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Monday, 17 December 2018

Christmas 2018 - Fairy Tale Plays

The cold dark winter months are an excellent time to enjoy an imaginative and colourful fairy tale, and some of the best fairy tale-based entertainment is provided by theatres over the Christmas break. This article showcases 20 of the best fairy tale-themed productions being put on by theatres in London and the rest of the UK over the Christmas period. The article solely looks at traditional plays and musicals, so ballets and pantomimes are not included.

(Note: The majority of these productions can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages, but a couple of them are for adults only.)


Christmas represents an excellent time for visiting London, and numerous theatres provide entertainment for people throughout the city. West End mainstays such as Wicked, The Lion King and Aladdin are still on and attracting numerous theatregoers, but this article will focus on productions that will only be on for a very limited time. Some of these are revivals of productions which have been hits in previous years, whilst others are brand new...

A Christmas Carol (Arts Theatre, Ends 12th January)
Every Christmas, there are numerous stage adaptations of A Christmas Carol, as numerous theatres compete to provide the most impressive version of the story. The redemption of the infamous miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has become as synonymous with Christmas as trees and carols, and there are several interesting retellings this year, with one of the most interesting being performed at the Arts Theatre. The veteran British actor Simon Callow (Who has played Dickens in several TV and stage productions) narrates the story and plays all the characters in it, from Scrooge to Tiny Tim. This one-man approach is reminiscent of the readings which Charles Dickens gave at the height of his literary career and adds an old-fashioned and mysterious atmosphere which highlights the magic of the classic story. This intimate retelling of A Christmas Carol has been performed at the Arts Theatre three times before and has even inspired a television adaptation. Whilst the theatrical productions that dominate at this time of year tend to be grand spectacles, this adaptation relies almost entirely on Callow’s masterful storytelling, proving that sometimes the simplest plays can be the best.

A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic, Ends 19th January)
In contrast to the minimalism of Callow’s production, the Old Vic version of A Christmas Carol provides a grand and immersive retelling of the classic story. When it premiered last year, Matthew Warchus’ version (written by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playwright Jack Thorne) attracted the attention of the critics and general public with its spectacular and immersive staging. Combining Victorian music and impressive floating lanterns with a more in-depth exploration of Scrooge’s backstory, Warchus and Thorne managed to provide grand entertainment for audiences of all ages whilst emphasising the themes and messages which have made A Christmas Carol such an iconic and important story. Considering the acclaim it received, it is no surprise to see this production return for a second consecutive Christmas. Some changes have been made for this revival (Stephen Tompkinson will replace Rhys Ifans in the role of Scrooge) but it seems like it will recapture the magic of the 2017 production. The Old Vic has enjoyed an excellent year, with several acclaimed productions (including Fanny & Alexander, A Monster Calls and Wise Children) and reviving A Christmas Carol brings an eventful 2018 full circle for the prestigious London theatre.

A Very Very Very Dark Matter (The Bridge Theatre, Ends 6th January)
After the Oscar-winning success of his film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Martin McDonagh has returned to the world of theatre for A Very Very Very Dark Matter, which provides a scathing satire on 19th century colonialism and our reverence towards classic writers who are overwhelmingly white, male and European. The play is based on the premise that Hans Christian Andersen owed his success and fame to a diminutive African slave he kept imprisoned in his attic. Unsurprisingly, McDonagh goes all out to alienate Andersen fans, with the author interpreted as a grotesque, foul-mouthed racist, and Charles Dickens is also portrayed in an incredibly unflattering light. Veteran actors Jim Broadbent and Phil Daniels play Andersen and Dickens, but the star of the show is probably Joanetta Eula’Mae Ackles, the unknown actress who plays Andersen’s prisoner.  Although it has not received the acclaim associated with most of McDonagh’s work, this play has gained its fair share of champions, and worth seeing if you are interested in a strange and shocking take on the life of literary icons. If you are sick of Christmas magic and cheer, then A Very Very Very Dark Matter is worth a watch, representing an impressively vicious counterpart to the upbeat, family friendly fare which predominates at this time of year.

The Box of Delights (Wiltons Music Hall, Ends 5th January)
Last year, the East London venue Wiltons Music Hall premiered an adaptation of Jon Masefield’s classic adventure fantasy novel The Box of Delights. The 2017 production, which was written by Children’s author Piers Torday, was generally well-received, and it is not a surprise to hear that it is being brought back for Christmas 2018. Although it was a sequel to Masefield’s earlier story The Midnight Folk, The Box of Delights has become iconic on its own terms, due to its storyline about a boy who receives an incredible magic box and must take on an evil wizard plotting against Christmas itself. Last year’s production starred TV icon Matthew Kelly and West End veteran Josefina Gabrielle in dual roles, as they played both heroic and villainous characters. Although neither Kelly nor Gabrielle are returning this time, there are some talented actors in the cast, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Theo Ancient playing protagonist Kay Harker. The Box of Delights has fallen into obscurity in recent years, but its blend of uniquely British charm and epic fantasy has inspired many of the major fantasy novels which followed it, including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Dark is Rising. This Christmas represents an ideal time to rediscover this classic story.

Don Quixote (Garrick Theatre, Ends 2nd February)
In an age where films, books and shows are widely expected to subvert and deconstruct genre norms, it is not surprising that there has been renewed interest in the classic Cervantes story Don Quixote. The tale of a delusional nobleman obsessed with stories of medieval chivalry and heroism, Don Quixote is enjoying a renaissance at the moment (Terry Gilliam’s adaptation is finally being released after a turbulent 20-year journey to the big screen and there is speculation that Disney are planning to create their own version), demonstrating that a story which is over 400 years old and almost 1,000 pages long can continue to capture our imaginations in the 21st century. This production, directed by James Fenton, premiered at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Spring 2016, and is now being performed in the West End for the first time. Shameless star David Threfall plays Quixote, whilst comedian Rufus Hound is his loyal sidekick Sancho Panza. The production has a wacky and comedic first half and a more melancholy second half, with innovative and unique puppetry and a wide array of songs to keep audiences entertained throughout. Regardless of how familiar you are with the original story, this adaptation of Don Quixote represents colourful and lively escapism which is perfect for this time of year.

