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Interview: Producer Peter Del Vecho Talks ‘Frozen II’

November 20, 2019Ben MK

One of Disney's most popular properties in a long time, Frozen is a film that needs no introduction. However, moviegoers may be less familiar with producer Peter Del Vecho, one of the driving forces behind the franchise. Having also produced such films as 2011's Winnie the Pooh and 2009's The Princess and the Frog, Del Vecho is no stranger to the world of animated storytelling. And now, with Frozen II, he's about to have yet another major hit on his hands.

I sat down with Peter Del Vecho to get a behind-the-scenes look at Frozen II, from the cast and the music to the extensive research that went into the making of this highly anticipated sequel.

Not only are you a producer on Frozen II, but you were also a producer on the original Frozen and the short, Frozen Fever. What is it about the world of Frozen that made you want to be a part of it?

Del Vecho: Chris [Buck] had a very interesting idea. Even though the [first] movie ended up very different than it began, the one thing that stayed true was: Is there another way, other than romantic love, to save the day? That was very important to him, and obviously that became the ending of the movie. Now we had to build a story that emotionally led to that.

Even before the first movie became a phenomenon, we really came to love these characters and the world that we were creating. And as the story started telling us what it needed to be, that was exciting for us as storytellers. We've always had a close relationship. But as important as that is the bond that happened with the creators of the movie — Chris and Jennifer Lee and Bobby [Lopez] and Kristen [Anderson-Lopez]. So we knew that we wanted to work together again. It just happened that it also made sense to continue on the same project together as a good way of keeping that relationship going forward.

There are seven new songs in the film, but there are also songs that didn't end up in the final cut because of natural evolution of the story. Can you tell me more about the delicate balance between crafting the narrative and crafting the songs for a film like Frozen II?

Del Vecho: That creative process, you can't do one without the other. I know some movies feel like you can write the songs separate from the development of the story [but] we don't feel that way. We feel like you have to be there every day, or at least virtually there, in the case of Bobby and Kristen. Because the story leads to the song, and the songs can change the story, so those two have to evolve together. [Bobby and Kristen] were involved in the development of the characters, the new characters, the journey we're on, the themes, and the motivations of the characters. That's all really important to them, in order to write the songs.

Speaking of which, can you tell me more about the new characters in this sequel?

Del Vecho: Evan Rachel Wood is playing Iduna, who is Anna and Elsa's mother. We start the movie with a flashback, and she also sings them a lullaby, so she does get to sing in the movie. And that becomes an important foundation as we go to modern day and beyond. Sterling K. Brown is playing Lieutenant Mattias. He has information about [Anna and Elsa's] past, because he was the lieutenant to their grandfather before their father was king. So when they meet him in the forest, he can also give them perspective and information that they didn't have. So a mystery starts to unfold, and these characters play an important part in that.

You and the other filmmakers went on a research trip to Norway, Finland and Iceland in order to prepare for Frozen II. What about that trip stood out for you the most?

Del Vecho: The environments were certainly huge. And walking through the forest, I expected color in the foliage, but the actual ground itself was just breathtakingly lush and colorful — different than what I experienced in other forests. And, of course, these big giant boulders that were plunked down in the middle of the forest seemed out of place. It lent to our imagination of how the rock giants of Scandinavian mythology threw these giant boulders.

Norway and Finland felt very fairy tale [like] to us, and beautiful and gorgeous. So a lot of the visuals end up in the movie. But by contrast, Iceland was so totally different. That had more of a mythic quality. We realized even in the first movie that Elsa was more of the mythic character — taking the weight of the world on her shoulders — and we wanted that in the second film as well, [whereas] Anna felt much more at home in the fairy tale [environment], and that was true in the first movie as well.

Aside from that real-life research into the natural world, how does Frozen II draw inspiration from the world of fairy tales and mythology?

Del Vecho: We studied a lot of Nordic [and] Scandinavian mythology. And whether we directly reflected it or not, it kind of evokes itself in the movie. We have a water horse called the Nokk, that's very much part of old Norse and Scandinavian mythology. [Nokk] would test you going across water. If you told the truth, it would take you across the river; and if you didn't tell the truth, it would drown you. We've taken the idea of that and we've evolved it into our own mythology, but it originated in a lot of the great folklore that there is.

How about re-teaming with the cast? What was it like working with everyone again and how did the friendships you all forged on the first film help make Frozen II even better?

Del Vecho: We definitely had a close bond, as I mentioned, with the creative team, but also with the cast. They formed a close bond with the characters; they know their characters better than anyone. First of all, they wanted to be part of the sequel, so that was great. They bring so much to the recording sessions, either in terms of questions, or just plain ad libs. Josh Gad is a good example. He brings so much comedy to the movie, just based on how he riffs on what's written and finds a funnier way to say it. And that ends up in the movie, like [when Olaf says] "Samantha."

And how about the new members of the cast? What did they bring to the film?

Del Vecho: Sterling's been great, because he is such a great actor. And he really worked with us to find the truth within the character. It was important to him and to us that we really ground his character. He's just so fun to work with. Evan Rachel Wood [was] very excited to be part of the cast. She's always wanted to be in a Disney movie, and when she heard her singing voice coming out of the animation she almost burst into tears. It's that exciting to her. Both of them have brought so much to the movie.

Ultimately, what do you want audiences to take away from Frozen II?

Del Vecho: First of all, when they see it, I hope that they say, "I wasn't expecting that." Meaning that it's an adventure that they are surprised by, but in a good way. And what I want them to take away from it is that we all are learning, we are all using our past experience to guide us into the future, and we all are struggling to find our purpose in life. I think if they can take inspiration from these characters and their struggles, and how they overcome their struggles, that's a good lesson for everyone.

Frozen II is in theatres November 20th.

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