Elsa's story in general. She used to be so close to Anna until her ice powers started to develop and almost kills Anna with them. She has since cut off their relationship and her social life until her powers were accidentally revealed and fled her kingdom in utter fear and shame.
The fact that Elsa spent most of her life believing that if she touched people, she could kill them very easily. She refuses to touch even her parents, in case she hurts them. She leaves her kingdom when her power is revealed, telling her people not to come near her. She makes a new home for herself, her sister comes to get her and the entire time Elsa tells her to leave so she'll be safe. Sadly, she does end up hurting her sister and the kingdom.
Then near the end of the movie, the first time she gets to touch her beloved little sister is when Anna has been frozen solid after saving her, and Elsa believes her to be dead.
Even during the film's happy ending, when displaying her powers to the public, Elsa STILL looks just a little bit nervous, suggesting that it'll take a while before she becomes fully comfortable with using her powers in front of people.
Word of God says she suffers from anxiety and depression. Even with the happy ending, without modern psychiatry and medication, she's not out of the woods yet, which puts even more of a sad note to this nervousness.
"Do You Want To Build A Snowman."
After Elsa accidentally injures Anna, their parents have the trolls wipe Anna's memory of Elsa's powers clean out. To prevent Elsa's powers from causing harm to the kingdom, the King and Queen try to teach her to suppress her powers. They close all the windows and doors, shut off the castle from others, and keep the sisters in separate rooms. Anna keeps singing to Elsa to come out and play behind a locked bedroom door for years. To elaborate on this, it's shown that Anna sang for Elsa to come out and play with her when they were little kids, all the way up until she hits her mid-teens. The third time she slides by the door, when they're both older, Anna glances sadly at it and walks away.
"Okay, bye." She's just so disappointed, and the fact that it's actually a little kid's voice...
Elsa saying, "No, don't touch me! Please...I don't want to hurt you..." when her father reaches out to comfort her.
The death of the King and Queen. Anna continues her song "Do You Want To Build A Snowman", this time in a sad tone, as she comes back from the wake, walks up to the door to Elsa's bedroom for the umpteenth time... and sits down at the door, the last lyrics wilting into sobs. Elsa, who can remember the real reason for all this, can hear her right on the other side of the door and cannot bear to answer her. You see Elsa's room covered in frost, emanating from her spot. Remembering that her power stems from her emotions, it's an EXTREMELY effective way to show just how all this affected poor Elsa.
Anna: We only have each other. It's just you and me. What are we gonna do?
If you look closely, the air is perfectly still with every snowflake frozen in place, showing Elsa's grief. This foreshadows near the end of the movie, where this happens on a much, MUCH bigger scale when Hans tells Elsa that Anna is dead.
Even worse, Anna returns from the wake alone. Imagine not only not being able to comfort your little sister after a funeral for your own parents, but not even being able to go, for fear of hurting someone else you love.
Elsa was clearly terrified about them leaving, and they promised they'd be back in a couple of weeks. So, through no fault of anyone but the weather, Elsa lost the only people she felt remotely safe with and could trust with her secret. She has no one left but her sister, and she doesn't want to hurt her again.
The sheer level of hopelessness in Anna's voice during the first lines she sings after her parents die.
I know you're in there...
People are asking where you've been.
They say "have courage", and I'm trying to.
I'm right out here for you...
Just let me in...
If you listen carefully, you can hear a sob as Elsa puts her head down at the end.
"It doesn't have to be a snowman..."
When Anna is talking to Elsa at the party:
Anna: I wish it could be like this all the time.
Elsa: Me, too... but it can't.
Anna: Why not?
Elsa: It just can't!
Anna: ...Excuse me for a minute. (she then walks away feeling dejected and starts crying)
If you look closely, Elsa looks just as upset by this exchange as Anna, watching after her sister sadly.
It's heavily implied that a good part of the reason Anna is so quick to rush into marriage with Hans is that she's afraid that she might not get another chance anytime soon, and she's afraid she might not find love at all due to the isolation she's gone through for years. Hence the title "Love Is an Open Door"; all her life, Anna has looked at a closed door.