Hadestown (National Theatre, Ends 26th January)
Initially beginning life as a concept album written by Anais Mitchell, Hadestown has become a cult favourite, with popular and acclaimed productions taking place in Canada and New York. This creative musical puts a more modern spin on the classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridice, with Euridice being forced to go the dystopian city of Hadetown in her search for work, and Orpheus following her into this underworld in a bid to get her back. The soundtrack is based on musical styles from the era of the Great Depression, with folk and jazz predominating, whilst the storyline tackles a range of increasingly important social, political and environmental issues. The production also boats an impressive cast – our two protagonists being played by Reeve Carney and Eve Noblezada, whilst the Broadway veterans Andre de Shields and Patrick Page bring sinister gravitas to the roles of the Greek Gods Hermes and Hades. Director Rachel Chavkin previously made the acclaimed but short-lived Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and this musical provides a similar blend of traditional story and innovative ideas. Hadestown will premiere on Broadway in April, and it seems like it will be a major contender at the Tony Awards over the summer. The National Theatre run represents an excellent opportunity to see Hadestown before it goes from cult favourite to acclaimed award winner.

Peter Pan (Park Theatre, Ends 5th January)
Based near Finsbury Park in North London, the Park Theatre has become in increasingly prominent and popular venue in recent years, with numerous high-profile productions and celebrity stars. This Christmas, they will be providing a new production of Peter Pan. The selling point of this production is its use of J.M Barrie’s original script, which was created for the first ever stage production of Peter Pan in 1904. After 115 years of retellings and adaptations in many different mediums, the original text still retains plenty of its magic, but modern music and staging are being used in this version to update Peter Pan’s adventures in Neverland for 2018. Peter will be played by Nickolla King-N’Da, with Rosemary Boyle in the role of Wendy. Alexander Valhos, recently heard voicing the sinister Wolf in a recent Radio 4 adaptation of The Company of Wolves, will be playing Captain Hook. A close adaptation of the source material with enough new elements to stand out, Peter Pan is a must-watch for fans of the classic story.

Phillip Pullman's Grimm Tales (Unicorn Theatre, Ends 6th January)
Unlike most London theatres, the Unicorn Theatre provides productions which are specifically aimed at children and families. However, this does not necessarily mean that their productions will be juvenile and sanitised, and Phillip Pullman's Grimm Tales (or Grimm Tales for short) is proof that stories can be dark and scary whilst remaining entirely suitable for younger audiences. The Brothers Grimm retellings found here are based on Phillip Pullman’s 2012 translations of their work and retain the mysterious yet simplistic approach which made them so appealing for the iconic Northern Lights author. Grimm Tales features five classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales interweaved into a single narrative about a group of children hearing these stories during a sleepover. The familiar stories of Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel are combined with overlooked gems such as The Goose Girl at the Spring and the twisted The Juniper Tree. Grimm Tales blends both the magical and mundane and highlights the timeless messages which Brothers Grimm fairytales can provide, making it an excellent way of introducing children to the magic and mystery of the fairy tale genre.

Rumpelstiltskin (Southbank Centre, Ends 6th January)
This Australian update of the Brothers Grimm classic Rumpelstiltskin was a hit when it premiered in its home country in 2016, and it is making its European debut at the Southbank Centre. The Australian entertainer Paul Capsis will play the titular imp, who has been reimagined as a flamboyant and sinister fashion designer. As in the source material, Rumpelstiltskin signs a deal with a young woman seeking his help but tries to get revenge on her when she discards him. The updates to the traditional story allow for some imaginative and eccentric staging, with plenty of modern songs and some satire about our desire to seek expensive clothes. With its unconventional updates of its source material, this adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin is one of the more unusual productions on this list.

Striking 12 (Union Theatre, Ends 23rd December)
Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Matchgirl (which depicts an impoverished girl sacrificing her miserable life for visions of a better one) is famous for being one of the bleakest Christmas stories of all time, but like all of Andersen’s great fairytales, it possesses a blend of magic and tragedy that makes it a perfect fit for the season. For Striking 12, which is making its UK Premiere at Southwark’s Union Theatre, the story is used as the basis for a creative modern-day musical. This combines Andersen’s story of with a new narrative about a solitary man who reads The Little Matchgirl on New Years Eve and is inspired to change his perspective on life as he forms a bond with the ill-fated protagonist. The soundtrack, created by the composer duo GrooveLilly, blends a variety of contemporary musical styles, with West End stars Declan Bennett and Bronte Barbe leading the cast. Striking 12 premiered off-Broadway in 2004, and the fact that it has just made it to London is a testament to the enduring appeal of the story and its source material.

Rest of the UK

Although the West End is one of the major theatregoing hubs in the world, it would be incredibly insulting to overlook the plays and productions being performed in the rest of the UK. Theatres all over the country are providing high quality entertainment for audiences across the Christmas break, and their productions look every bit as creative and entertaining as the ones in London…

Alice in Wonderland (Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Ends 29th December)
Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre is increasingly becoming one off the most acclaimed theatres in Wales, with its charming programme of family friendly Christmas plays representing a highlight of the calendar. This year, they are providing a version of Alice in Wonderland directed by Rachel O’ Riordan.  This retains the surrealism of the source material, with plenty of wacky slapstick and a constantly shifting set that leads to various creative special effects. There are also several songs, and the production has a distinctive Welsh identity that contrasts with the more traditional approach embodied by Disney. However, there is also a more serious undercurrent, as Alice is portrayed here as a teenager who struggles to make sense of the world, with the eccentric residents of Wonderland representing teachers, fellow pupils and even her family. This allows the production to combine its silly approach with genuinely important messages about being yourself and dealing with an often-irrational world. In 2019, Rachel O’ Riordan will become the Artistic Director of West London’s iconic Lyric Hammersmith theatre, and this production is an excellent conclusion to her time in Wales.

Beauty and the Beast (Theatre by the Lake, The Lake District, Ends 12th January)
Although the Lake District is famous for its spectacular mountains, parks and lakes, there is plenty of entertainment for those who would prefer to stay indoors during the long and cold winter nights. Based in the picturesque village of Keswick, the Theatre By the Lake provides lively entertainment for locals and tourists alike, and its Christmas productions are as colourful and magical as the local scenery. This year, the Theatre by the Lake are providing an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast created by the prolific director and playwright Laurence Boswell. His version of the iconic 18th century fairytale was first performed at the Young Vic in 1996 and has been occasionally revived since. Boswell has renovated the script for this new production, but still sticks closely to Jean Marie Le Prince Beaumont’s iconic source material, as Beauty is forced to live with a cursed Beast after her father steals one of his roses for her. This traditional retelling still contains a variety of modern touches, as the production combines old-fashioned sets and robot servants. However, for all the spectacle and songs, the focus of the story will remain firmly on Beauty and her coming of age.

