however, the song does not serve a purpose, and was therefore unfortunately disposed of.
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“More Than Just The Spare”
In a song planned for the first half of the film, Anna expresses her dissatisfaction at being thought of as a “spare” princess. It starts out as a soft ballad reminiscent of “I’m Not That Girl” in Wicked, but then the pace picks up as Anna decides to wear her label as a badge of honor, comparing herself metaphorically to superfluous yet useful items like buttons and horseshoes. In the audio track of the song Anderson-Lopez recorded, she said, “There was an early draft that was all about the heir and the spare; Elsa being the heir and Anna being the overlooked, not-needed spare. We wrote this as her big introductory song, and even though it ultimately got cut, it was really useful in helping us tap into Anna’s character.”
The song bears a striking resemblance to the song that replaced it, “For the First Time in Forever,” including having Anna clumsily bump into someone at the end. Both songs illustrate Anna’s sunny, optimistic personality that is always determined to look on the bright side. Once more, however, “For the First Time in Forever,” focuses on her isolation and how lonely she has been rather than on feeling useless or cast aside. The choice to let go of “More Than Just The Spare” allows for zeroing in on how Anna’s lack of access to the outside world and inability to connect with her sister has created a person hungry for attachment instead of needing love to give her a sense of worth.
A seemingly sweet and charming ballad, “You’re You” was intended as a love song from Hans to Anna. As opposed to the duet “Love Is An Open Door,” Anna attempts to join in but is cut off by Hans, who apparently loves the sound of his own voice. Hans’ unpleasant nature is visible up-front as he negs Anna: “Other people walk through life, where you prefer to skip. And other people watch their step, where you most likely trip. And sure, your hair’s not perfect, and there’s — what’s that on your clothes? And yeah, you’re kinda talkative, with freckles on your nose.” In Disney’s live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, this kind of behavior was portrayed as charming and flirtatious, and there is a possibility that socially-repressed Anna sees it that way. She also may view this as Hans telling her she’s perfect the way she is, which could be a very effective wooing technique for a shut-in.
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The song is very much all about Hans and shows his cruel character traits before his dastardly plan is revealed. It doesn’t allow for much of a twist, as the audience is allowed to immediately pick up on the fact that this is not a nice man. “Love Is An Open Door,” on the other hand, is bubbly, enchanting, and goofy, the duet allowing both characters to express unbridled enthusiasm upon having found one another. The latter song also serves as a meta commentary on Disney tropes, a favorite pastime in Disney films of late. Disney loves to seize on an opportunity to poke fun at itself, and Frozen takes quite a few loving jabs at the production company’s history, in particular its portrayal of hasty romance. “You’re You” doesn’t quite have that punch.
“Life’s Too Short/Life’s Too Short (Reprise)”
A song once again delving into the prophecy concerning a ruler that would bring about eternal winter, “Life’s Too Short” was a bitter and dramatic duet between Anna and Elsa. At first, things are going well when Anna visits Elsa in her snow castle, but then Anna suggests Elsa dons her power-dampening gloves, which sets Elsa off. Anna tries to convince Elsa to come back, and the verses merge into minor-key endings, bringing the song into a dark place. This was the only deleted song to be recorded by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, accompanied by storyboard drawings, illustrating how attached the writers were to its confrontational tone. Anna tells Elsa how she is the one person who believes in her, “Kick me out if you want, but I’m the only one who is not one hundred percent convinced the prophecy’s you!” and Elsa fires back by condemning Anna’s choices. “You can think whatever you want ’cause I don’t care. You’re a fool who married a stranger!” Once more, the filmmakers ultimately made the choice to cut the song because the plot points it brought up were not relevant to the finished story. Instead, a sorrowful reprise of “For the First Time in Forever” allows Anna to express her regret in losing her sister’s companionship just they were beginning to understand one another.
The reprise of “Life’s Too Short” was to have taken place when Elsa is in prison and Anna is freezing to death. The sisters begin to see one another’s point of view. The song contains tinkling, winter-like refrains from “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” The song would have been perfectly placed in the third act, so it is regrettable that it wasn’t included. The beautiful melody is quite sincere and heartfelt.
Much to audience members’ chagrin, Jonathan Groff’s considerable talents weren’t used enough in Frozen. The Broadway star plays Kristoff, who only sings a 50-second song called “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People.” Lopez and Anderson-Lopez realized they had gotten to the end of the soundtrack with no significant number for Groff, so they threw together a track that they admittedly knew wouldn’t realistically be used. “So this track is kind of more of a joke,” Lopez said in the track he recorded. The tune is bouncy and funny with a kind of pop tune to it, so it very well could have been placed over the end credits. However, a choice was made to have a pop version of “Let it Go” sung by Demi Lovato adorn the credits of Frozen, and “Reindeers Remix” was scrapped.
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