Frozen 2 is ostensibly a movie for children. It’s an animated Disney film about princesses that features a talking snowman and a goofy reindeer. But let’s be honest, a lot of adults are going to see Frozen 2 as well. And many of them will do so of their own free will without being begged to do so by their children. Heck, they may not even have children! The point is, Frozen 2 is the hotly anticipated sequel to a beloved movie that made over a billion dollars, and lots of grown-ups are watching it. As a result, there are many things only adults notice in Frozen 2.
The film’s predecessor also made waves with adults for a number of reasons when it was released in 2013. People who could legally vote noticed — and criticized — the movie’s lack of diversity. They applauded the film’s theme of sisterhood, and appreciated the way it shook up the Disney princess formula by not having a romance with a man as the driving force of the narrative. And they even saw LGBTQ undertones in the film’s protagonist, Elsa, with the song "Let It Go" becoming somewhat of an anthem in the LGBTQ community. Most kids were oblivious to all that, but those aspects remain a big part of what made Frozen such a cultural phenomenon. And if anything, Frozen 2 doubles down on bits that seem aimed squarely at the adults. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable.
Frozen 2’s increased diversity
As mentioned, the first Frozen film received a fair amount of criticism for its lack of diversity. The movie’s main cast and most — if not all — background characters were white. Defenders of the film cited the apparent setting of medieval Scandinavia as the reason for the whiteness, but that excuse didn’t really hold water, as the film’s setting of Arendelle is a fictional kingdom and Scandinavia is never mentioned. But Disney was clearly paying attention to the controversy, as Frozen 2 is certainly more diverse.
For starters, there is now a prominent black character. Lt. Mattias, voiced by Sterling K. Brown, is an Arendellian soldier who shows up early in the film and goes on to appear pretty consistently throughout. At the end of the film, he gets a girlfriend who is also black. Then there are the Northuldra, a clan of indigenous people who live in an enchanted forest and are pretty central to Frozen 2‘s story. They’re based on the real-life Sámi people from Scandinavia, and Disney worked with Sámi groups in developing these characters. Kids aren’t likely to notice the effort that went into increasing Frozen 2‘s diversity, but adults will.
Anna’s Frozen 2 thirst
Despite all the attention Elsa’s sexuality receives from fans, only Anna has ever shown any interest in romance. In Frozen, she spends much of the film pining after her suitor, Hans. Then, after he turns out to be the villain, she falls for Kristoff. In Frozen 2, it’s made clear from the get-go that Anna is still very much interested in men. The film opens on a flashback to Anna’s and Elsa’s childhood, and practically all Anna can talk about is getting married and kissing boys. Fast-forward to the present day, and Anna and Kristoff are very much a couple. They even casually kiss from time to time, which is kind of an unusual thing to see in a Disney animated movie. But one scene in particular makes it seem like Anna has more than kissing on the brain.
In the film, Anna, Kristoff, Elsa, and Olaf head out on an adventure together in a wagon pulled by Sven the reindeer. Kristoff and Anna ride together in the front of the wagon, while Elsa and Olaf sit in the back. At a certain point in the journey, both Olaf and Elsa doze off, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Anna. She points the situation out to Kristoff and suggestively asks him what he wants to do before puckering her lips. Kids will think Anna just wanted a smooch, but adults know that a mere smooch doesn’t require privacy with the added danger of getting caught.
Frozen 2’s romantic tension between Elsa & Honeymaren
This is it, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Elsa finally, officially comes out of the closet! Just kidding, she definitely doesn’t, but Frozen 2 does throw in a scene that seems to hint that Elsa could possibly be gay, even if it mainly just comes across as Disney throwing a bone to fans who were hoping for some concrete proof of her sexuality.
In the film, Elsa and company venture to an enchanted forest in the hopes of lifting a curse that has left the Northuldra and an Arendellian army unit trapped in the forest for over 30 years. While staying with the Northuldra, Elsa sits by a fire with a young Northuldra woman named Honeymaren. The two have a conversation about the spirits and the forest, and they learn that they share a bit of history thanks to a song Elsa’s mother sang to her when she was young. Their interaction comes across as very flirty, and while it will fly right over kids’ heads, any adult can see that this is Disney’s very safe attempt at trying to hint at Elsa’s sexuality. Ultimately, their interaction goes nowhere and they don’t speak again for the rest of the film, making the tension-filled scene something of a disappointment for the fans who were hoping for Elsa’s big coming out party.
Frozen 2’s MCU influence
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a major cash cow for Disney. Naturally, this sort of success has started to influence the rest of the studio’s offerings, as everyone wants a bit of that MCU magic for themselves. And Frozen 2 is no exception.
Very early in the movie, there is a big battle scene between the Arendelle army and the Northuldra. This is followed by a ton of action scenes — far more than the first Frozen film. Elsa has a thrilling underwater fight with a horse made out of water, Anna gets some rock giants to destroy a dam, Elsa prevents a tidal wave from destroying Arendelle with her ice powers. That’s just a sampling, but Frozen 2 is practically an action movie, and most of the action feels very big and very MCU-esque.
