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What Could Have Been / Frozen

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Elsa was going to be a villain, but still a Friend to All Living Things.

Frozen has a long and storied production history at the House of Mouse. Well, technically. Walt Disney himself had wanted to tackle a live-action/animation hybrid adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen all the way back in the 1930s, as a follow-up to the studio's upcoming feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That plan was a bust, but the idea of bringing The Snow Queen to the big screen remained at the animation studio, being revived again and again throughout the 1990s and 2000s with new concepts and ideas before frustrated animators and writers would abandon it once more.

With all that in mind, the final attempt that became the film which audiences came to know and love in the 2010s had more than enough changes made during the development and production process that we're privy to which justifies them needing its own page, even without the details from previous attempts.

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  • As stated above, The Snow Queen was one of many stories of Hans Christian Andersen's work that Walt Disney wanted to adapt for film. His original idea was a biographical film about the author, with MGM handling the live-action portions while Disney would animate shorts based on his various fairy tales that would be sprinkled throughout. They encountered the most difficulty with The Snow Queen, but the project was scrapped due to World War II and the shift to making wartime shorts. MGM eventually releasing their own fully live-action version of the biopic a few years later, while Disney shelved all the Andersen-related projects.
  • During the development of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in the 1970s, one of the intended rides for Fantasyland was to be based on the fairy tale, including a piece of Concept Art by Marc Davis.
  • Glen Keane was involved during attempts to develop the film in the 1990s, but left the project in 2002 in order to start development work on what would become Tangled.
  • According to the book Disneywar, a Turn of the Millennium pitch for what was then called The Snow Queen had the titular character as the lead, being a monarch who froze all her potential power-hungry suitors before becoming both a literal and figurative Defrosting Ice Queen once she meets a true-hearted man. A few storyboards and 3D models still exist for this version.
  • One of the Eisner-era pitches involved aging up the children and making Kai/Snow Queen the main pairing and depicting Gerda as a shallow Gold Digger villain.
  • Eisner at one point suggested doing the film with John Lasseter at Pixar, when the two studios would get their contracts renewed. Furthermore, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater were originally tasked with writing the songs. One of those songs, "Love Can't Be Denied," received a public release before Menken left the project.

  • Frozen was originally announced as a traditionally animated film.
  • Kristoff and Anna were originally children, like in the original story, but were given an Age Lift and renamed from their original "Kai" and "Gerda".
  • At one point in early development, the film was intended to be an Anthropomorphic Animal Adaptation of The Snow Queen.
  • An early plot for Frozen, as revealed in a "Making Of" documentary, is that peasant girl Gerda visited the Snow Queen to freeze her heart after a heartbreak.
  • Elsa and Anna were originally unrelated. After making them sisters, but still during the point where Elsa was the villain (as detailed below), a few drafts had Elsa as flat-out resentful toward Anna due to her not being ostracized for having unusual powers or being a Rebellious Princess, cursing her sister from the coldness of her heart.
  • Elsa went through the most changes before the film's story was finalized, going from an out-and-out villain to a sympathetic protagonist throughout development:
    • In the earliest drafts, she was going to be a villain (more so than in the original story), playing the God Save Us from the Queen! trope straight. She went through various visual and story designs before it was finally decided to make her a sympathetic character instead.
    • One version that stuck around for a while in development, when she was still written as the Big Bad, was Elsa as a Rebellious Princess whose powers weren't a secret. The first Cut Song that Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez created after being hired, "We Know Better", emphasized this: Elsa never acted like what was expected out of a Princess Classic, rejecting pink clothing, hating acting demure, and constantly pulling mischievous pranks on others. Being ostracized for both this behavior and her ice powers by both her peers and adults alike had her pull a Then Let Me Be Evil. "Let It Go" was originally intended to be a Villain Song that marked this change, but the lyrics ultimately inspired the writers into rewriting the character and the movie as a whole.
    • Elsa was originally supposed to purposefully cause the eternal winter instead of unintentionally causing it.
    • She was going to be a hammy villain, voiced by Megan Mullally and her personality was going to be based on both Bette Midler and Amy Winehouse. Even when her voice actress was changed to Idina Menzel she kept the campiness for a while.
    • She would wear a huge snowflake-themed Cool Crownnote . Successive design changes toned it down to the coronation tiara in the final film.
    • At one point in development, Elsa's hair was going to be black in order to contrast her even more with her strawberry-blonde sister Anna. Her hair was also spikey in most designs, including the one they were going to go with if they had kept Elsa a villain. Later concept art (such as the ones from Disney Infinity) and models for 'onion Elsa' kept the spikey hairstyle but gave her platinum blonde hair.
