- by James Hunt
2019’s Frozen 2 gave Elsa (Idina Menzel) two big songs in the movie, but “Show Yourself”, the better of the two, was almost cut from the Disney sequel in the months leading up to its release. The follow-up to 2013’s Frozen had a big task on its hands in attempting to match the success of the first movie. That went not just for its box office performance, critical approval, and story, but also its brand new soundtrack, which had to compete with the cultural phenomenon that was “Let It Go”.
Frozen 2 didn’t live up to the standards of the first movie, although it did even better commercially. The reviews for Frozen II were far more mixed, in large part because of the overly convoluted story, but the songs weren’t quite as good either. Disney pushed “Into The Unknown” as the successor to “Let It Go”, but it lacked the same hook and emotion. There was a better Elsa song though, which comes later in the movie, but “Show Yourself” was nearly scrapped altogether from the film.
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In the Disney behind-the-scenes documentary Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2, there’s a dive into how the animated film was put together, including the various struggles over its long journey to the screen. One of the biggest hurdles detailed surrounds the song “Show Yourself”, its placement in the movie, and exactly what it’s supposed to mean. The song is the culmination of Elsa’s journey of self-discovery in Frozen 2, where she gets the answers she seeks and is able to truly embrace who she is. In episode 2 of Into The Unknown, Frozen 2‘s Director of Story, Marc Smith, reveals that before heading into a screening of the film for the Story Trust (a group of Disney animators and directors) around eight months before release, that “I don’t think we’ve found a reason to keep it in,” and that it “feels like the patient is on the operating table but we’ve got one last shot at bringing it back.”
Frozen 2’s co-director Jennifer Lee also pitched a different take on the song, which would’ve changed it completely. She says: “What if this song is ‘I’m home’ and not ‘show yourself?’ I just feel like the hook is wrong… you have to change the song if you change the hook.” Frozen 2‘s other co-director, Chris Buck, agrees that “Show Yourself” wasn’t working, saying: “It’s not emotionally adding up. I’m not feeling anything.” The writers of Frozen 2‘s songs, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, disagreed with their take, however, with the latter saying I’m home would end up too similar to “Let It Go”, and the former that “I don’t know about that whole pitch of she gets there and she sees a glacier and she suddenly realizes, ‘It isn’t a person it’s a glacier… I don’t think it’s going to make any sense.”
The core of the problems regarding “Show Yourself” revolve primarily around the voice that calls to Elsa, and confusion over who and what it comes from. Throughout Frozen 2, Elsa hears a voice that ultimately leads her to Ahtohallan, but in the development stage it was unclear to many exactly who it was supposed to be: was it Ahtohallan itself, Elsa’s mother, or actually Elsa’s own voice? Even Lee notes at one stage that “we all have different opinions.” However, when Frozen 2 had its Story Trust screening, the song itself played as it was supposed to in Elsa’s story and was largely well-received, and so it was decided to keep it in – but some tweaks were needed for added clarity.
It was decided after the screening that they would more definitively answer the voice belongs to Elsa’s mother, Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood). She was added into “Show Yourself”, and the song was softened slightly, made more into a request than a demand and having Elsa enter less “aggressively”. Although the voice is still debated by fans, meaning the problem wasn’t fully cleared up, it was nonetheless enough to ensure that “Show Yourself” not only made it into the movie, but is Elsa’s best song in Frozen 2, and the crowning moment on her journey thus far.
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