It’s been confirmed that the Frozen-inspired events of Once Upon a Time are not considered canon with regards to Frozen 2. The movie sequel sees Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf travel beyond Arendelle to investigate the source of Elsa’s powers and protect the kingdom from looming danger, meeting numerous new characters on the way.
Once Upon a Time was a fairytale mashup show that, with its airing network ABC being owned by Disney, had free reign to include the popular versions of fairytale characters with whom audiences would be familiar rather than their traditional folklore incarnations often radically altered for the movies. Around the middle of season 3, the plotting began shifting to unofficial sequels of various movies, and the first half of season 4 focused on Frozen, revolving around the appearance of Elsa and Anna in the town of Storybrooke and having to face their previously unknown aunt Ingrid, the Snow Queen of the Hans Christian Andersen story by which Frozen was very loosely inspired.
The confirmation of Once Upon a Time’s events not being canon came from Jennifer Lee, the writer and director of Frozen 2. During a Q&A session at an early press day for the film at Walt Disney Animation Studios she was asked about the events of the show in relation to the movie, and responded:
“No, that’s not canon. We didn’t see it. So I kinda made a point of certain things not to see so it wouldn’t affect us that way. Frozen 1 and Frozen 2 to me are one complete story and that’s really where we stay. So glad they had fun with that. I think they had a lot of fun with the characters.”
Several other films were also given follow-ups by Once Upon a Time. After the Frozen arc concluded, a “Queens of Darkness” storyline combined Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians and Ursula from The Little Mermaid, accompanied by Maleficent to tie in with the popularity of the recently released movie retelling the villainous sorceress’ origin, despite the show’s version of the character having been killed in the season 1 finale. The first half of season 5 introduced Brave’s Merida, whose backstory completely undermined the ending of her movie, and its second incorporated elements taking place after Hercules, while season 6 brought in Aladdin and reworked his story to fit that of the show’s ongoing narrative.
The Frozen half-season of Once Upon a Time being declared non-canon is something of a relief, since it formed part of a time when the quality of the show’s writing had begun to decline as it began to abandon the nuanced exploration of the absolutes of good and evil and instead started unironically playing up to the fairytale tropes it had previously subverted. Similarly, to expect audiences to be aware of events of a TV show during a season typically recognized as one of its weaker ones and which saw a sharp decline in viewing figures is unreasonable, so allowing Frozen 2 to stay its own thing beyond such glorified fan fiction can only be a good thing.
- Frozen II (2019) release date: Nov 22, 2019