Duckie (Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 20th December – 31st December)
The cabaret artist and drag queen Le Gateau Chocolat has become a prominent performer in Britain, receiving acclaim and attention for shows like Icon and Black. This Christmas, he will be performing his production Duckie at Cardiff’s famous Millennium Centre, updating Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic tale The Ugly Duckling. Most of Le Gateau Chocolat’s work is for adults, but Duckie is aimed primarily at kids. However, its messages about embracing the things which make you unusual and unique, are perfect for audiences of all ages. In this production, Le Gateau Chocolat tells the story of a Duck in a circus coming to terms with his inability to quack, as he meets various animals in his search for a suitable mentor. Le Gateau Chocolat provides numerous outlandish costumes and sings a wide variety of songs in his deep and rich singing voice. He also adds plenty of interactive elements and physical comedy to his show, but never loses sight of the main themes and issues which he is exploring.  Duckie demonstrates that Le Gateau Chocolat can provide family friendly entertainment without sacrificing the quirky and uninhibited approach which made him popular in the first place.

Hansel and Gretel (Rose Theatre Kingston, Kingston, Ends  6th January)
With its mysterious forest setting, dark themes and brave protagonists, Hansel and Gretel is one of the defining Brothers Grimm fairy tales, but it can be a challenge to expand it into a two-hour adventure story. For their Christmas production, the Rose Theatre (based in the suburban town of Kingston-upon-Thames) are putting on a creative new adaptation of the tale, which provides a variety of major twists on a familiar narrative. Instead of being abandoned by a heartless mother, Hansel and Gretel are sent away by a corrupt mayor, and Gretel’s desire to learn more about her missing parents forms a key part of the narrative. In addition, a variety of iconic fairy tale characters (including Snow White, Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio) make cameos. However, for all the changes and expansions, the core of the story remains the same, with Gretel having to outwit the sinister child-eating witch who lives in a house made of sweets and cakes. There are a handful of adults in the show, but the real stars are the child actors from the Rose Youth Theatre, who are divided into two teams who perform on alternate nights. Blending music, magic and adventure, this retelling of Hansel and Gretel provides lively entertainment for all ages whilst maintaining the scary undertones that have made the story so iconic.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Theatre Royal Bath, Bath, Ends 13th January)
In 1905, the Hungarian refugee Baroness Orczy published The Scarlet Pimpernel, about a masked hero who rescues nobles from the violence and bloodshed of the French Revolution. This story of intrigue and adventure inspired many of the superheroes and daredevils who would define 20th century fiction, but the reactionary undertones have aged badly. However, this rendition of The Scarlet Pimpernel succeeds in making the tale fit for the modern age, by providing a wackier retelling which emphasizes the action and adventure. A cast of just five actors play dozens of characters, with the Pimpernel leading a team of 20 men in a quest to save an aristocrat and his numerous pet poodles. There are plenty of bad French accents and gaudy costumes in this production, with more than a few swordfights to add some excitement. The threat posed by Madame Guillotine is a persistent fear for the protagonists, but it is played lightly enough to entertain rather than disturb the children in the audience. Overall, the Theatre Royal Bath’s take on The Scarlet Pimpernel is the sort of lively adventure that will introduce a new generation to the story which paved the way for so many iconic heroes.

Sleeping Beauty (Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester, Ends 30th December)
Chichester is a major theatrical hub, with numerous prominent actors and actresses performing in high-profile productions there. This means that the regional youth theatre has an incredibly significant platform to gain acclaim and attention from theatre tourists who visit the region in the winter months. This Christmas, Chichester Youth Theatre will be taking advantage of this with a production of Sleeping Beauty. Like the Theatre by the Lake adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, this is an update of a Young Vic Christmas play. However, this revival of Rufus Norris’s 2002 production takes a darker and more unconventional approach. It returns the story of Sleeping Beauty back to Charles Perrault’s source material, taking the tale beyond Beauty waking up from her enchanted sleep. Once Beauty ends up in the Prince’s Kingdom, she has to deal with a sinister troll Mother-in-law plotting against her, whilst Goody the fairy tries to set things right for the young woman who she once cursed. Embracing the macabre aspects of the original story whilst adding enough comedy and adventure to make it more palatable for children, this retelling of Sleeping Beauty makes this old-fashioned fairy tale into a creepy yet magical evening of entertainment.

Treasure Island (Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, Ends 6th January)
Eleven years after it last hosted a play, Leicester’s Haymarket theatre has been reopened, and its first production will be an all-new adaptation of Treasure Island written by comedienne Sandi Toksvig. With her roles as a host of QI and The Great British Bake Off, Toksvig has become a national treasure, so the prospect of her adapting the classic adventure novel will doubtlessly attract many theatregoers to the Leicester Haymarket over the Christmas period. The story of Jim Hawkins and his grand adventure on the high seas, is a pretty popular choice for Christmas productions, and Toksvig (whose sister Jennifer is a co-writer on this production) will certainly be able to put her own unique spin on it. Kat Engall will play Hawkins, whilst Jules Brown will play the mysterious Long John Silver The production will also feature a cameo from another British icon – Footballer and sports pundit Gary Lineker (who played for Leicester City during his illustrious career) will appear in a video recording as Captain Flint. Combining action, comedy, music and more than a little star power, this looks like an impressive piece of escapism perfect for a family night out.

Wendy and Peter Pan (Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Ends 5th January)

For their Christmas production this year, Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Lyceum Theatre are staging Wendy and Peter Pan, Ella Hickson’s 2013 adaptation of the classic play and novel from iconic Scottish playwright J.M Barrie. As the title indicates, the focus of this version is shifted from Peter Pan to the female protagonist Wendy, with her coming-of-age providing the story with most of its dramatic weight. Wendy (played by Isobel McArthur) struggles to be a force of sanity in the chaos of Neverland, as she must work alongside the ruder and more aggressive Tinkerbell and Tiger Lilly, and her adventures allow her to understand more about the responsibilities and challenges of womanhood. Peter himself is played by Ziggy Heath, whilst Gyuri Sarossy portrays an ageing but still threatening Captain Hook. For all the changes to the characters, this production still provides the impressive staging, costumes and flying effects we all expect from the Peter Pan story. Wendy and Peter Pan has been frequently revived over the last five years, and its feminist approach will make it a major hit with Scottish theatregoers.

Wicked (Palace Theatre, Manchester, Ends 5th January)
This October marked 15 years since Wicked officially opened on Broadway, and this creative reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz remains as popular as ever. For those unable to see it in the West End, it has spent the past five years touring various British cities, and the tour concludes in Manchester, with a month-long run at the prestigious Palace Theatre. The unusual friendship between wicked witch Elphaba and Glinda the Good witch continues to inspire and move audiences of all ages, and songs such as “Popular”, “Defying Gravity” and “For Good” are some of the most iconic Musical Theatre anthems of the 21st century. Regardless of whether or not you are a seasoned fan of Wicked, this Manchester run represents an excellent opportunity to enjoy the musical which inspired the likes of Frozen, Once Upon A Time and Maleficent.

