Analysis: The Deleted Songs of Frozen

At this point I’m just going to assume you’ve seen Frozen, or are at least familiar with it and its music.  The Oscar-nominated film (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Let It Go”) is approaching a billion dollars at the box office and its soundtrack was the number one album on the Billboard charts for four weeks and has been certified platinum.  It’s been everywhere lately, from its constant position among the box office top 10 to its successful sing-along version to the countless youtube videos of little girls belting out “Let It Go”.  There’s even talk of a stage adaptation of the film that’s in the works.  And as far as I’m concerned Frozen deserves all of its success.

What you may not know, however, is that Disney released a deluxe, two-disc version of the Frozen soundtrack which features demos of some of the songs and the score that were written but which for a variety of reasons never made it into the film.  (Good luck finding the deluxe edition of the soundtrack in a store; I had to download it from iTunes.)  I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the deleted songs, performed on the soundtrack by songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and their children, both in terms of their musical influences and the ways they fit in to the story we saw onscreen.  There’s a different film that begins to take shape when you listen to these songs, one that is similar to the film many of us have come to love but differs in some crucial and interesting ways.  So let’s go through each of the songs and then look at how they fit together to make an alternate film, and perhaps look ahead to see whether these songs might make an official appearance in the future.

“We Know Better”

According to the songwriters’ intro, “We Know Better” was the first song written for the film, and it’s also chronologically the first song that would have appeared in Frozen (except for “Frozen Heart”).  The song begins with Anna’s birth, as her older sister (4 years old at the time) sings to the new baby about being a princess.  She tells her “But soon you’ll see that everyone expects a lot from you/ They’ll say that there are things a princess should and shouldn’t do/ But you and me, we, we know better.”  The song then jumps ahead a few years and Elsa is teaching Anna what it means to be a princess, both in terms of what’s expected of them and what they actually do.  She tells Anna “They say a princess is full of charm and grace/ They say she always knows her place … They say she’s calm, they say she’s kind/ They say she never speaks her mind” and the two sisters join in the chorus to sing that they know better than to simply do what they’re told.  They sing about their plans for when they’re older and Elsa is queen, and about how they will always be together.

“We Know Better” is a fun, upbeat introduction to the two sisters, and I bet it would have been a great addition to the film.  It really does a lot to quickly establish a bond between the two girls, as they play together, get in trouble with Elsa’s power, and dream about the future.  It’s full of funny moments (I particularly love “They say she’s poised/ They say she’s fair/ She never mentions underwear!”), but hints at the depth of their bond and their desire to go out into the world and make it better.  It would be easy to misinterpret the song as a criticism of the stereotypical “Disney Princess,” and it is in fact a criticism of the 40s and 50s animated princesses, but it’s actually an endorsement of the rebellious attitude of all of the princesses in the Disney line since Ariel, who disobeyed her father and his prejudice against humans to chase her dream.  (Belle defied the social conventions of her provincial town by being a bookworm and a dreamer, Jasmine ran away to avoid a forced marriage, Mulan posed as a man in order to find a role that suited her better than those society laid out for her, Tiana fought for her dream despite being told that she had no prospects because of her gender and race, Rapunzel escaped and resisted a controlling mother who was only interested in using her, and Merida set out to change her fate and stood up for her independence instead of being forced into marriage.)

“We Know Better” was probably cut because it would have delayed the accident where Elsa freezes Anna’s mind with her powers, and the troll magic, which gives the film a much darker and more dramatic tone from the outset.  It also would have clashed with the much more emotional “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”, which would have come soon afterward and the tone difference between the two might have clashed.  It’s a great song, but I think it was the right decision to cut it in the end.

“Spring Pageant”

This song is less of a song than a complete sequence.  In the early versions of the film, there was a troll prophecy which predicted the events of the film, including the freezing of Arendelle a frozen heart, and a “sword sacrifice”.  The prophesy is presented to the audience in the form of the rehearsal of a play to be put on by the children of Arendelle to celebrate the coming of spring (and the delaying of the prophesy by another year), as well as in this case to celebrate the coronation of Elsa as queen.  It opens with a cute and pretty song about spring being a present from Mother Earth and how glad they are that Winter is over.  An uptight school play director gives cues to the kids as they enter to deliver lines, but when a group of boys come out dressed as trolls to deliver the prophecy they all crack up over something (that we don’t hear in the song), earning a reprimand from the director.  He reminds them that the prophecy is serious business and commands them to spit out their gum before the play resumes.  They play continues as they proclaim that today is a special day because of Elsa’s coronation, but the rehearsal is interrupted by Elsa’s arrival.

