Disney’s smash hit animated movie Frozen might have had a very different plot with a very different ending had the creative team decided to stick to the original script, it has been revealed. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Frozen producer Peter Del Vecho revealed the original ending of the 2013 animated classic for the first time, four years after the movie was released.
Del Vecho revealed that the original version of Frozen, the highest-grossing animated feature film of all time, with total box-office receipts of $1.27 billion worldwide, was more in line with The Snow Queen, the fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, on which Disney’s Frozen was based.
According to Del Vecho, the princesses Ana and Elsa were not related in the original script.
“So when we started off, Anna and Elsa were not sisters. They weren’t even royal,” Del Vecho told Entertainment Weekly. “So Anna was not a princess. Elsa was a self-proclaimed Snow Queen, but she was a villain and pure evil — much more like the Hans Christian Andersen tale.”
The original script presented a closing scene where although Elsa eventually uses her powers to save Arendelle, her evilness during the development of the plot meant that viewers experienced “no emotional connection” to her.
The team realized that they needed to rework the script.
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Del Vecho explained that Elsa became wicked because she was stood up at the altar on her wedding day by the evil and duplicitous character Hans. As a result of her wedding day disappointment, Elsa decided to protect herself from future heartbreak by freezing her heart so that she would not be able to love again.
“We learn Elsa is a scorned woman; she was stood up at the altar on her wedding day and froze her own heart so she would never love again,” Del Vecho said. “Both Elsa and the audience assume she’s the villain from the prophecy.”
The original script deliberately led viewers to believe that Elsa was the evil, frozen-hearted character destined through prophecy to destroy Arendelle.
“We started out with an evil female villain [Elsa] and an innocent female heroine [Anna] and the ending involved a big epic battle with snow monsters that Elsa had created as her army,” Del Vecho said.
The original ending showed Elsa, as the evil snow queen, unleashing snow monsters she created on the heroine, Anna. In the midst of the action, ostensibly to stop Elsa, the evil Prince Hans deliberately created a huge avalanche that threatened to destroy Arendelle, including Anna and Elsa.
But Anna was able to persuade Elsa to use her special ice powers for good by saving Arendelle. Elsa unfroze her heart, and because she was now able to love again, she saved the kingdom of Arendelle from destruction.
Viewers learn at this stage of the movie that Hans is the bad guy prophecy had warned would try to destroy Arendelle, not Elsa.
But the creative team at Disney did not find the ending of the original plot satisfying.
“The problem was that we felt like we had seen it before. It wasn’t satisfying,” Del Vecho said. “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.”
After brainstorming on the matter, the team decided to consider other options, such as exploring an alternative theme. Writers proposed a theme based on love vs. fear, rather than good vs. evil, according to Del Vecho.
Reworking the original script based on the alternative love vs. fear theme led to the new ending where Elsa saves Arendelle from a blizzard and Anna saves Elsa from the evil Hans.
According to Del Vecho, the new improved version was largely the product of brainstorming by co-director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee and storyboard artist John Ripa.
Del Vecho said Disney executive Edwin Catmull called Jennifer Lee and gave an ultimatum.
“If you can make that ending pay off and if we can really feel it, I think we’ll have a successful film,” Catmull reportedly told Lee. “And if you don’t… we’ll have nothing.”
“So that really put the pressure on her to make that work,” Del Vecho told Entertainment Weekly.
“When he [Disney Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter] pitched that ending to the directors the whole story team stood up and gave him a standing ovation,” Del Vecho said. “He helped crack visually how we were going to depict that ending.”
[Featured Image by The Walt Disney Company]