The Wizard of Oz (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham, Ends 13th January)
For those who want a more conventional take on The Wizard of Oz, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre are providing a lively musical adaptation of the iconic L. Frank Baum novel. Dorothy Gale’s journey across the Yellow Brick Road with the Tin Man, The Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion remains one of the most influential children’s stories of all time, and this production brings it to life for the theatregoers of modern-day Birmingham, updating the rural American values for a more energetic and diverse culture. The classic songs from the 1939 movie adaptation, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard” remain intact, but have been given new orchestrations reminiscent of classic soul music, whilst the choreography combines 1930s style “Jitterbug” dancing with modern hip-hop moves. Chisara Agor plays a stronger and more assertive Dorothy, and there is plenty of gender flipping, with the Lion played by a woman and the Wicked Witch of the West being played (like so many Over-the-Top villains from family-friendly musicals) by a male actor in drag. Overall, this adaptation updates The Wizard of Oz for 2018 whilst celebrating the iconic world and characters which have allowed this tale to endure for so long.

Monday, 26 November 2018

The World’s Best Frozen Fanfic

Out of all the Disney films, Frozen has the largest and most passionate fandom by some distance. This can be highlighted by the large volume of fanfiction based on the film, with almost 11,000 Frozen fanfics on alone, and sites such as ArchiveOfOurOwn, Wattpad and Tumblr featuring even more Frozen-related stories. As a medium dominated by writers with little professional experience, fanfiction has a reputation for being very poor-quality. Some of this snobbery is justified, as many of the fanfics published on these sites are badly written, gimmicky and full of ridiculous changes and twists. However, several of the so-called “amateur writers” can provide stories which are worthy of comparison with the source material. Given the sheer volume of Frozen fanfics, it is possible to find dozens of high-quality ones if you look hard enough. These fanfics include straightforward sequels, stories which retell the events of the film from a different perspective, and ‘Alternative Universe’ stories that place our familiar characters into new world. Out of all the Frozen fanfics on the internet, the best is probably Frozen Wight, an epic 74 – chapter, 295,000 - word fan sequel created by an author called Thebandragoness. This fanfic blends comedy and drama to create a unique and enjoyable story for Anna, Elsa and all their friends and enemies. Not only is it worthy of being compared to the original film, it even surpasses it in a variety of areas. Fanfics tend not to receive detailed examination outside of the online fanfiction community, but Frozen Wight deserves to be shared with the wider world. This article will examine the story in greater detail to figure out why it is so excellent.

Frozen Wight is available on Fanfiction.Net and ArchiveOfOurOwn.

What’s it About?
Due to its epic length, Frozen Wight is split into four parts. The format is like a TV miniseries, with each part combining individual smaller adventures with a set of greater arcs and storylines which span the entire fanfic…
Part One (Chapters 1 - 15) – After the events of the film, Anna and Elsa must adjust to the recent set of changes to their life, as they try to keep Olaf under control and help Anna regain her lost childhood memories.  Meanwhile, volatile Ice Harvester Adrian becomes increasingly suspicious of Elsa and plots a coup against her with magical assistance from a mysterious figure…
Part Two (Chapters 16-37) – Elsa tries to cope with the pressures of being a queen, Anna’s attempts to pair her with dweeby bodyguard Fritz, and the threat posed by a sinister demon. However, a snowwoman called Mary, an imaginary friend from her childhood, comes to life and begins creating trouble.  
Part Three (Chapters 38-59)  – Elsa befriends a boy called Daniel with the same ice powers as her, but Anna becomes increasingly suspicious of him. Daniel helps Elsa take on the flamboyant dark fairy Brandr, but she soon realises that Daniel has a terrible secret and is plotting to use Elsa in a plan to gain revenge on the world which has shunned him.
Part Four (Chapters 60-74) – After Daniel takes away all of Elsa’s happy memories, she creates a second eternal winter and becomes increasingly dangerous and erratic, so Anna is forced to team up with Mary in a bid to cure her older sister. Meanwhile, an old enemy plots to escape jail and gain revenge on Anna and Elsa, but his schemes don’t go to plan…


Frozen Wight is very hard to review in the traditional format, due to its large number of characters, themes and storylines, so this review will break things down a bit and highlight some of the things which make this fanfic a must-read for any writer, regardless of whether or not they are interested in fanfiction or Frozen

Unique and Interesting ToneFrozen Wight possesses a distinctive tone which builds off Frozen’s signature blend of comedy and drama to create something that is unique, but still reasonably close to the approach of the source material. After a brief prologue to introduce the sinister Wight, the story literally begins where Frozen left off, tying up all the loose ends left by the conclusion of the film. We see Elsa get properly introduced to Kristoff and Sven, learn what happens when Olaf meets the people of Arendelle, and find out how Hans’s misdeeds were exposed. This opening sequence establishes the tone of Frozen Wight pretty quickly, with silly and broad comedy getting combined a more serious exploration of Elsa’s fears and anxieties. From there, we go on to seeing Elsa face a variety of issues, ranging from renovating the castle and dealing with an incompetent and sexist Royal Council to fighting angry rebels and a demonic monster. The combination of mundane problems and extreme ones puts greater pressure on Elsa, and her range of responses provides her with much greater depth and nuance. It also manages to make Arendelle into an interesting and unpredictable world which is worth staying in for all 74 chapters.
Although the characters and story are the main strength of Frozen Wight, the creative writing also helps to elevate it. We get numerous great descriptions throughout the story, and there are several moments when the narrative voice intervenes to add some extra comedy. The contrast between extreme comedy and extreme drama should be jarring, but they are balanced really well. The comedy comes primarily from the characters and their dilemmas, ensuring that there is an element of truth and realism to it. Meanwhile, the most serious sections of the story contain bursts of wit and dark humour to keep things from getting too miserable. A list of some of the best lines from the fanfic can be found at the end of the review, but it barely scratches the surface – each chapter has plenty of unique and memorable descriptions and dialogue…

Love of the Source Material - It is obvious throughout this fanfic that Thebandragoness is a keen Frozen fan with a very detailed knowledge of the movie. Virtually all the characters from the original film are included here, from Anna, Elsa and Olaf down to the little kid who moaned about having to wear smart clothing to Elsa’s coronation day. Although this story is not a musical, the iconic songs from Frozen still make their presence felt, with brief excerpts of 'Love is An Open Door' and 'Fixer Upper' appearing, and several references to 'Let it Go' (including Olaf talking about his view of the famous sequence). We also get a variety of Easter eggs, including plenty of allusions to Frozen merchandise and material deleted from the finished film. There are sneaky references to Anna and Elsa’s appearance in Once Upon A Time and several spin-off books for children, and a few characters from classic Disney Animated films have cameos. If you are sick of all the Disney Animation references, there are also amusing references to other films, such as The Princess Bride and The Avengers.
A good portion of the comedy in Frozen Wight takes on a surprisingly meta tone, with various parodies of the Frozen fandom and plenty of digs at the preposterous romantic pairs frequently found there. One of the comedic highlights is a small subplot involving Anna and Elsa’s encounters with an artist who spends his time creating and selling “illicit paintings” (i.e erotic fanart) of Elsa with various romantic partners. There are also scenes with a couple of royal guards, Morten and Henrik, who spend their time discussing rumours about Elsa’s romantic life. These jokes at the expense of Frozen’s fandom could easily be mean-spirited, but even the most avid fans can realize how ridiculous all the romantic ‘shipping’ can get, and the mockery in this fanfic stays on the right side of the line between affectionate and cruel. Frozen is a pop-cultural phenomenon as well as a movie, and the acknowledgement of its unique status in the Disney canon allows Frozen Wight to be more than another continuation of Anna and Elsa’s story.