Some of Anna's lines in "For The First Time In Forever" (easily missed due to it being a mostly upbeat and happy song) drive this point home once you catch them.
For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone!
And I know it's totally crazy/To think I'd find romance/But for the first time in forever/At least I've got a chance!
A chance to change my lonely world/A chance to find true love!
I know it all ends tomorrow/So it has to be today!
Anna asks for Elsa's blessing for her and Hans' marriage, but she says no because Anna doesn't know Hans long enough. Anna then protests that it is true love.
Elsa: Anna, what do you know about true love? Anna: More than you. All you know is how to shut people out. Elsa:(visually hurt but still firm) You asked for my blessing, but my answer is no.
When Elsa walks away, she announces, "The party's over. Closethe gates." Then this exchange happens:
Anna: Elsa, please, I can't live like this anymore! Elsa:(obviously in great grief) ...Then leave. (Anna is misty-eyed) Anna: What did I ever DO TO YOU?!
So in the above exchange, Elsa really wants Anna to leave, to be safe, and Anna doesn't consider leaving. She wants her sister back.
"Let It Go."
The start is all about fear and loneliness. Indeed, some of the most triumphant lines in the latter sections of the song betray a subtle yet deep-seated bitterness. Here is a webpage that explores the many complicated emotions interacting in this song. It is indeed both triumphant and sad.
At "Don't let them in..." it's clear that Elsa is emulating her father, telling her never to leave her room and reveal her ice powers, and the lines of that section are a sad Call Back to "Do you Want to Build a Snowman?" and Elsa's part of "For the First Time in Forever". It really shows how deeply her suppression has affected her, being told that such behavior was "being the good girl [she] always had to be", and how happy she is to release her abilities.
Elsa unconsciously created Olaf, the embodiment of her happy childhood memories with Anna, during the song, which is mostly about how she's never going back and that the past is in the past. Just think about it. Olaf was created out of her memories of the happy times with Anna and longing for the good times they had. Marshmallow was created out of her desire to be alone and to keep Anna safe from herself. And her ice palace? That was created not only out of her desire for isolation, but her desire to be someplace she belongs, someplace where she can't hurt people and still be herself...and yet it isn't- she doesn't realize it, but she's still unintentionally hurting people even from her ice palace.
During Olaf's song about how much he's going to love summer, Kristoff says to Anna in a gently teasing manner "I'm gonna tell him". However, after the song ends, he states "Someone's gotta tell him.", and it takes on a much more somber tone. The song itself is funny but at the same time sad. It seems like such a Tragic Dream.
The look on Elsa's face when she tells Anna to go home without her. Elsa cares her little sister more than anything, but she's far too afraid of her own powers to let herself be close to her again.
Elsa being informed that she accidentally created an Endless Winter everywhere, and her realization that no one can be safe from her magic, and she can never truly be free. The worst part is, it completely invalidates "Let It Go."
Elsa: I'm such a fool! I can't be free! No escape from the storm inside of me!
Elsa: I can't control the curse!
Elsa: Anna please, you'll only make it WORSE!
Elsa: There's so much fear!
Elsa: You're not safe here!
Elsa: I CAN'T!!!
At the end of the song, Elsa turns around and sees Anna doubled over and visibly in pain. She jumps back and looks terrified.
Anna's reaction to being deceived by Hans while he's explaining his plan. She can't believe what's going on, and when she does, can't believe what she's hearing.
Even more distressing, look at Anna's reaction to being asked about Hans when Olaf saves her, "I was wrong about him. It wasn't true love.", "I don't even know what love is." She is still blaming herself and not Hans for what has happened. The full extent of the impact Hans' betrayal has left on Anna can be seen here, when he has managed to humiliate Anna by causing her to feel ashamed of herself for how willing she was to believe he loved her. At the same time, Elsa is so emotionally distant that she feels unloved by her, too.You seriously just want to give the poor girl a hug.
This also provides more depressing undertones for "Love is an Open Door". Not only was Anna afraid she might not get another chance, she was just as isolated as Elsa her life, so she doesn't know any better. It's easy to forget given how much she just wanted to play with her sister growing up.
Hans (before the reveal): You said she wouldn't hurt you.
Anna: I was wrong.