Musically, “Spring Pageant” wouldn’t have added much to the film, considering it’s not a true song.  Using the “school play” as a storytelling device to communicate the troll prophecy is very clever, however, and much better than some sort of opening narration or flashback, which is the standard for most movies.  As for the prophecy itself, I’ll talk a bit more about that later on.

“More Than Just the Spare”

This song serves as an introduction/”Princess Song” for Anna, based on an earlier version of the script that focused on the “heir and the spare” conflict between Anna and Elsa.  After an apparent encounter with some of the citizens of Arendelle where she is dismissed as being “just the spare”, she sings about her feelings in true Disney style.  She compares herself to the extra button on a coat that’s put there as an emergency replacement, and to a rusty horseshoe hanging over a barn door.  The song was deleted in part because it apparently conflicted with some changes in the relationship between Anna and Elsa that we see in the film.  It also made Anna too much like Hans in terms of motivation and position.

However, it’s a great song in that it gets to the heart of the character of Anna.  It paints her not only as a girl with an overflowing heart but who is also longing for a place in the world, and it also really brings out her quirkier side.  I love the lines “So I’m just the second-born sister/ Who most of the town ignores/ Like a button, like a horseshoe/ Like a girl who’s bad at metaphors.”  She sings about lacking style and grace and even occasionally falling on her face, but that she still has dreams and wants to contribute.  Musically, the song seems to have been inspired by “The Wizard and I” from Wicked (a musical the songwriters are obviously familiar with, as they have stated that “Let It Go” was inspired by “Defying Gravity”), both in message and in melody and orchestration.  Interestingly, “The Wizard and I” has always seemed to me like it was inspired by other Disney musicals, which would make “More Than Just the Spare” something of an inspiration loop.  As much as I love the song, however, it doesn’t really fit in with the film or the direction of the final story and it was a good cut to make.

“You’re You”

I have mixed feelings about “You’re You.”  The song was a first attempt at a “love moment” between Hans and Elsa, though was eventually replaced by the vastly superior “Love Is an Open Door.”  In the song, Hans sings to Anna about loving her for who she is and hoping that she stays that way, which is sweet in theory but the way that Hans sings it makes him come off as a complete jerk.  He criticizes her looks, her attitude, her style and her personality and then tries to pass that off as being the things he loves about her.  He even interrupts her when she starts to join in.  In the second verse, however, his ulterior motives come out, as he sings about how she’s an open book and is honest when compared with other people who lie and cheat to get their way.  Which is of course useful to him in his plans to take over Arendelle.

The song is melodically sweet but obviously the lyrics are intentionally misleading, as it seems obvious from this song that Hans is up to no good, even if Anna may not realize it yet.  I prefer “Love Is an Open Door”, however, as it is much more subtle and only reveals Hans’ true intentions upon reflection, once his treachery has been revealed.  I think that “You’re You” would have tipped Hans’ hand to the audience too soon, ruining the shock of his later betrayal.  Also, if Anna would have stayed with Hans after he sang a song like this to her, I would have thought much less of her.  I can buy her falling for him as it’s presented in the film, both because of her longing for affection due to the way she grew up and how slick Hans is, but I can’t buy anyone falling in love with someone who would sing this song.  That’s not a criticism of the song, because I would have served its purpose well, but it would have drastically changed how Hans’ storyline played out over the course of the film.  Good call to cut it and go with “Love Is an Open Door.”