Big and Mature Themes – The comedy in Frozen Wight is used to balance out the darker excesses of an often serious story which provides a more detailed understanding of Elsa and her inner turmoil. This fanfic was initially called ‘The Trials of Elsa’, so it is no surprise that Anna’s troubled but brilliant older sister takes centre stage in this story. Elsa’s cyromancy (ice powers to you and me) is the overarching focus of this story as she struggles to come to terms with an incredible gift which stayed suppressed for so long. Having to deal with Olaf, Marshmallow and a new array of snow creatures feeds into Elsa’s uncertainty over how to use her powers, and this creates a lot of comedy and drama. One of the prominent threads running throughout the fanfic is Elsa’s struggle to deal with a drought affecting Arendelle. With climate change becoming an increasingly urgent issue following the heatwaves which affected the Northern hemisphere over the summer, this subplot feels incredibly timely, as Elsa ponders the ethics of using the fairytale equivalent of Geoengineering to solve the problems faced by her kingdom. You do not need cyromancy to understand Elsa’s fears and insecurities, and this is what makes her such a compelling protagonist.
The serious elements of the story are pretty heavy and disturbing at points. Elsa’s fragile mental health is a central issue in Frozen Wight, particularly in the second and fourth parts. In the second part, Elsa’s battle with Mary’s toxic influence provides a disturbing representation of the intrusive thoughts that often afflict obsessive or anxious people, with Mary forcing her to act on her worst instincts.  Mary corrupts Elsa through a mirror, echoing Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (the inspiration for Frozen) and the damage she causes highlights the fact that losing control of your own mind can be scarier than any demon or snow monster. In the fourth part of the story, things get even worse as Elsa’s happy memories are removed, turning her into a paranoid and dangerous character who begins sliding into monster territory. Elsa’s extreme turmoil is explored in a disturbing amount of detail. Parallels are drawn between Daniel and the numerous real-life predators who destroy women’s lives to live out their fanatical fantasies, and this make it clear that Elsa is as much of a victim as a villain in this section of the story. The scenes where she loses control and starts freezing her friends are genuinely disturbing, because we know that her breakdown is based on fear rather than malice. Things reach their climax when Elsa accidentally hits Anna with an extra-potent version of the “Frozen Heart” curse from the first movie, making things even more difficult for Anna, as she seeks to prevent Elsa from losing control of herself and her powers for good. Anna’s race against time to save herself and Elsa is intense and dramatic, with a powerful resolution which  makes the eventual happy ending all the sweeter.
In addition to providing drama and philosophical conundrums, Elsa’s struggles are used to generate plenty of important messages. Beneath all the chaos, the primary message of Frozen Wight is an excellent one - you should never let tragedy and trauma define you. Elsa’s relationship with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and the rest of the “Frozen Family” emphasizes the need to preserve our bonds with the people who can support us when things get difficult. These messages are consistent with the themes and ideas explored by the original film, but take them far further to provide a more sophisticated and detailed examination. Elsa is a role model for many people with mental issues, and the exploration of her struggles here gives this fanfic an emotional impact and maturity. Like most fanfics, Frozen Wight is aimed at older audiences, but whilst many of these stories misuse the “more adult” tone, Frozen Wight gets the balance correct, adding more drama and danger without feeling gimmicky or needlessly shocking.

A Strong Supporting Cast – Although Frozen Wight is primarily about Elsa and her powers, its grand scale and elaborate narrative means that the other characters from the Frozen Universe also get plenty to do. If Elsa is the primary protagonist of Frozen Wight, then Anna is a pretty powerful deuteragonist. The emphasis on Elsa over Anna leads to some changes in their dynamic. With her attempts to play matchmaker for Elsa and Fritz and a newfound obsession with punching all her enemies in the face, Anna gets a lot of quirky and goofy moments, and can border on being a comic sidekick at times. However, when push comes to shove and Elsa needs her help, Anna proves to be the kind, brave and tenacious protagonist we all know and love, fully earning her heroine status. A traditionally-built, inanimate snowman with handprints over the heart becomes a powerful symbol of Anna’s unconditional love for Elsa, and the scenes in which it is used are the most powerful and moving in the fanfic. The bond between Anna and Elsa is the one thing which made Frozen truly iconic, and Frozen Wight treats this important relationship with the respect it deserves.
It is not surprising that Elsa’s snow creatures also have a prominent role. Olaf is his usual blissfully happy, heat-obsessed self, and gets some hilarious lines in this story. We learn about his inability at keeping secrets and get a running gag about his obsession with the curse words which he hears Anna using once too often. Hearing the innocent and childlike Olaf use profanities which rhyme with “witch” and “wrap” is one of those things which should just be cheap, lowest-common denominator humour, but turns out to be hilarious due to his total lack of awareness or malice. Elsa’s intimidating snow monster Marshmallow has an expanded role as well, as we learn about his relationship with Elsa – beneath his menacing exterior, he loves his creator just as much as Olaf does. In addition, we get several mini-Marshmallows, a set of talking birds made from pure snow and a living, walking snowball who provides some much-needed cuteness during the intense later chapters.
Anna’s allies from the original film also get some memorable moments, although they are somewhat less significant compared to the more complex and entertaining characters surrounding them. Kristoff retains his “anti-social straight man” personality and gets some good lines, but he and Sven are slightly overshadowed by the other members of the cast. Pabbie retains his role as the magic expert, providing exposition to make the complicated magic and mythology easier to understand. Although he generally uses his magic to help Anna and Elsa, Daniel eventually forces him into doing things which create problems for our protagonists. Meanwhile, the rest of the trolls get involved in the romantic tangles at the centre of the story, providing unreliable advice for Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Fritz. Given that he is one of the most overused characters in Frozen media, the eccentric Sauna salesman Oaken appears surprisingly little in this story. However, the character is given various identical-looking cousins who run other businesses in Arendelle and generate a lot of extra silliness – Thebandragoness could have easily ran this concept into the ground, but thankfully manages to handle it carefully. Overall, Thebandragoness stays true to the essence of Frozen’s main characters and gives them a lot of great new material.

