When all this started back in March, the announcement of Frozen II’s early arrival on Disney+ was a welcome bit of good news. I can’t speak for the other 60.5 million subscribers, but I hadn’t seen Frozen II when it dropped on the House of Mouse’s streaming platform, so I was intrigued to see how it compared to the original.
Since its arrival I’ve seen the movie a handful of times, mostly in bits and pieces. Like Moana, it turns out Frozen II is great entertainment for your toddler while you clean up a particularly explosive diaper or prep the next meal. It’s a totally serviceable sequel, a solid B- effort—nothing incredible, but definitely a neat flick to watch on a Tuesday night.
The really standout part of the movie is its excellent soundtrack. Despite being completely unnecessary as a plot device or story expansion, Frozen II’s songs are great. What else would you expect from Robert Lopez (who wrote the songs for insane-but-amazing musical episode of Scrubs and Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who co-wrote the delightful Coco with him)?
Let Me Feel My Feelings!
No offense to
Adele Dazeem Idina Menzel, but the standout song on the soundtrack is “Lost in the Woods.” It comes about halfway through the film, right around the 49 minute mark. Princess Anna has abandoned her alarmingly normal boyfriend, Kristoff, to tear off into the misty forest with her sister, Queen Elsa, in search of…spirits? Their parents? A ship in the middle of the woods? Not important. All we need is Kristoff, a passel of pastel colors, and one very musical herd of reindeer.
Alone and very deep in his feelings, Kristoff opens up to the only person in his life with whom he can truly be honest: Sven, his loyal reindeer. Cue “Lost in the Woods”, a paean to separated lovers that literally opens with the line, “Again you’re gone / Off on a different path than mine.” Who among us, having felt love’s keen sting, can’t empathize with the poor boy?
Kristoff continues to mope very prettily as a chorus line of reindeer emerge from the forest. These reindeer—are they figments of his imagination?—channel the same heartbrokenness as Kristoff, who continues to rip off lines like, “But is this what it feels like to be growing apart? / When did I become the one who’s always chasing your heart?” Gruff loner Kristoff, it turns out, contains multitudes, most of them various incarnations of Chris Carrabba and Steve Perry.
Chicago Called—They Want Their Song Back.
“Lost in the Woods” hearkens back to the golden age of rock power ballads. All of the easter eggs, winks, and homages are quite intentional. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the Academy Award-winning songwriting team who unleashed this earworm on an unsuspecting public, have been very open about their love of Queen, the aforementioned Journey, and Chicago, and it shows.
Everything about the song—the earnest piano intro, the cheesy guitar work, rad key modulations, the multilayered vocal harmonies (18 of ‘em!)—oozes the emo-before-the-term-existed stylings of the biggest rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s. It sounds like it could be the B-side to Chicago’s joyous “You’re the Inspiration”, the wistful “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, or Journey’s “Faithfully.” Besides all the great musical nods to ‘80s power ballads, the song’s overblown, bleeding-heart lyrics are a tribute to the karaoke night songs that hide real emotions behind the melodrama.
Jonathan Groff, the amazingly talented actor/singer plays Kristoff, talking about this with Vanity Fair, explained that Kristoff is “a guy that spent his entire life alone in the woods so much that his only friend is a reindeer that he even provides the voice for.” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the song’s lyricist, compares the raw emotion of the song to the catharsis and communication sometimes seen at karaoke in the same interview, adding, “There’s nothing better than a man feeling his feelings in a real way at a karaoke bar.” Singing his heart out gives Kristoff a way to express himself in a way he’s unable to otherwise.
How Did This Even Make It Into The Movie?
Okay, so “Lost in the Woods” is awesome. But have you actually watched it in Frozen II? It sticks out like a giant, Aqua-Netted sore thumb. The plot of the movie goes out the window for three minutes as Kristoff emotes his way right into a Bon Jovi video. Watch it, and then go watch the music video for any 1980s power ballad. You’ll be pointing fingers faster than you can say, “Holy Michael Bolton!”
Let’s do a rundown real quick. Gently lit backgrounds with a purple filter? Check. Fades to extreme closeups of Kristoff’s face? You got it. Singing into a pinecone like a mic, complete with finger in the ear? Of course. The obvious “Bohemian Rhapsody” reference? Yeppers. It’s like Survivor’s “The Search is Over” but with much, much more reindeer hair.
As much as I love the song, here’s my question: How is this in Frozen II? Given the first film’s massive success, I’m sure the creative team had pretty much total freedom when it came to the music, animation, everything. But was there never a point in production when a Disney bigwig sent a note saying, “Let’s pump the brakes on the hallucinogenic musical sequence with singing reindeer and intense Foreigner energy”?
Upon rereading that jokey description I think I just answered my own question. “Trippy song with animals and excellent song construction” is a perfect description of Disney songs. I’m realizing that “Lost in the Woods” fits into the Disney oeuvre perfectly. Just sit back and let it happen to you, folks. Don’t blame me when you find yourself humming it for weeks, though.