“Life’s Too Short” and Reprise

“Life’s Too Short” is a duet between Anna and Elsa that would have originally taken the place of the reprise of “For the First Time in Forever” that we get in the film, when Anna confronts Elsa in her palace of ice which ends in Elsa freezing Anna’s heart.  It plays the same role as the song in the film, but has a somewhat different tone.  The first half of the song is a joyful reunion between the two sisters, with Anna finally realizing the extent of Elsa’s power and Elsa rejoicing in being joined by Anna.  They sing about how “Life’s too short to miss out on a sister like you,” and how they think they finally understand each other and themselves.  However, when Anna informs Elsa that Arendelle is frozen, she then suggests that Elsa put her gloves back on and help thaw the fjord and Elsa scoffs at that.  The song, which moments before had been about two sisters finally (at least it seemed) on the same page is now a confrontation.  Elsa is shocked that Anna would want to put her back in a cage, and dismisses Anna and goes to slam the door in her face.  Anna fights back, pointing out that she has always been shut out and had doors slammed in her face, but that she’s the only who who’s “Not one hundred percent convinced the prophecy’s you.”  The two bring up all their past grievances (real or just perceived) and change their song to meaning that life is too short to waste another minute on each other.  As things reach a climax, Elsa freezes Anna’s heart.

The song is a killer duet, the second half of which bears a strong resemblance to “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent (a song originally performed by Idina Menzel, which is probably not a coincidence).  It’s considerably more confrontational than the reprise of “For the First Time in Forever”, and the words come from a place of jealousy and misunderstanding rather than Elsa’s fear and the pressure Anna is putting on her.  The lyrics paint a picture of a different relationship between the sisters than what we see in the film, and I’ll touch on that a little later.  Its cut makes sense given the other changes to the story, as it doesn’t fit with the sisters’ relationship as we see it in the film or the characters’ natural reactions to being reunited as shown in the final story.

The reprise of “Life’s Too Short” occurs when Anna is dying and Elsa has been locked up by Hans.  The two sing (separately) about how they finally understand each other and what they’ve done.  Elsa has realized just how much harm she’s done to Anna and how much shutting her out all through the years has hurt them both.  Anna has realized that her overly trusting nature has let her be taken in by Hans (who at this point has revealed his true plans) and how she was blinded by her desire to be loved.  It’s a real heartbreaking moment, as they realize that life may now literally be too short for them to make amends, as Anna is dying and Elsa is due to be executed.  The reprise is obviously much more somber and tragic than the first instance of the song, full of remorse, and in the music there are even hints of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” which calls back to happier days for the pair.

The reprise was obviously cut because you can’t have a reprise of a song that was itself cut.  However, given that there are no songs in the film after “Fixer Upper”, I think this moment would have been perfect for a song like this reprise, and it’s a shame that they couldn’t find a way to work this in.  Songs in musicals should capture both the highs and the lows of the characters, and should also be there for moments of change.  Things don’t get much lower for Anna and Elsa than at this moment, and it’s the moment when their eyes are finally opened for the first time.

“Reindeer(s) Remix”

The final song that never made it into the film is “sort of a joke” according the songwriters, as it’s a rock ballad version of Kristoff’s song “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” that was written because they got to the end of the score and realized they didn’t have a big song for Jonathon Groff to perform as Kristoff.  The lyrics are basically the same as the song he sings in the film, but with an added verse explaining that he knows that the plural of reindeer is reindeer, and a line at the end asking “Why didn’t I get a real song?”  The intro from the songwriters tells us to imagine it being sung while the credits are rolling, and I think it would have been a great fit at the end of the credits before the post-credits scene with Marshmallow.  It’s funny and actually kind of rockin’ and I would have loved to hear Jonathan Groff singing it.  It’s bothered me that Kristoff didn’t get a full song given that he is voiced by the talented Groff, and while this wouldn’t exactly rectify that, it would have been a fun addition to the end of the film.

A Slightly Different Frozen

The deleted songs paint a picture of a different Frozen, one that hits many of the same story beats as the one we saw in theaters, but has a somewhat altered feel.  Everything in Frozen revolves around the relationship between Anna and Elsa, in the film after Elsa freezes Anna’s mind she is taught to repress and control her powers, and in the process Anna is shut out from her sister’s life, with a door always closed in her face.  The Castle is closed off from the outside world, leaving Anna and Elsa alone.  Elsa grows up afraid of herself and the power she has, and Anna grows up ignored and desperate for attention.