Then there’s the direct MCU reference. Near the end of the film, Elsa becomes frozen solid. As a result, any magic she created begins to disappear. This includes Olaf, who begins "flurrying" — as in, pieces of snow start flaking off of him and floating away. It looks exactly like the dusting that occurs in Avengers: Infinity War, and at one point Anna even cradles the disintegrating Olaf in her arms just as Iron Man cradled Spider-Man. You half-expect Olaf to say, "I don’t feel so good, Mr. Stark" before he disappears completely.
Olaf’s morbid airplane joke
Anyone who’s seen Frozen knows that Olaf is full of corny jokes. Kids may love the snowman’s sense of humor, while to adults, he can get a little annoying. But in Frozen 2, Olaf actually manages to sneak in a couple one-liners that are aimed squarely at the grown-ups, and one of them is actually pretty morbid.
There’s an old aviation joke regarding black boxes. So-called black boxes, if you’re unaware, are flight recorders that are designed to survive a plane crash in order to help investigators determine what caused it. The joke goes something like, "If the black box is crash-proof, then why don’t they make the whole plane out of the black box?" Olaf tells a variation of this joke in the movie, and he does so at the most inappropriate moment.
In the film, Elsa and Anna find the shipwreck that killed their parents — an unspeakably tragic discovery. Upon finding it, one of them declares that there should be a record on board in a waterproof box, as that was standard procedure. Olaf then, instead of consoling his friends in this extremely trying time, says, "If it’s waterproof, why didn’t they make the whole ship waterproof?" Kids will laugh at the joke, not knowing that it’s a reference to a very old joke about airplanes and that Olaf is being extremely insensitive. Adults, meanwhile, may want to see Olaf melt even more than they already did.
The durability of Arendellian clothing in Frozen 2
One of the film’s big reveals, and there are a few, is that the Arendellian soldiers and the Northuldra who engaged in a battle 34 years prior are still living in the enchanted forest. That’s pretty incredible, both that they went that long without killing each other and also that they were able to find enough food in a small forest that was magically cut off from the rest of the world for over three decades. But their survival isn’t the most impressive thing about this ordeal. No, that would be the Arendellian army’s clothes.
When Elsa and company meet Mattias and the rest of the soldiers, they’re all still wearing their uniforms. You know, the uniforms they were wearing 34 years ago. That implies that they have no other clothes, which means they’ve worn the same thing every day for decades. You’d think after that much wear the clothes would have turned to dust, but they look great! As crisp and clean as the day Arendelle marched off to battle. Whatever cloth they’re using in Arendelle, we sure wish they’d share it with the rest of us. Kids will pay little attention to this, but adults are going to want an explanation for these incredibly well-crafted duds.
Frozen 2’s themes of colonialism, environmentalism, & religious bigotry
Another of the film’s big reveals comes near the end, when Elsa discovers why Arendelle and the Northuldra went to war in the first place. It all started because the King of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna’s grandfather, was a colonizer who, upon discovering the Northuldra, secretly formulated a plan to destroy them. Why? Because they believe in, and essentially worship, the magic of the forest. These beliefs differed from his own, which frightened him, so he constructed a dam on their river under the guise of it being a gift, and destroyed their land. When called out on this by the Northuldra leader, the king killed him, igniting the battle between the two people.
Frozen 2‘s stance on a number of issues has been clear to critics. The film presents a narrative that shows the harm done by colonialism, religious bigotry, and environmental recklessness. In the end, the dam must be destroyed to lift the curse on the forest, symbolizing a return to the natural order of things as well as the destruction of a symbol of oppression. These are heavy themes, and since they’re not spelled out in a super obvious manner (looking at you, Ralph Breaks the Internet), kids probably won’t understand a whit of it. With any luck, their parents will explain it to them.
Close to the film’s climax, Anna ends up in a dark place. First, she believes that Kristoff has abandoned her because he ran off to plan a wedding proposal without telling her, so she joins Elsa and Olaf on their quest without him. Then Elsa sends her and Olaf away when the quest becomes too dangerous, choosing to go it alone. Then Anna ends up trapped in a cave with Olaf, and that’s when the whole Thanos snap of Olaf happens. Anna is left alone in the dark, and she starts to get really down on herself. She sings a song about how she’s ready to give up, and… well, just take a look at the first verse: I’ve seen dark before / But not like this / This is cold / This is empty / This is numb / The life I knew is over / The lights are out / Hello, darkness / I’m ready to succumb.
That is dark. The song, and Anna’s body language while she’s singing it, appear to an adult to represent a metaphor for depression. Anna feels hopeless, she doesn’t want to move, she wants to give up. Any adult who’s suffered from depression will recognize these symptoms all too well. Thankfully, by the final verse of the song Anna convinces herself to pull herself out of her funk and move forward. That’s a little deep for kids, but it may prove helpful for adults.