    • Some designs added a High Collar of Doom to her robe or cape. When Elsa lost the Big Bad designation, she lost this costume piece.
    • Before Elsa ended up with the sheer blue ice dress, her costumes went through several changes (although most were still Costume Porn), to represent the coldness of snow. Some designs showed her wearing a Live Mink Coat of ermines who flocked around her. Other designs had her in outfits trimmed with white fur.
    • Her skin was going to be blue in some designs.
    • Elsa was meant to intentionally freeze Anna's heart. In "Cool With Me" she actually does intentionally freeze it at the end, although unknown if this was meant to kill Anna. The lyrics imply her aim was to get Anna to understand her better.
    • Here's some more interesting concept art about how Elsa's character design changed, and shows off earlier concept art for Kristoff, who originally had a more Sami-inspired design.
    • In "Cool With Me" Elsa abandons her identity as "Elsa" and wants to be referred to as "the Snow Queen".
      Elsa: Elsa is dead, now instead you'll address me as 'the Snow Queen'.
      Anna: Nah, no way!
    • In at least one draft, Elsa froze her own heart because she was left at the altar on her wedding day.
    • There was a storyboarded and voice-acted scene where Elsa uses her powers to torture two of Hans' guards that come searching for Anna.
    • The Art of Frozen includes quite a few things that could have been, including the original storyboards for "Let It Go", back when it was a Villain Song. These storyboards show that it was meant to have a villainous, even mocking tone to it. However, some elements (the stairs, slamming the door to the audience at the end) remain in the "I Am Becoming" Song version as seen in the film. It's been stated the song was gleeful, sort of like Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend". The short documentary The Making Of Frozen: A Return To Arendelle shows that in development the team referred to it as "Elsa's Badass Song."
  • The writers went back and forth on the question of whether Elsa or Anna was more popular with the townspeople. Different scripts varied on whether the citizens of Arendelle hated Elsa or loved her, and whether Anna was in her sister's shadow or favored over Elsa. "Spring Pageant" and "More Than Just the Spare" have Elsa as well-loved by her people while "We Know Better (Reprise)" and "Cool With Me" depict her as feared.
  • The draft of the script that included "Spring Pageant" and "More Than Just the Spare" also seems to be the one where the following deleted scenes originated: "Halt, You Swine!", "The Dressing Room" and "You Got Me a Present". In this version of the story, Anna's Cute Clumsy Girl tendencies were amped up to Walking Disaster Area levels, but Anna and Elsa were less isolated.
  • Sven was originally going to have only one antler. Earlier drafts also had him named "Thor."
  • There were going to be more snowmen than Olaf and Marshmallow ("Cool With Me" even has Elsa reciting their names). The snowmen would eventually go on a rampage, hurting everyone in their path, something that Elsa was against. Marshmallow also was originally supposed to be like a larger version of Olaf, with giant tree trunks for arms. Olaf was originally one of Elsa's henchmen snowmen that she actively created. He was more annoying than naive, loved food, and had a good sense of smell. Elsa thought of the snowmen she created, Olaf was "kind of my worst one," but despite being more villainous in this draft, had empathy for him and wanted to "always include him."
  • Some concept art shows a polar bear character.
  • Kristoff was going to have a larger role in the climax, knocking Hans out after the guy has a villainous second wind and tries to attack, again. This was wisely cut so that the focus be kept on the two sisters where it belonged, rather than a battle between two male characters, and so Anna would have the rightful honor of punching him. This scene was kept in the novelization, however.
  • Kristoff's introduction was also initially going to have him come off as a lot more of a jerk. The cut scene also has him giving his last name as 'Bjorgman', A line from the "Disney on Ice Presents Frozen" show seems to reference this scene:
    Anna: I'm Princess Anna, from Arendelle.
    Kristoff: And I'm Kristoff Bjorgman, from, uh, nowhere-in-particular.
  • Early on, Kristoff was also going to have a rather sad musical montage explaining to Anna why he disliked humans, but it was condensed to the more humorous "Reindeers are Better Than People".
  • An early script had Elsa (who was already Anna's sister) crashing Anna's wedding with an army of snowmen and kidnapping her to be with her to be with her in the mountains, then intentionally freezing her heart.
  • For the Japanese dub of the movie, Yui Ishikawa almost got the role of Princess Anna, as she was Marty'd out by Sayaka Kanda later on.
  • There was going to be a Lady Regent who was entirely loyal to the crown to put a twist on villainous advisers, and that she would be a good witch. She was removed because there wasn't time for her.