All this shutting out on her and yet Anna still cared for Elsa, but her line implies that she has lost faith in her sister after thinking she has deliberately hurt her, both physically and emotionally with her magic, not to mention shutting her out again.
Kristoff' s expression and this line: "SVEN!" when Kristoff's best friend for years looks like he won't make it (especially when Sven tossed Kristoff away from drowning) and it takes a few seconds before Sven reappears. This brief moment is enough to make anyone cry.
Kristoff, much like Anna and Elsa, was an orphan who doesn't like other people very much. He falls in love with Anna and leaves her with Hans, thinking his feelings are unrequited, then comes back and sees her turned to ice. Poor guy...
The scene where Anna is frozen solid. Everything is just so...quiet. No background music, all the snow suspended in midair ... no sound but Elsa's sobs. It's so still that her crying can be heard from the castle balcony.
Anna's last breath.
The way Elsa is hugging/leaning against her sister and sobbing is heart-wrenching, especially considering the fact that she knows it's her fault. In that moment, her worst fear was realized. Even if you guessed that this was the act of true love that would save Anna, it doesn't make this moment any less sad.
It then adds another level of tearjerking to "Let It Go" when Elsa says they'll never see her cry. Notice that on the totally frozen body of Anna there are thin deposits of fine ice around her eyes. It's possible Anna's been crying as well as she was rushing to save Elsa and her body froze from within.
Hans lies that Anna is already dead and it's all Elsa's fault, prompting an anguished Little "No" from Elsa and causing her to crumple to the ground in tears, not even bothering to protect herself as Hans gets out his sword to kill her. What really sells it is the look of pure realization and devastation on her face and her stumbling before she falls to her knees.
Even sadder, before that Elsa was telling Hans to take care of Anna for her (she doesn't know he's the villain yet). This really just shows how selfless and noble she is. Even after being imprisoned and having her life threatened the only thing she can think of is the safety of her own sister, and she's telling it to the man who imprisoned her too.
Just as Anna and Kristoff are about to reach each other, Anna happens to see Hans about to chop Elsa in half out of the corner of her eye, and with a last look at Kristoff turns around and runs to save her sister. Once he catches up to them and takes in what just happened to Anna, Kristoff stops short with the most confused, heartbroken expression on his face.
Sad Olaf. Up until this scene, Olaf had always been happy and cheerful. He just looks so devastated.
Olaf: (sounding like he's about to cry) Anna?
From a very young age, Elsa has been isolated mostly for her own protection, but interpreted it as being to protect others from her. Finding out that she's triggered an 'eternal winter' over her kingdom, and then thinking she's killed her own sister - both the very things she was trying to prevent - leaves her completely shattered. She's lived with the guilt of almost killing her sister since they were children, and was probably reminded of it every time she saw the white streak in Anna's hair. Thinking Anna is dead because of her isn't just horrible, it's the manifestation of her greatest fear.
Olaf melting as summer is restored. Luckily, Elsa fixes that.
The whole nature of the King's relationship with Elsa is heartbreaking. You can tell that the King loves his daughter dearly, and just wants to protect her. Both try to heed the advice of Grand Pabbie the Troll (who says "Fear will be your enemy"), but they both fail so utterly and that failure is the kicker — no matter how hard they tried, the King shutting Elsa off from everyone just made her issues worse. Elsa just kept getting more and more afraid of her powers as they grew stronger, and ultimately continued to force herself in solitude after her father's death. The fact that neither could figure out how to fix her problems no matter how much they tried (a huge part of the conflict of all the characters is the King's own personal failure and weakness) makes you really feel for both characters.
The situation from Pabbie's perspective. It's shown that these trolls are deeply empathetic creatures (they aren't referred as "the love experts" for nothing), so seeing so much suffering caused by not only a misinterpretation of his warning, but everything he stands for...
After the reveal, Anna nearly freezes to death, completely alone.
The look on Elsa's face at the party when she accidentally reveals her powers to Anna and everyone there. The expression is nothing but complete horror and fear of what she has just done. Keep in mind the reason for all the neglect Elsa inflicted on Anna, from anyone in fact, is because she was too afraid of exposing her abilities and being shunned because of them. It hammers it in more when Elsa just stares at everyone before suddenly rushing out of the room.