Frozen 2’s message of self-love
If there’s one theme that best sums up Frozen 2, it’s this: Love thyself. The movie sends Elsa on a journey of self-discovery to find the meaning in her life she’s been searching for forever — and she ends up finding… herself.
Near the start of the film, Elsa hears a strange siren’s song that no one else can hear. This eventually leads her to the enchanted forest, where she learns that the four spirits of the forest — air, wind, fire, and earth — are in disarray. After she learns that she has the power to tame the spirits, she’s told of a mysterious fifth spirit that acts as a bridge between all the others. Elsa ventures to find this fifth spirit, the one who’s been calling to her since the start of the film, and she ends up in a temple trying to chase down the elusive voice. When she reaches the end of the temple, she realizes that not only is she the fifth spirit, but she is also the one she’s been searching for (the song at this point in the film literally says, "You are the one you’ve been waiting for all your life").
Some fans may have wanted Elsa to be LGBTQ, but the film’s message of self-love is arguably even more important. Everyone needs to love and take care of themselves, and everyone — even adults — can use a reminder of that from time to time. Even if it’s from a cartoon.
Anna and Kristoff’s sex life is anything but vanilla
We don’t know exactly what Anna and Kristoff get up to in the bedroom, but Frozen 2 makes it clear that the new queen of Arendelle has at least one major kink. At the end of the film, some of the characters dress up in some fancy duds to celebrate Anna’s coronation. The clothes look great, but Kristoff hates them, finding them uncomfortable. "You get this for one hour," Kristoff tells Anna. "That’s okay," Anna purrs. "I prefer you in leather anyway."
Anna, you naughty girl. While kids will think that Anna is simply making a cute reference to Kristoff’s regular leather jerkin, their parents will get the joke: When the lights go out, Anna likes to get a little freaky.
That’s not the only racy comment in the scene, either. After the exchange, Olaf — who’s similarly dressed up — remarks, "I’m shocked you can last an hour." Another innocent quip about uncomfortable clothing? Yeah, we think not.
Mama mia, mama mia, mama mia, let it go
Hamilton and Glee star Jonathan Groff, who voices Kristoff, didn’t get a solo song in the original Frozen, but Frozen 2 made it up to him. In the sequel, Groff belts out "Lost in the Woods," one of the film’s most memorable tracks. Sure, Groff’s performance is unsurprisingly spectacular, but what really makes "Lost in the Woods" shine is its production. The number doesn’t just evoke old ’80s power ballads. It’s also staged exactly like something you would’ve seen on classic MTV, with a few shots ripped directly from Queen‘s "Bohemian Rhapsody" thrown in for good measure.
The whole thing is outlandish enough to be funny for everyone, but only adults will understand what "Lost in the Woods" is parodying. That’s by design. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Groff says, "It’s… really kind of a gift for the adults watching the movie…. The kids are laughing too, but the adults are the ones that are really in on the joke."
We know who wears the pants in this family
Yes, it’s true: in Frozen 2, Elsa and Anna wear pants. As co-director Jennifer Lee points out, that makes sense. "Of course you’re going to wear pants when you hear the words ‘enchanted forest,’" Lee tells the Los Angeles Times. Frozen 2 is a rough-and-tumble adventure, and its heroes are princesses. They should be allowed to wear whatever they want.
And yet, over the course of Disney’s history, that hasn’t always been the case. Aside from Mulan and Aladdin‘s Princess Jasmine, every other Disney princess has been confined to dresses or skirts. Even Anna and Elsa were stuck in long, flowing gowns in the first Frozen, and only got to wear more practical attire when the sequel rolled around.
According to Walt Disney Animation Studios president Clark Spencer, switching up the duo’s wardrobe was a way to bring modern sensibilities into a fairytale world, and a proclamation that "there is more than one way to be a princess." Kids probably won’t notice the change. Those of us who grew up on classic Disney features, though? We know it’s a big deal.
Olaf has a Seven Year Itch
Frozen 2 is full of nods to other movies (especially other Disney films), but Frozen 2‘s target audience is going to miss at least one of them. Do you know many children who are familiar with The Seven Year Itch, the 1955 comedy starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, and directed by Billy Wilder? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
Disney’s animators snuck in a sly reference to the film anyway. Seven Year Itch is the movie in which Monroe stands over a subway grate as wind from a passing train lifts her white dress. It’s one of the most memorable images in film history. Well, Frozen 2 has a similar scene. When the wind spirit Gale is playing with Olaf, the snowman’s bottom half billows out just like Monroe’s outfit.
Olaf even calls the experience "delicious," echoing the line that Monroe utters during the iconic scene. It’s too much to be a coincidence — and it’s a reference that’s going to go right over most kids’ heads.