Great New Characters - There are also a variety of interesting new characters to enjoy. Aside from the villains (mentioned in further detail below) the two most prominent are Anders, the chief of staff, and Fritz, an awkward young bodyguard hopelessly infatuated with Elsa. Anders is a stereotypically posh and stuffy assistant and gets a variety of dry and snarky lines, but the caring and compassionate elements of his personality still shine through. When he is forced to babysit Olaf, he initially finds the wacky snowman insufferable, but soon begins to form a sweet little friendship with him. Fritz is another major source of comic relief in the story, getting involved in a complex romantic subplot involving Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, a bullying and macho bodyguard, and a sickeningly sweet member of staff. Whilst the romantic subplots are relatively convoluted and can feel like filler at times, they yield a lot of great comedy. With his ghastly mother, a complete lack of social skills and a job he is hopelessly unqualified for, Fritz is incredibly out of his depth in the royal world, but he is likeable enough to root for, and its pretty satisfying when things finally start to go his way. Besides these characters, other new additions to the Frozen universe include Mrs. Dale, Adrian’s wise and kind wife, and Admiral Klaus, a tough military man who has his own personal reasons for taking interest in Elsa’s cyromancy. Both of these characters are engaging and three-dimensional, with revelations about them later in the story add to their depth and complexity.

Excellent Villains - Whilst the villains are one of the weakest aspects of the original film, the villains in Frozen Wight are among the highlights of the story. There are six main villains (seven if you count “Evilsa” – the brainwashed and crazy version of Elsa from Part 4), of whom four are completely original characters. These four new additions are all memorable antagonists who present Anna and Elsa with formidable challenges. Daniel is the best of these, representing an excellent evil counterpart to Elsa whose tragic past has driven him insane and turned him into a nihilistic demon who has decided to embrace the death and destruction he associates with his ice powers. Mary has one of the biggest character arcs in the story, as she goes from demonic creature seeking to control Elsa to vulnerable and sympathetic snowwoman who realises that her fears and anxieties are not so different from Anna’s. Both characters are given depth through a variety of flashback sequences, which explain how they came to pose a threat to Anna and Elsa. These sequences add horror and tragedy to Frozen Wight, with Daniel’s backstory being especially harrowing – his behavior may be deplorable, but it is certainly easy to understand how he ended up becoming a monster. In contrast to Daniel and Mary, Brandr has no internal depth or complexity, but is still a twisted and entertaining villain. With his fast-talking, obnoxious personality and complete disregard for human life, he feels like a more extreme version of Hades from Hercules and is as much of a scene-stealer as this description implies. Adrian is a smaller villain, only causing trouble in the first part, but still has a considerable impact, particularly when we find out WHY he wanted to kill Elsa. This devastating revelation fuels Elsa’s doubts and uncertainties about her powers and adds depth to a villain who previously seemed like a prejudiced thug. It needs to be stated that none of these villains are suitable for children. Brandr’s flamboyance means that he is the closest to a traditional Disney baddie, but this is still a character who boasts about killing a child cyromancer and plots to replace all of Arendelle’s little children with demon changelings. The total lack of family-friendliness gives this story a bite which provides urgency and high stakes to prevent this being an excessively upbeat and silly farce.
Compared to villains like Daniel and Brandr, The Duke of Weaseltown Weselton and Prince Hans, the two villainous characters from the original film, no longer feel like threats, and their portrayal in this story reflects this. Weselton was always more of a boorish and ridiculous ‘hater’ rather than a true menace, and Frozen Wight stays true to this characterization. During the second part, Elsa is forced to negotiate with him to form a new trading agreement, leading to a lot of the awkward and amusing comedy generated by forcing our protagonists to be nice to someone who they find totally insufferable. Needless to say, the uneasy business partnership does not work out. It is a lot more surprising to see Hans played for laughs as well, but this is handled really well here. Most Frozen  fanfics portray Hans as a troubled but redeemable young man or a completely evil supervillain, so it is refreshing to see this one try something different, and the material is funny enough to justify the more comedic interpretation. The Hans we see here is still a scheming sociopath, but feels pathetic instead of threatening, as he spends most of his time formulating impractical and ill-conceived plots from within his jail cell whilst picking his nose and getting increasingly miserable about the fall from grace that he brought upon himself. The confrontation between him and our two sisters towards the end of the fanfic is incredibly one-sided, demonstrating how far Anna and Elsa have come over the course of the story. It’s telling that whilst Weselton and Hans are mere sideshows in Frozen Wight, their portrayal here is more interesting and entertaining than they were in a film where they were the central antagonists.

What Are the Negatives?
This is an excellent fanfic, but it has its flaws as well, and whilst these are relatively minor, they are still worth mentioning. The epic approach of Frozen Wight is one of its strengths, but also generates some problems. The second and third parts can get a little baggy at times, with the issues of Anna and Elsa’s daily life sometimes distracting from the bigger picture. The mythology of this story, involving magical swords fuelled by hate, evil fairies and a mythical cyromancer called Mother Winter who turned the entire world into a snowy wasteland, is incredibly convoluted and not easy to follow, going against the fairytale simplicity which makes Disney films so appealing. There is also a problem with the otherwise excellent final chapter. The concluding scene involving Daniel reuniting with a figure from his past ends his story on an ambiguous but surprisingly hopeful note (Without going too far into spoiler territory, his final fate is similar to that of The Moon King in Kubo and the Two Strings). However, it would have been more satisfying to intercut this with Anna and Elsa’s final conversation together, a simple, moving and sweet scene where Anna provides Elsa with support as she comes to terms with the awful ordeal she went through over the fourth part of the story. Ultimately, the most powerful element of  Frozen Wight is  the unbreakable bond between two sisters and seeing them put their handprints on Anna’s snowman one last time would have been the perfect full stop for this tale.

What Else has TheBanDragoness Written?
Thebandragoness has provided two sequels to Frozen Wight. They are considerably shorter, but still packed with the humour and drama that are the author’s trademark. Anatomy of A Snowwoman is centred on Mary and her struggles to find meaning in her life. It continues in the tone set by Frozen Wight, with Elsa travelling to a kingdom who worships her as a goddess and dealing with a mysterious force which turns all her snow creatures (even Olaf!) into rebellious monsters. Fritz: The Musical centres on Fritz’s romantic misadventures and features parodies of numerous famous Disney songs. Both of these stories have plenty of great moments, and are worth checking out, but Frozen Wight is still the best story in Thebandragoness universe by some distance, due to its epic scope, great humour, powerful dramatic moments and its excellent depiction of Anna and Elsa’s sister dynamic.

