Frozen in development, Life’s Too Short and what could have been

Man do I love Disney. Their projects just ooze with so much passion and heart that people often characterize them as magic, and lately they have been on a bit of a hot streak both critically and commercially. Tangled (which I shamefully have yet to see), Wreck It Ralph, and of course, Frozen have been successful films to say the least. Frozen in particular was a monster hit that people just kept coming back to since it brought a fresh take on something Disney has done before so well. Meanwhile, Pixar’s last three efforts, Monsters University (which I have yet to see but I hear was decent), Brave (which was essentially a feature length Fairly Odd Parents “how do I unwish this wish” plot), and Cars 2 (which is when Pixar showed the world that they were capable of creating a bad movie), all seemed to produce lukewarm results at best. Maybe after the masterpiece that was Toy Story 3, Pixar needs to recharge before pumping out another one of their greats?

On the topic of Frozen, we know that what they went with was a major success (the highest grossing animated film ever in fact), but what about the potential film it could have been? It is no secret that the film went through several rewrites and plot changes which ranged from Elsa being an unabashed villain with Olaf as her sidekick, to a focus on some prophecy about a queen with a frozen heart, to a plotline featuring Anna’s insecurity about being a “spare princess”. But the most interesting change to me would be what happened to the relationship between the sisters. At some earlier point into development, the two sisters were not separated all their lives, rather they just weren’t very close and often disagreed. That shift alone changes everything about the film, and while I feel it is ultimately for the best that the film did not stay like that, there were a lot of gems that were lost in the transition. Because the sisters knew each other well in this version of the film, a song like this one was possible…

That right there was the storyboard and deleted “Life’s Too Short” song from the film, and like pretty much every TV show everyone’s recommended to anyone ever “it gets really great half way through!”. Besides being catchy as hell, this song is the only one where the stars get to examine each other and who they are in relation to one another through some good old fashion sibling drama. In order for this song to exist however, there would need to be establishing scenes like this one that explored what their relationship was like before their big fight, which obviously couldn’t work in the final film. It’s a fun duet, a sad one, a funny one, and it’s a really, really great song all around which is why I’m sad that it couldn’t make the cut in the end; however, there were very good reasons besides plot ones that this couldn’t exist.

You see, in the final version of the film, the reprise version of “For the First Time in Forever” replaces this scene, and while “Life’s Too Short” is the superior song on its own, it becomes immediately clear why it would never work out after listening to both. To put it simply, Elsa just isn’t sympathetic at all in the cut scene. She overreacts, is way too callous, and there isn’t much logic to her actions. In the final cut, Elsa doesn’t go back to thaw their town because she honestly has no idea how and that brings back her anxiety and causes her to accidentally begin to freeze her sister’s heart. In “Life’s Too Short” she refuses out of what can only be construed as selfishness and blasts her sister for trying to approach her one too many times. That makes it harder to understand both sides of the sister’s perspectives and that really damages a film like this.

While having two bickering siblings is more relatable than ones who were isolated from one another all their lives, audiences wouldn’t have been able to connect to characters that don’t act like actual human beings. Frozen did so well because so many people were able to draw a little of themselves from it (and I suppose the great songs didn’t hurt either), and while a version of the film where the sisters know enough about each other to make critical assessments about who they are could have been very interesting in its own right, I’m glad we ended up with the more human story instead. Still, “what could have been” was also very interesting for me and I’m grateful I got to experience a little of that version of Frozen.

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