When Grand Pabbie the Troll tells Kristoff that he can't heal Anna, the look on Kristoff's face is heartbreaking.
Even The Stinger has a whiff of sadness to it. Marshmallow tries on the tiara Elsa abandoned and reigns over the ice palace alone; the scene suggests Elsa can take her love with her (Olaf) and tame her anger and fear (Marshmallow) with art and beauty (the Ice Palace) but there's a part of her that will always yearn to be alone, shut off from the promise of happiness and human warmth, and who can blame her after what she has been through?
Looked at in a different light the scene can be viewed as a happy tearjerker. Now Marshmallow can live whatever life he wishes (just like his creator), and even gets to be king of an ice palace!
After (accidentally and unconsciously) freezing Anna's heart, Elsa tells her and Kristoff to go away; Anna of course is not leaving without her doing something over the Endless Winter and keeps trying to convince her sister to work it out together. Elsa's reply:
Elsa: How!? What power do you have to stop this winter!? To stopme!?
It is worse, because Elsa identifies herself as the source of all the problems, even though she unwittingly caused it, and nobody, not even Elsa herself, can stop her, and she feels horrible about it.
"You...built me. Do you remember that?" That's the moment Olaf realises that his entire life was nothing more than a passing thought to Elsa. He basically meets his God, and she doesn't remember creating him. note There's a strong argument to be made that Olaf was actually based off Elsa's memories of playing with Anna, which are deeply important to her...but it's still sobering.
You can read that scene another way, though: arguably, she remembers just fine, she's just amazed to see that he's alive, as she had no idea that she could create life with her powers. The way she looks down at her hands and smiles as she realizes that she can create as well as destroy is actually a very happy moment.
A lot of this movie's conflict as shown above stems from good, kind, noble, well-intentioned people whose well-intended actions meet with terrible consequences or are unappreciated (the King and Queen, Elsa) because they are dealing with threats they don't and can't know how to deal with. Malicious, malevolent people like Hans and the Duke of Weaseltown can operate with ill intent but still (for so much of the film) come off as though they're doing the right thing to most of the other characters in the film. That might be just enough to send you into a depressive funk.
"Some people are worth melting for."
When, as children, Elsa accidentally hits Anna, the way she screams "Anna!" is distressing. She was doing a Futile Hand Reach but an ice blast came out of her hand and struck Anna. Then she runs up to her and starts crying over her, which foreshadows the ending where Elsa cries over Anna being frozen solid. Elsa screams "Mama! Papa!".
Elsa: (sobbing) You're okay, Anna. I've got you.
Although we know that Anna gets better thanks to the promotional art of her as an adult, that doesn't prevent one from believing that Elsa may have done more than harm Anna. The music, Anna's motionlessness, and Elsa hugging her is similar to a scene of someone hugging a deceased loved one. Anna may have possibly died and her parents are quickly taking her to the trolls to bring her back to life before it is too late.
It's a great source of both Adult Fear and legitimate panic for anyone who has a sibling they love dearly and would be devastated if anything bad happened to them.
The way that the ballroom is suddenly covered in ice spikes, emanating from Elsa, also adds to the sadness of the scene, reflecting her emotional state. Additionally, it's the first time we see the darker aspects of Elsa's powers; a huge case of Mood Whiplash when compared to a few moments ago, when Elsa was shooting out snow and (less threatening) ice.
Seeing the then-inert Olaf being destroyed by the spikes. Rule of Symbolism is in full effect here and it only gets worse as Elsa flees. Once she's outside, she accidentally freezes a fountain in front of her people. You can tell it stings when she sees a woman clutch her baby closer in fright, especially since the woman in question has just asked Elsa if she's alright.
If you look closely, when the woman asks if she's alright, you can see Elsa shake her head "no."
Right before the reprise of "For the First Time In Forever" Anna reminds Elsa how close they were as children and says they can be that way again. Elsa has a flashback to when she accidentally struck Anna. She answers, "No. We can't." then turns away and tells Anna to leave.