Although there are times where it feels a bit excessive and self-indulgent, Frozen Wight is a must-read for Frozen fans, and even those who despise the Disney megahit will find something to enjoy in this fanfic. With its creative combination of funny, sad, scary and heartwarming, the story deepens our appreciation of the characters in the Frozen universe whilst also adding some excellent new elements to their world. Ultimately, Frozen Wight sets an extremely high bar for Frozen 2, and it provides proof that committed and talented amateur fans can provide a sequel capable of standing toe to toe with the best from Hollywood.

Best Lines
 “Here’s a secret. All politics is just a bunch of old rich people who hate each other being locked in a room to argue about boring legal stuff” (Chapter 1)
“In the span of a week, the castle had gone from a quiet, dignified albeit empty, house of royalty to a place where sentient snowmen ran amok and princesses dated hairy mountain men. It was starting to dawn on Anders that the only thing standing between order and hair-splitting madness was one elderly and overworked butler” (Chapter 3)
Anna: Discussing Talking Snowman philosophy is great and all, but can we please get back to fixing my brain now?” (Chapter 6)
Anna: When you ran away just now, I was so scared, I didn’t know what you were going to do, and, well, between today and yesterday, I guess we both almost lost each other. And all I could think of was how we needed to build a snowman again because… if we built the snowman, then…then you would know…that  I don’t care what happens, or what you’ve done, or what you think you’ve done. I love you no matter what.” (Chapter 15)

"Anders thought back to the conversation he'd had with Elsa the previous day. He was glad to see she'd dealt with the issue in her own unorthodox way. He just wished her way hadn't involved freezing the whole castle, that was all. Sudden, drastic change and finicky old men didn't agree with each other." (Chapter 17)
Olaf: I’m great at keeping secrets! Like the time I promised Marshmallow I wouldn’t tell anyone he wants to wear women’s clothing!” (Chapter 29)

"Anna glanced back long enough to scream "Evilsnooooooowmaaaaaaan!"

Okay, Kristoff was seriously confused. But then an ice-creature charged after her down the hallway, and he pieced things together.

Lesson Learned: Never try to surprise Anna. She will outdo you every time" (Chapter 33)

"Brandr: Please, must this end in violence? […] Wait, who am I kidding? I love violence." (Chapter 37)

"Olaf: First Elsa wears boy clothes, then I wear girl clothes...What a day for gender roles, right? Wait. Do snowmen have genders?" (Chapter 55)
“Anna had learnt a valuable lesson. No matter how bad a person could seem, they can always realise their mistakes and find redemption.
Except Hans. Screw Hans. Anna hoped he was having a miserable time in prison.” (Chapter 65)
Morten the Guard: Why can’t the queen stay single, huh? Her life seems fine without romance in it! And its not like there aren’t already a gazillion royal chicks out there who turn romance into their defining trait! Why can’t Queen Elsa stay special? Why can’t she be a strong, independent person?” (Chapter 74)

Thursday, 22 November 2018

25 Fascinating Facts About Frozen

On this day five years ago, Disney’s Frozen premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, five days before it was officially released in cinemas all over America.  Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen, Frozen told the story of Princess Anna and her attempts to repair her relationship with powerful but troubled older sister Queen Elsa. Subverting numerous fairytale clich├ęs to provide a magical celebration of sisterhood, Frozen captured the imaginations of millions of viewers across the 2013/14 winter season. It soon became the most successful animated movie of all time, earning almost $1.3 billion worldwide and winning an Oscar for its inescapable signature song “Let It Go”. In the time since its release, Frozen has become a merchandising behemoth all over the world, with the soundtrack selling over 10 million copies in 2014 alone. Frozen has been spun off into two animated shorts (Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure), and numerous theme park rides and shows, with Anna, Elsa and their friends inspiring numerous pieces of merchandise, ranging from toys to lunchboxes. In addition, the movie has recently been adapted into a Broadway musical seen by some of the biggest celebrities in the world. The much-anticipated sequel Frozen 2 will premiere in exactly one year, having recently moved its release date forward by 5 days (from 27th November 2019 to 22nd November 2019) to take full advantage of the build-up to Thanksgiving. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the co-directors of original Frozen, will be back for the sequel, with Oscar-nominated  screenwriter Alison Schroeder (Hidden Figures) joining Lee on the writing team. Songwriting duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are writing the songs for Frozen 2, aiming to emulate the record-breaking success of their soundtrack for the original film. Meanwhile, Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel will reprise their roles as Anna and Elsa, with Josh Gad and Johnathan Groff also returning to voice Anna’s sidekicks Olaf and Kristoff. In addition to our four leads, there will be a variety of new characters, with TV veterans Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K.Brown being lined up to voice two of them. 
Like most of the great Disney films, Frozen appeals to viewers of all ages on a variety of levels. Its catchy songs, impressive animation and colorful characters captured the hearts of youngsters, whilst older audiences were impressed by its dark and sad undertones, its feminist twists on traditional princess tropes and its timeless messages about the importance of family and the power of love over fear. Like most Disney films, Frozen had an eventful and chaotic journey to the big screen, with numerous twists and turns in the development process. It took almost 7 decades to come up with a story, and when this was finalized, the creative team had just 15 months to get the film ready for release. However, the success of Frozen made all this hard work worthwhile.  In order to celebrate Frozen’s 5th anniversary, here are 25 fascinating facts about the making of the film and its iconic characters and soundtrack…

25 Fascinating Facts About Frozen

1.      Disney planned to make a film based on The Snow Queen as early as the 1940s, when it would have been part of a larger anthology film based on Hans Christian Andersen’s works. However, it was CEO Michael Eisner who really started pushing for the project to be made, with various versions consistently in development from the late 1990s. Disney legends such as Glen Keane, Alan Menken and Linda Woolverton were attached to the project during this gestation period, but all dropped out at different points, due to the difficulties involved in adapting the long and episodic source material.

2.      In order to get around these problems, Frozen made numerous major changes to The Snow Queen. Despite this, some parallels to Andersen’s story remain if you look closely. The gruff but ultimately helpful reindeer herder Kristoff fulfills the same role as the robber girl from source material, whilst the Finn woman and her incredibly hot house may have been an inspiration for flamboyant sauna owner Oaken. Frozen also put an unusual spin on the evil mirror which starts the conflict in The Snow Queen. The treacherous Prince Hans was modeled after a living mirror, with his personality changing depending on which characters he is interacting with.

