Disney’s Frozen (2013) was the highest-earning animated film of all time, and won widespread acclaim for its unusual plotline about the bond between sisters, its technical bravura and its music. The long-awaited sequel will be released on November 27. Frozen 2 will “answer a core set of questions that were lingering at the end of the first film”, promised Normand Lemay, Head of Story at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

In Frozen, the princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) inadvertently traps her kingdom Arendelle in eternal winter. Elsa’s younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), with the help of ice harvester Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven, and the snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), help Elsa lift the spell and return Arendelle to normal weather.

Frozen 2, on which Lemay has also served as head of story, is set three years after the events in the first movie. Arendelle is in trouble again. Elsa sets out to a magical forest for answers, accompanied by Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf. The sequel will furnish the backstory to Elsa’s powers and will also have several new characters, Lemay told Scroll.in in a telephone interview.

“All these characters serve the theme and the purpose – they are there in their own ways to challenge the relationship between Elsa and Anna, as well as challenge their beliefs, how much they know about each other, and what they may have hidden from each other,” he added. “You can expect a lot of magic and mystery, but also a deep emotional core to these characters. Frozen 2 is going to dig much deeper into the emotional richness of our main crew.”

The first film ended with a reconciliation between Elsa and Anna – more than Anna’s romance with Kristoff, the relationship between the sisters drove the plot. “We left Frozen with a sense of stability, and we are going to challenge that stability and safety,” Lemay said.

Frozen 2 (2019).

Expectations are high from Frozen 2 given the warm response to the first production, acknowledged Lemay, whose credits as story artist include Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana. “The first film was a phenomenon, and the challenge with this one was to meet those expectations,” Lemay said.

One of the elements that has changed in the six-year gap between the productions is that the tools of animation have become far more sophisticated. “Animated films are closely related to technology – it always feels that every film pushes boundaries, but it’s hard to not notice the leaps and bounds that technology brings to the films,” Lemay pointed out. “Frozen 2 is unbelievably pleasing to the eye. Frozen had landscapes of ice and snow. Frozen 2 will reach in other ways into a world that we have never seen before.”

Elsa, easily one of the most compelling characters in Disney’s animated universe, will continue to steer the plot in the second movie. The trailers hold out the possibility of exploring the source of her powers, as well as revealing the truth behind the formation of Arendelle. “In Frozen, Elsa exposed her powers, dealt with the consequences, and made the world a better place while showing who she really was,” Lemay said. “In the second film, Elsa will have to deal with the kind of lingering questions that we all face – something inside makes or pushes us towards something. Frozen 2 will push Elsa towards confronting something that is inside that she cannot explain to Anna. This will have large consequences.”

Frozen (2013).

The additions to the voice cast in Frozen 2 include Alfred Molina, Evan Rachel Wood, Sterling K Brown, Martha Plimpton and Jason Ritter. The soundtrack has Into the Unknown, as well as tunes performed by Menzel, Bell, Groff and Gad as well as by Weezer, Kacey Musgraves and Panic At The Disco.

Disney remains the global market leader in animation, even as other countries, including Japan and France, successfully produce animated films in vastly different styles. Lemay, who graduated from Sheridan College in Ontario in Canada and joined Walt Disney Animation Studio in 2009, has been tracking films emerging out of America, Canada, France and Japan for years.

“In the last few decades, there has been an explosion of animated films from around the world,” he observed. “We are now seeing films coming out of the rest of Asia and South America. There are so many filmmakers out there, pushing new boundaries. When you see something good, it is undeniable.”

Normand Lemay. Courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios.