Songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are once again up for Academy Awards in the Best Original Song category for writing “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II.” The duo has already won this category twice, for “Remember Me” from “Coco” (2017) and the ubiquitous “Let It Go” from the first “Frozen” (2013). Anderson-Lopez stressed that despite “Into the Unknown” being described as the “Let It Go” of the “Frozen” sequel, the songs represent very different things in Elsa’s journey. “‘Let it Go’ is a bit of a rebellion, saying, ‘Here’s who I am and I don’t care what anybody thinks,'” she says. “Now she’s found acceptance and has a solid family but now, she has to do the hard work of finding out what is it that she wants for the first time.” Watch the exclusive video interview with the Lopezes above.
“Into the Unknown” features Elsa hearing a voice calling out to her, which sparks her curiosity. She hesitantly ponders whether to venture outside the confines of her palace. The song is suggesting, as Lopez notes, “there’s a dangerous path ahead but it’s also something that Elsa can’t resist and she feels like it’s calling her to her purpose.” Anderson-Lopez compares it to “that beautiful restlessness that we all have in our early 20s that is the catalyst for the adventure into adulthood.” In other words, it’s her “I Want” song, a musical theater phrase that describes the moment our hero realizes they are stuck in an unsatisfactory situation and they strive for something more out there.
The Lopezes conceived of some clever devices for the song, especially for the chorus. Elsa sings the phrase “into the unknown” three times, each time reaching higher and higher notes. Anderson-Lopez explains how the first time Elsa sings it, it’s perfectly safe in one octave. Then in the second utterance, she goes a step higher but still resolves within a safe zone. As Anderson-Lopez puts it, this represents “stepping your foot outside of the boundary but pulling it right back because it’s scary.” Then the third and final proclamation is “you know what, I’m going for it” territory, where Elsa is free from any inhibitions and soars to almost impossibly high notes.
It was a difficult task for the songwriters to tackle “Frozen II” as a musical sequel without relying too heavily on the first film and its beloved soundtrack. “One thing we tacitly agreed not to do was to go back to Disney princess land,” Lopez reveals. This involved moving away from, as Lopez puts it, the Alan Menken, Howard Ashman style of the Disney renaissance and going into more earthy tones for Anna and a pop opera feel for Elsa. Beyond “Into the Unknown,” Anderson-Lopez is particularly proud of “Show Yourself,” Elsa’s defiant moment around the climax of the film. While the song took around six months to figure out, she states: “I’m proud of it because my 14-year-old daughter feels like it speaks to her and says that she’s allowed to go out into the world and show herself.”
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