The fact that Anna doesn't realize why Elsa suddenly cut all ties from her and grows up thinking that Elsa no longer wants anything to do with her sister after having been so close up until that point.
This is really shown during the ball scene after Elsa's coronation: Anna is placed very close to her sister only to move away slightly. She seems taken aback that Elsa would initiate a conversation between them. The ensuing conversation is rather awkward and stilted on both sides. They've been apart for so long that they don't even know how to talk to each other.
Elsa's part in "For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)" when she claims she's fine with her self-imposed exile because she's finally herself. That only specific part has the happiest tone of all of Elsa's lines; and just realizing she's happy being completely and totally alone, away from her only family and the life she knew just to keep them safe, it's heartbreaking.
After that little moment of happiness, a big Mood Whiplash: the look in Elsa's face while getting away from Anna and telling her to stay away from her because she's dangerous.
Elsa's line in the "For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)" about how she "can't control the curse". To think that Elsa went from adoring her powers and always using them to have fun with her sister to hating them to the point that refers to them as a curse is quite depressing. When she sings "There's so much fear!" she looks at her reflection in a nearby wall. It's as if she's starting to think that the Duke was right about her being a monster...
When they are closing all the windows and doors, you see the girls' room. Anna and Elsa used to share a room and in the overhead shot, all of the stuff on Elsa's side of the room vanishes. Then, when Anna wants to go play with Elsa, she runs to her room, only for Elsa to look away sadly and shut the door on her without a single word. This leaves Anna saddened and standing still in shock, wondering what she did wrong. (Imagine "When She Loved Me" only ten times sadder).
When Elsa wakes up in a cell after getting knocked out by the chandelier. From her "My God, What Have I Done?" when she sees outside the window to her sadly tugging on the chains holding her back.
Later in that same scene, when Hans tells her to stop the winter.
Elsa: Don't you see? I can't...
And it gets sadder. When demands to know why he brought her here, Hans says he couldn't them kill her. Elsa's response to this? "But I'm a danger to Arendelle." She's saying she should've been killed. In other words, Elsa became suicidal.
Frozen and Tangled being in the same universe isn't sad on its own, but then someone decided to make this.
As of a reveal of Word of God on reddit, them being in the same universe does indeed fall into Tear Jerker territory. Remember how the King and Queen of Arendelle died in a storm? Where were they going? A wedding. Look at how similar the Queen of Arendelle is to the Queen of Corona, and the fact that Rapunzel and Eugene are at Elsa's coronation. If this confirmation further supports the theory that Rapunzel is Anna and Elsa's cousin... the King and Queen died while travelling to see the wedding of their niece, who had been missing for 18 years prior to the wedding... that revelation turns Tangled's ending into a Downer Ending when you look at it from the perspective of their sister kingdom.
At the beginning of the movie, Grand Pabbie the troll tells Elsa (who, remember, is about nine years old at this point) and her parents, "Fear will be your greatest enemy," and thinks it would be a great idea to accompany this with a conjured image of Elsa being killed by people who fear her powers. The poor girl is terrified, and buries her face in her father's chest.
This is also almost certainly the thing that spurs the King and Queen to isolate Elsa from others, for fear that the vision comes true, and creating an entirely new set of problems.
When Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf reach Elsa's ice castle, Anna noticeably hesitates to knock on the door, and when she does and it opens, she says, "It opened. That's a first." Think of how long she's been knocking on Elsa's door, only to have it always stay closed, shutting her out...
Manipulative Bastard that he is, Hans. He spent his whole life ignored and overshadowed by his 12 older brothers, and it's been confirmed by Word of God that he indeed grew up without love, sparking his desire to take the Arendelle throne in the first place. His actions are still inexcusable, but taking his glaringly relatable backstory into account, you can't help but feel terrible for the guy anyway. Elaborated on in this analysis here.
Pulling double duty as a tear jerker and heartwarming moment, the King has gotten a lot of flak from viewers who feel he is responsible for Elsa's situation. On the contrary while the results are questionable, there is no doubt he loves Elsa in spite of everything. When he tells her "Getting upset only makes it worse, calm down", his words may seem harsh, but the way he rushes over to her, to hold her close and reassure her that it'll all be alright in spite of the risk to his own person just drips of a concerned and conflicted parent. Given how alien the problem is (a daughter being born with unexplained ice powers) to everyone, it's understandable that not everyone would know how to deal with it.