  • At one point in the planning stages, the story would have included Anna and Elsa's uncle, who had ruled the kingdom as regent until Elsa was old enough to become queen. He was eventually scrapped and his design re-used for the Duke.
  • The original chase scene with Marshmallow had a scared-out-of-her-wits Anna being reluctant to jump off the cliff to escape, an aggressive Marshmallow that was actively trying to kill her and Kristoff (instead of just chasing them away), and an antagonistic Elsa creating a blizzard. This scene was created early in production as an animation test and was based on earlier versions of the characters note , so when someone asked if they could find a way to rework the scene to fit it into the movie, several parts of it had to be rewritten, re-animated, and re-dubbed since it completely clashed with the final versions of Anna and Elsa. For those curious about where the missing "That's no blizzard; that's my sister!" trailer scene came from, it came from here.
  • Anna was originally supposed to flirt with Kristoff on the way up the North Mountain. The scene was changed when Alan Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios during Frozen's production, pointed out that viewers would likely get annoyed and confused with Anna's behavior and why she was flirting with Kristoff when she's engaged to Hans.
  • Hans' original name was "Admiral Westergard". He was also genuinely nice, if dim. Word of God is that Hans' surname is still "Westergard" and the licensed book A Frozen Heart has his surname written as "Westergaard" (which could also be written as "Westergård").
  • There are several Cut Songs:
    • The above-mentioned "Life's Too Short" was replaced with "For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)" and it was far-enough in production that Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell actually recorded it. It seems to be a heavily reworked version of the below-mentioned "Cool With Me" as the two share several similarities. The tune was later reused at the start of "Making Today A Perfect Day" from "Frozen Fever". Anna and Elsa start off trying to reconcile, but end up fighting:
      Both: Cause life's too short
      Anna: To always feel shut out and unloved by the sister I long to know
      Both: Life's too short
      Elsa: To never let you celebrate me, the true queen of the ice and snow
      Anna: There it is! The door you'd love to slam in my face!
      Elsa: You're a fool who married a stranger!
    • "Life's Too Short (Reprise)" is a Dark Reprise of "Life's Too Short" with allusions to "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" at the start. It takes place when Elsa is in the dungeon and Anna is freezing after Hans betrayed her. The song is barely over a minute long and is about the sisters regretting what they had done in the past.
    • "More Than Just the Spare" is Anna singing about how she feels in Elsa's shadow, which was cut because the songwriters felt it didn't "dig deep enough yet into what was really painful about Anna and what was painful between the two sisters". It was replaced with "For The First Time In Forever."
    • "Reindeer(s) Remix" was the credit song, written as a joke because the songwriters had nothing written for the amazing voice of Jonathan Groff.
    • "We Know Better" was sung by Elsa and Anna during an early version of the story where Elsa's powers weren't secret. It starts with Anna's birth and going throughout their childhood into their young adulthood. It has two parts, showing different sections of their childhood.
      • The first half of the song was released on the deluxe soundtrack and can be heard here, and shows how close the sisters are as chilren. It starts with Elsa at age 3 seeing baby Anna for the first time, and bonding with her. The song would then cut to the girls at different ages: Elsa at 7, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 22; Anna: 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 19.
      • The second half is a Dark Reprise, which can be seen here. In it, the townspeople start to distrust 12 year old Elsa due to her powers and rebelliousness. The townspeople befriend and like Anna but ostracize her sister and see Elsa as a freak.
      • It also shows a less empathetic version of Anna and Elsa's parents than the final version. It's implied that they didn't like the Rebellious Princess personality Elsa had in this draft and were trying to craft both of their children into Princess Classics. Elsa and Anna are explicitly shown getting princess-related lessons. And in this version, Agnarr calls Elsa a "burden," and he and Iduna tell Anna that if she loves Elsa, it's her responsibility to set an example for her older sister. Anna tries to do this, becoming more prim as they are taught to be, while Elsa remains a Rebellious Princess, and the rest of the song shows the two girls becoming more distant.
        Elsa: They say a princess learns elegance in school.
        Teacher: Chin up, eyes bright!
        Elsa: She's trained in etiquette and follows every rule.
        Anna: Spoon on the right.
        Elsa: They teach a princess to...
        Both: [drone-like] Copy word for word.
        Elsa: They teach a princess to be...
        Both: [drone-like] Seen and never heard.
        Elsa: They she doesn't dare or dream.
        Elsa: They say she doesn't plan or scheme.
        Elsa: Or go to any big extreme, to reunite a princess team.
        Elsa: But you and me...
        Both: We know better.