3.      The title of the movie was changed from The Snow Queen to Frozen, following in the footsteps of the successful and controversial renaming of Tangled and Brave. However, some international versions (such as the German and French releases), retained the title The Snow Queen, with others (Such as Japan) using translations of the title Anna and the Snow Queen instead. In Spain, Italy and Portugal, the original and final titles were combined, and the film was called Frozen: The Snow Queen.

4.      Although the sheer scale of Frozen’s cultural impact took everyone by surprise, the higher-ups at Disney anticipated that it would be a hit from an early stage. Plans to make it into a Broadway production were put in place before the film was released.

5.      Not all the songs from Frozen made it into the Broadway version. "Frozen Heart", sung by a group of Ice Harvesters at the very beginning of the film, was cut because it was not sufficiently connected to Anna and Elsa’s story. However, instrumentals from this song are still included in the score, and elements of it are used in climactic number “Colder by the Minute”.

6.      In order to develop the sibling relationship between Anna and Elsa, the team behind Frozen held a “Sister summit”, where sisters were invited to talk about their relationship, with anecdotes being used to form the bond between the two characters. 

7.      In The Snow Queen, the protagonists were called Kai and Gerda. In order to pay tribute to the source material, Anna and Elsa’s head servants were named after the characters, although these names are only revealed in the end credits.

8.      Director Jennifer Lee had a small role in the film, voicing Anna and Elsa’s mother. Fellow Disney directors Stephen J. Anderson (Meet the Robinsons) and Chris Williams (Big Hero 6, Moana) also had cameos as Kai and Oaken respectively.

9.      “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” was almost cut, but it was decided to retain the song at the last minute. There were initial concerns that it sounded too somber, but the team were forced to revise it again when it became too cheery and upbeat.

10.   It is widely known that Elsa was originally intended to be a villainous character, but was changed into a heroine after the Lopez’s wrote “Let It Go”. They believed that the song made her too sympathetic to be a villain, and the story was substantially rewritten afterwards to reflect this. In the earlier versions of Frozen where Elsa was an antagonist, she would have been modeled after iconic divas Bette Middler and Amy Winehouse and voiced by Will & Grace star Megan Mullaly.

11.   When it was decided to make Hans a villain instead, the writing team introduced a prophecy where the protagonists were instructed to beware a “ruler with a frozen heart”. Elsa and Anna would assume that the prophecy would relate to the former, but it would really be referring to Hans. Although this prophecy was mentioned in the original synopsis for Frozen, it was discarded late in development.

12.   Anna and Elsa’s bond would have initially been represented by a snowglobe, but it was eventually decided to make Olaf the embodiment of their relationship instead. This was because there were too many symbols and motifs in the movie (such as gloves, doors and ice), so adding an extra one would have created confusion. Olaf’s status as the symbol of Anna and Elsa’s sisterhood was explored in more detail in Olafs Frozen Adventure and the Broadway version.

13.   One notable question left unanswered by the film is “who runs the kingdom until Elsa comes of age?”. In early drafts, it would have been a female regent who has magic powers, subverting the “villainous advisor” tropes represented by past Disney villains such as Jafar and Yzma. However, it was decided that such a character would be superfluous.

14.   Several racier lines were cut from the songs. “For the First Time in Forever” would have initially featured Anna singing “I hope I don’t vomit in his face” but it was decided that this line would have been too gross – The Lopez’s daughter came up with the replacement line “I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face”. For Let It Go, the line “God knows I’ve tried” was replaced with “Heaven knows I’ve tried”, because this use of God in this context would have been considered blasphemous.  

15.   If you’re wondering why Hans is so skilled at pretending to be the good guy, then that’s because his voice actor had experience as a genuine Prince Charming. Santino Fontana played Prince Topher in the Broadway version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella when it opened in March 2013, conveniently leaving the role shortly after Frozen was released.

16.   The scene where Anna and Elsa fall out (causing Elsa to lose control of her powers) went through several revisions. Initially, Anna was merely asking for Elsa to give Hans a job, but it was decided that having Anna get impulsively engaged to him would pose a greater threat to Anna and Elsa’s relationship.

17.   The changes to Anna and Hans had an effect on Anna and Kristoff’s relationship. Anna would have initially been more flirtatious, but it was decided that this would make no sense if she was engaged to Hans, so a more combative initial dynamic was used instead.

18. The trading post where Anna first meets Kristoff is called “Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna”. According to the Lopez’s, Lee chose the name because ‘Wandering Oaken’ is an anagram of ‘Naked Norwegian”.

19.   Olaf was the character most prominently featured in the Frozen promotional campaign, but his role in the movie was in doubt for much of the production process. Olaf was initially much more abrasive, but Jennifer Lee changed him substantially when she joined the project, later saying that the initial scenes written for the character made her want to “kill the ****ing snowman”. The scene near the end when he helps out Anna was added relatively late to ensure that he would have a greater role in the story.

20.   A variety of songs were written by the Lopez’s but eventually discarded, including “Life’s Too Short”, “We Know Better”, “Cool with Me”, “More than Just the Spare” and “You’re You”. However, some of these songs have gained a second life in the Frozen universe. Some of the instrumentals for “Life’s Too Short” were used in the Frozen Fever song “Making Today A Perfect Day”, whilst a section from “We Know Better” appeared in “Let the Sun Shine On”, the opening song of the Broadway version.

21.   Josh Gad previously worked with Robert Lopez in the bad-taste Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, but he was not the only star from that long-running show to appear in Frozen. Maia Wilson and Lewis Cleale, who also had roles in The Book of Mormon, voice Kristoff’s troll guardians Bulda and Cliff.

22.   British comedian Jack Whitehall recorded lines as one of the trolls, but went uncredited in the finished film. He claimed that he was cut from Frozen, but his character still appears in the movie anyway. Whitehall has since gone on to gain roles in Disney’s live-action films The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Jungle Cruise.

23.   The Troll’s song, ‘Fixer Upper’, was finished in July 2013, just four months before the film was released (In contrast, ‘Let It Go’ – the first song from Frozen to be completed -  was recorded almost a year before). Several other songs for the Trolls had been considered and rejected before this, including one with a boyband theme and one based on getting Anna and Kristoff to “walk in each other’s shoes”.

24.   Hans’ ability at hiding his true nature makes him one of Disney’s darker villains, but he would have initially been even more murderous. Instead of simply trying to kill Elsa, early drafts of the story had Hans plot to defeat her by triggering an avalanche, fully aware that this would destroy Arrendelle…

25.   Some changes were made so late that the initial discarded lines and scenes were included in Frozen merchandise. Most notably, the novelization of Frozen ended with Kristoff being the one to subdue Hans at the end, but it was decided that it would be far more satisfying (and feminist!) if Anna was the one to punch him in the face instead.