Frozen was a phenomenon. It is the highest grossing animated movie ever made, the ninth highest grossing film ever made, the highest grossing of 2013, and the best selling Blu-ray ever in the United States. It also won numerous awards, including two Oscars – Best Animated Film and Best Original Song (“Let it Go”). Disney followed it up quickly with a short film – Frozen Fever – while both a full-length sequel and a Broadway musical adaption are in the works.
And it was almost a very different movie. Not long after Frozen was released in theaters, it was revealed that the story – loosely adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Snow Queen – went through major changes throughout the creation of the film. Most extensively through the character of Elsa, who was originally the villain of the piece. A deleted scene revealed that she trapped and tortured soldiers and created an army of snow monsters intentionally.
Producer Peter Del Vecho has now revealed to EW the details of how the movie would have ended if Elsa’s character had not been rewritten so significantly. Anna and Elsa would not have been sisters, or royalty. Instead, Elsa had a frozen heart because her love had left her at the altar, leading everyone to believe she is the subject of a prophecy – “a ruler with a frozen heart will bring destruction to the kingdom of Arendelle.” Eventually, the prophecy was revealed to have been about Hans when he caused an avalanche to help Elsa and her army of snow monsters defeat Anna, not caring if both sides were hurt. Anna convinced Elsa to help stop Hans, and she regained her ability to love.
Del Vecho went on to elaborate why the scene – and indeed the entire film – changed so drastically:
The problem was that we felt like we had seen it before. It wasn’t satisfying. We had no emotional connection to Elsa — we didn’t care about her because she had spent the whole movie being the villain. We weren’t drawn in. The characters weren’t relatable.
Making them [Anna and Elsa] related led us to the idea of her living in fear of her powers. What if she’s afraid of who she is? And afraid of hurting the ones she loves? Now we had a character in Anna who was all about love and Elsa who was all about fear. That led to making Elsa a much more dimensional sympathetic character, and instead of the traditional good vs. evil theme we had one that we felt was more relatable: Love vs. fear, and the premise of the movie became that love is stronger than fear.
One of the things [director] Chris Buck had in most versions of the film was a moment where Anna’s heart was frozen and needed to be thawed. Chris said, ‘Does it always need to be true love’s kiss that solves that problem? Does it always have to be the man who comes in and rescues the female? Could it be something different?’ and that led to a different ending.
That thought process lead to the rewrites which helped turn Frozen into the critical and financial success that it became and secured its place in film history.