      • The different relationship the parents have with their children in this draft also shows when a young Anna addresses the king as "Father", than "Papa" the way a similarily-aged Elsa does in the final version, despite Elsa being the more proper one at that point. This fits the time period (the 1840s, possibly 1830s depending on the time of the scene) and their regal background.
    • An unused song, apparently from the same period as the above-mentioned "We Know Better", was a Villain Song called "Cool With Me." It took place after Elsa had kidnapped Anna from her wedding and took her up to the mountains. The song has a very different Elsa from the one in the final film — she's arrogant, blames Anna for everything, and is abandoning her identity as "Elsa" — and it contained a lot of bickering. Elsa "literally" wanted to make Anna cool with her by freezing Anna's heart. There was a rap-like sequence where Elsa would tell Anna the names of the snowmen who were 'cool with her'. No recording of the song has been released however the lyrics have been released.
    • "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" had to be rewritten because earlier drafts were deemed too depressing. The song was also almost cut outright for being too complicated to make work.
      Jennifer Lee: What’s amazing to me, that song was cut and everyone missed it so much. And the reason it was cut was the first versions of it were so sad. The whole thing was sad. And it was so – there was so much exposition that we couldn’t split it up... So, we had Anna’s story, Elsa’s story, and it was different music... Then, with the first two [verses] really what we were trying to show was Anna’s personality. Even though you know what her want is, the way she would sing into the keyhole... And then how she would throw herself over furniture and that her friends are these portraits. All of that setup is what made us be able to save the song because we were all like “I want to kill myself” by the end of that song because it was so like—
      Aline: So you made it less sad by making her sort of an imp.
      Jennifer: Yes. And saying this is the girl that you’re going to go on the journey with. These are things about her that you can laugh in her loneliness, I mean, and that’s very Anna... A lot of songs came and went, but that one was the one we all believed in and couldn’t make work for the longest time.
    • "Spring Pageant" was a song from early in the film (before Elsa's coronation) where local children are doing a school play. It explains the troll prophecy that was a major part of most of the film's development but ended up scrapped very late into development.
    • They had a few unused songs before "Fixer Upper" became a thing. The first was boy band-esque but Disney executives didn't like it. The next was a song about literally putting yourself in someone else's shoes, where Anna and Kristoff would put on each others shoes. It was scrapped due to worries that other cultures wouldn't understand what the phrase meant.
  • As noted on the cut songs "Spring Pageant" and "Life's Too Short," a "troll prophecy" referencing "a ruler with a frozen heart" and "a sword sacrifice" was a plot element that persisted through several drafts of the script.
  • At one point Anna and Elsa shared a snow-globe that Olaf carried around.
  • Concept art shows at one point Elsa's and Anna's mother was a blonde instead of having dark-brown hair. This implied Elsa's hair is naturally blonde while the final product implies it's a product of her powers, much like with Rapunzel from Tangled.
  • Iduna was also dressed in a Russian outfit, implying that she was from Russia.
  • The rock trolls were a relatively late addition to the story. Originally they were designed as more traditional furry trolls.
  • One of attempts at writing the scene where Anna and Hans asked for Elsa's blessing was more humorous and sassy than the final version. Elsa's "I am your queen" line was reused for a toy:
    Elsa: You can't marry a man you just met!
    Anna: You can if it's true love!
    Elsa: What do you know about true love?
    Anna: I could ask you the same thing!
    Elsa: I'm sorry, I do not give you my blessing. Now if you'll excuse me...
    Hans: Your Majesty, if I may...
    Elsa: No, you may not. This is between me and my sister.
    Anna: Ha! There's nothing between you and me, thanks to you! And you know what? I don't need your blessing! You're not my mother!
    Elsa: I may not be your mother, but I am your queen... and as your queen, I forbid it.
    Anna: ...WHAT... MEAN! MEAN QUEEN!
  • At the start of "First Time in Forever", Anna originally sang "I hope that I don't vomit in his face!" but Kristen Anderson-Lopez had to change the lyric at the last minute (the word "vomit" was deemed too inappropriate). During a trip to the dentist, Anderson-Lopez's young daughter suggested the line "I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face!", and the rest was history.
  • Some drafts of the film did not have an engagement between Anna and Hans, but instead had Anna talking with Elsa alone and asking her to give Hans a job, but this unintentionally felt like Anna was talking about an "imaginary boyfriend." A Collider recap of a Wonder Con panel reported that the creators also added an engagment because "it would cause more of the threat that Elsa might lose her sister. Hans was then added to the sequence and framed as a visual representation of the rift between the sisters."