During the coronation, Elsa wears her hair like her late mother.
Elsa fighting the Duke's men, or rather, before. When they spot her, she runs away and pleads with them to leave her alone when they catch up to her. Keep in mind up until this scene, Elsa had never intentionally used her powers for the purpose of doing harm to others. It's obvious she does not want to fight, but they don't leave her any choice.
The draft screenplay for "For The First Time In Forever" uses the lyrics "A chance to leave my sister's world, A chance to find true love" instead of "A chance to change my lonely world, A chance to find true love". In the draft, Anna thinks that she has to leave Elsa behind in order to find "true love", when it's been there all along. Meanwhile, Elsa's singing about being "the good girl [she] always has to be", not being able to show her love for Anna.
As another fan-produced example, the Frozen VHS Trailer, which plays some of the most emotional scenes of the movie against Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is." The "VHS" part of the title refers to the use of fuzzy videotape quality and some idents from the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection to evoke memories of growing up during The Renaissance Age of Animation. (Warning: The editor also invoked Trailers Always Spoil in order to evoke advertising from that era!)
There are additional tearjerkers that pop up in alternate-language versions of the film.
In the French version of "Let It Go," Elsa doesn't say "the cold never bothered me anyway." Instead, she says "for me, the cold is the price of freedom."
In the Japanese version of "For The First Time In Forever," Anna doesn't say "for the first time in forever," she says "for the first time in my life." At the end of the Japanese version of "Let It Go", Elsa declares "I'm fine as I am!"
In the French version of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman," Anna doesn't say "we used to be best buddies, and now we're not," she says "we used to be sisters and friends, but that's over." She's so little she doesn't think they're sisters anymore after Elsa shuts her out. Also, instead of saying "Okay, bye" she says "think of me."
The Swedish version has its share as well. Instead of "For the first time in forever" Anna simply sings "For the first time ever". Instead of "Conceal, don't feel. Don't let them know - well now they know" Elsa sings "Show nothing, whatever you do - everything is ruined" and instead of "Let it go, let it go" she sings "Break loose, break free".
"I have to forget the invisible lock to be the real me...no one wants to be trapped and locked inside your heart."
"Forget the sadness of the past...who am I? A whole new me...I refuse to conform."
"Relive the dawn and live again."
Despite the similarities of the two languages, the Mandarin version took a lot less liberties (cultural differences), but yet, instead of "Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried" it is "only heaven knows the pain I have went through" (with "pain" being the last, plummeting syllable, no less). Instead of "Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore", it adds melancholy notes: "whatever it goes...there is no way to go back".
The Taiwanese version makes "I don't care what they are going to say" more wistful by changing it to "I thought I cared about someone once".
The Polish version of Elsa's part in "First time in Forever" translates roughly as "Let nobody know, don't reveal anything. No feelings- from this day on it's how you are supposed to live. Without dreams, without words, don't give yourself up to tears". And there's a reprise where she explicitly tells Anna that "curse calls for victims" and "here's (just) a death in tears".
The French version of "Let It Go" is "Liberée, Delivrée" - "freed, saved". In the reprise of "For The First Time In Forever", "I'm such a fool, I can't be free" becomes "Ni liberée, ni delivrée" - "Neither freed nor saved".
A fan wrote a reprise for "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" that Elsa would sing when Anna is completely frozen. Another fan gave it a voice.
Another fan created this song as a counterpoint to Anna's verses in "Do You Want to Build A Snowman". Similar feelings were felt (that it would have made the film even stronger).
Anna...Yes, I know you're out there.
I hear you every day.
I want to tell you everything.
I really wish that I could say...
I want to be beside you, to help you through, believe me I need you too...
I wanna build a snowman... *sobs*
The cut song Life's Too Short, which has the sisters arguing and calling each other out. They basically go from happy reunion to stomping all over every Berserk Button they have. In the space of a couple minutes, they go from "Life's too short to miss out on a sister like you" to "Life's too short to even have you in it."