With Frozen, the challenge was to convey a deep, rich and emotional range against the icy white world of Arendelle. By taking trips to Cheyenne, Wyoming and Norway, the production team and animators looked at snow and ice and how light would refract and retract and the frozen world of Arendelle became its own character within the first animated feature.
In Frozen 2, Elsa and Anna leave the world of Arendelle to learn about Elsa and her magical powers. By going on this adventure, we’re introduced to new worlds and new environments; the enchanted forest, a mysterious world that Elsa and Anna first learn about as little girls, and the dark seas beyond Arendelle.
For the production design team, Frozen gave them a starting point, but Lisa Keene and David Womersley looked to the script as their next starting point to really envision creating this magical world.
Last month, I was invited to Disney Animation Studios to learn about the crafts of Frozen 2. I sat down with Lisa Keene (Co-Production Designer) and David Womersley (Art Director Environments) to Uncover the world of Frozen 2.
Where do you begin with production design when you’re revisiting this world?
David: I think we were lucky to have one already made because it gives you a starting point.
Lisa: We started on the same day, and we’re given the script. You start reading and envisioning at that point. You run with it, and you have free reign to play and start creating. Things are still squishy and from there, it takes on its life.
David: From there, we take on other designers. As the story starts to form and it gets less squishy, we start honing because we know it’s going to be in these certain locations. You show the directors and get a sense of what they like and which way we should go with the production design. It really is about honing, and you know when something clicks.
This time we go out into the forest, the sea and we’re not in the world of ice anymore. What was the color palette for Frozen 2?
Lisa: That was the moment we all got a little bit nervous. We built Frozen on the whole conceit of snow being a white canvas and we could make it any color we wanted. Even though we had a palette, we circled around for that; we had a lot of freedom. When you are dealing with Fall, you have a range of hues from yellow to deep maroon. That’s your range, and you take that and say, “these colors are not Frozen colors, only these colors.” So now, your palette gets much smaller. Now, you have this palette that you have to live in, and you have to start making different worlds using just those hues. We have to make sure our characters read over those palettes. When Mike Giaimo works on his characters and builds those costumes for his characters, we have to work together to make sure they can be seen over the environment.
For example, there is a case in the movie – we won’t talk about, but it’s just an example. We had a color on a character that was the exact same color as the background. How do you make that work? It was very delicate to try to make sure that we lit it in a way that we could see the silhouettes that we needed to see. It’s always a puzzle when you get a palette like that that you have to work with to make sure you’re servicing everything you need to.
In Frozen 2, we get to see more of Arendelle. How did you expand on the village?
David: The main difference I think is that the last time we were in the village in the movie and the shorts since we’ve taken pieces of the village. The set was a localized part of the village that we were using for any one particular sequence. On this one, we do have occasions where you are going through the village, or you’re going above the village and you’re seeing a lot more of the village. We had to make sure the more localized locations were pulled together. A lot of the more localized locations would have more texture and detail wise. They’d be more sophisticated. We had to pull that all together and make it work more than it ever had.
Lisa: We were conscious of the town and the structures and what those structures were. As you got away from the town and hit Arendelle suburbia, it was more of the traditional cottages and cabins that might be out in the country.
David: It had always been thought out from the beginning, but it was how everything was going to be, but for this movie we found ourselves having to make sure that more of that space would work for us.
Lisa: We had to change all the colors of the buildings because of Fall.
During the presentation, you talked about the massing of shapes. Can you dive into that a bit more and how you created the forest?
David: We wanted to fit that aesthetic that our friend Eyvind Earle, who did Sleeping Beauty. We loved how he collected shapes and made them harmonious with each other in that beautifully graphic way. We always loved that, so we set out thinking about how the trees we chose and what shapes we chose, we were always thinking about how they’d go together. If there’s a lot of leaves on one of those that are a certain shape, and you have a lot fewer leaves against that so you get this filagree against solid.
Lisa: I think Sean Jenkins (Head of Environments) hit the nail on the head when he said, “When they told me about an organic forest, I was scared.” It’s unwieldy. It’s nature and it’s random. What we were trying to do was bring order to randomness. I think that’s the first thing we tried to do and then it was, What is that order? Next, we found something we visually liked which was Eyvind Earle to organize it, and David came up with the idea to build these islands that are these beautiful ordered shaped. If we can get those to look good from all views and we build enough of them, we can start putting them together to flesh out a forest.
That way, we maintain a style that is unique to this movie. If you had to set dress every single scene in this movie it would take forever. By building those islands, you could say, ” I need five of these and two of these” and rebuild your set. There’s a visual cohesiveness to that for the audience.
Frozen 2 is released on November 22