  • Jennifer Lee and Kristen Anderson-Lopez fought against a plan to have the sisters' split be about each wanting the same guy.
  • After the film was released, a fan put together a version of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" to show how a reprise could have worked at the climax of the film, when Elsa realizes that Anna is completely frozen. Commenting on the fan clip in January 2014, Kristen Anderson-Lopez mentioned that at one point, she actually had pitched a reprise of the song for the film's epilogue, with Olaf falling apart and the sisters turning to each other and deciding to rebuild him, but it was decided to do an orchestral version of it instead.
  • At one point, the film would have had an opening narration by a troll with a Brooklyn accent explaining the origin of Elsa's powers. It was initially going to be revealed that a child is born with ice magic 1,000 years after a certain alignment with Saturn, but it was decided that explaining this would have caused more questions to be raised on the universe's rules of magic, and would be irrelevant and distracting from the film's actual story and message. This information was ultimately left out of the film itself and became a case of All There in the Manual instead, and a new explanation behind Elsa's powers was later devised for the second film.

    Frozen II 
  • The first cut of the film, shown at a test screening in early 2019, opened immediately with Agnarr's story of the Enchanted Forest, which then transitioned to the younger Anna and Elsa as he finished the tale. It was ultimately decided that this prologue was introducing too many unfamiliar elements, and the film needed to begin with the characters the audience already recognised. The finished product opens instead with the sisters playing together before Agnarr sits down to tell them the story.
  • When the group meets the Northuldra and Mattias' soliders, there was originally meant to be a musical number that explained the situation. It wasn't well-received by test audiences, so the creators had to find another way to get the new characters on the same page as everyone else, ultimately resulting in the sequence where Olaf dramatically recaps the first film for them.
  • In one draft, the film opened with a different prologue showing Iduna and Agnarr as children, who meet in a tense action sequence where Arendelle and Northuldra forces are facing off against each other. Matthias takes both of them to a retreating Arendelle camp, before heading back to retrieve King Runeard as well.
  • A deleted scene, the idea of which was later reused in the tie-in novel Forest Of Shadows, had Olaf showing Elsa and Anna a secret room in the castle, where their parents had been studying books on magic and tracking the progress of Elsa's powers. Anna would also acknowledge that Iduna's writing includes North Eldrian (Northuldra) language that's forbidden in Arendelle, foreshadowing their mother's true heritage and King Runeard's true motivation.
  • The film's deluxe edition soundtrack, which was released a week before the film itself, includes several deleted songs (labeled as "outtakes"), including "Get This Right," which is a love song from Kristoff to Anna. In the ending of the song, Anna proposes to Kristoff, as he is unable to find the right words to do so. This isn't how it happens in the film, where Kristoff proposes to Anna. Also the scene is meant to play shortly after Kristoff was actually named a lord.
  • According to another deleted scene, an early idea for Kristoff's arc was having him secretly growing more and more uneasy with his life in Arendelle and everything that's expected of him now that he's dating royalty, which came to a head after they met the Nøkk and it attempted to drown Kristoff for not being truthful.
  • Another cut song, "Home", was planned for early on in the film. In the song, Anna sings about how much she loves Arendelle. The song was replaced by "Some Things Never Change".
  • Olaf had an additional cut song, "Unmeltable Me", in which he explains how Elsa gave him his new permafrost coat.
  • The song "All Is Found" contains a sweeping orchestral rise, coinciding with a Time Skip to the present. The song originally played as a soft lullaby the whole way through, lacking the orchestral rise, and also featured differnt scenes. This alternate version of the song can be found in the deluxe soundtrack.
  • Back in 2014, Santino Fontana had been informed by the writers of Frozen that they wanted to bring back Hans and redeem him if a sequel was greenlit. The idea was ultimately dropped when the ultimate storyline was formed, though Hans is mentioned several times in the finished film and some of his dialogue from the original is reused when he appears as one of Ahtohallan's memories. Ironically, the movie itself also refers to him as an "unredeemable monster", so it seems like the writers may have changed their minds about what they wanted for Hans.
  • At one point in development, the tidal wave would have destroyed the castle. The epilogue would then show the reconstruction of the castle to incorporate both Northuldra and Arendellian architecture.
  • In this earlier draft, the reunion scene after the castle's destruction would have had Elsa showing Anna a memory from Ahtohallan, where Iduna and Agnarr agreed to tell Anna the truth about Elsa's powers once they returned from the Dark Sea.
  • After reading the lines for his death scene, Josh Gad reportedly begged the Creative Team to not bring Olaf back in the ending, but ultimately came about to it.

Alternative Title(s): Frozen II