Most of that is true in this altered version as well, but there are some changes.  Firstly, with “We Know Better,” the sisters relationship pre-accident is explored in more depth than the one scene we got in the film, which gives us a greater sense of what was lost.  But more importantly, while Anna was locked out from Elsa in both films, it seems like in the early version the castle was not closed off in the way it was in the final film.  Several songs hint at that, most importantly “More Than Just the Spare,” which not only implies that the village of Arendelle has more of a relationship with the sisters.  Anna sings “She’s the scholar, athlete, poet/ I’m the screw up, don’t I know it/ But then who could ever compare?/ Of course they’re gonna think I’m just the spare.”  It seems that the sisters’ parents are at least presenting a certain image for Elsa as the future queen, instead of just locking her away.  We also get a sense of this in the “Spring Pageant,” where one of the little girls singing talks about how beautiful and wonderful a role model Elsa is, and then they’re all shocked and excited when Elsa actually walks in.

If this is true, it gives a different spin on the sisters’ attitudes as adults.  Instead of living isolated and in fear, Elsa instead was forced to be paraded around while repressing her true nature, which would likely direct her anger outward at those who put her in that situation rather than directing her anger in at herself for being unable to control her powers.  This fits in with the early versions of the script where Elsa was more of a villain than she is in the final film.  Anna, on the other hand, would have considerably more jealousy, as Elsa would have received all of the attention leaving Anna feeling unneeded by not only her sister but also by their kingdom.  Her greatest concern would not necessarily be the feeling that she lost her sister but more the desire to be equals.

This all leads up to “Life’s Too Short,” where the two air their grievances.  Elsa finally feels like she can reveal her true self, and Anna thinks the two can finally relate over being shunned by the town.  Of course, Anna’s suggestion that Elsa put back on the gloves makes Elsa think that Anna just wants to go on doing what their parents did, forcing her in a cage for show and never letting the true Elsa out.  When she reacts with anger Anna replies with anger of her own, that Elsa doesn’t want to work together as a team and would rather be queen alone, even if it means hurting those around her.

Of course, one big impact on their relationship would have been the troll prophecy.  It states “Your future is bleak/ Your kingdom will splinter/ Your land shall be cursed/ With unending winter/ With blasts of cold will come dark art/ And a ruler with a frozen heart/ Then all will perish in snow and ice/ Unless you are freed with a sword sacrifice”  Of course, the unending winter, the frozen heart, and the “sword sacrifice” all come to pass in the final film, though without a prophecy to predict them.  The addition of the prophecy would have complicated not only the relationship between the sisters and the town and Elsa, but also Elsa’s relationship with herself.  Imagine not only knowing that your powers can directly hurt someone you love, but also might figure into a prophecy that might doom your kingdom forever.  That certainly would have caused Elsa to fear her powers.

Anna’s feelings of being just a spare would have given her a greater connection to Hans, though “You’re You” makes it pretty clear that he’s using her because she’s easily manipulated.  However, one line from “Life’s Too Short” is interesting.  Elsa says to Anna “You’re a fool who married a stranger,” which is a bit more serious than the quick engagement we saw in the film.  If Elsa wasn’t exaggerating and Anna and Hans actually got married in the early versions of the script, it makes Anna seem not only desperate for love but also a little attention-seeking.  A surprise marriage surely would have made her the star for once.

Of course, the two eventually come to see the others’ point of view, as their time is seemingly running out.  Elsa realizes that her love of her own power has hurt the only person who ever truly loved her and Anna has learned that her desperation to be loved has opened her up to being taken advantage of and closed her eyes to what her sister was going through.  Presumably this earlier version would have ended with the “sword sacrifice” from the prophecy, where Anna freezes in front of Hans’ blade, causing it to shatter and setting things right once more.  Having the acts become a fulfillment of the prophecy, however, downplays the message of love fixing all wounds that is so prevalent in the film, though it’s impossible to know exactly how that early script would have played out.

In the end, I’m glad we ended up with the film we saw in theaters, although this alternate take would be an interesting one to see.  It makes both Anna and Elsa a little less likable and their relationship a little more complicated.  According to the songwriters, when “Let It Go” was written, the whole film changed, and the script and the other songs were rewritten around it.  It’s true that it’s had for me to imagine Frozen‘s best song fitting in with all of these deleted songs, as the Elsa that comes alive during “Let It Go” doesn’t mesh with the Elsa from this early version.  And can you imagine Frozen without “Let It Go”?  I doubt it.

The Future: Frozen on stage?

Where do we go from here?  It’s been announced that Disney is looking into adapting Frozen for the stage, and I fully support this idea.  Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were both big successes on the stage, bringing a new take on well known films, and while The Little Mermaid may not have been a big hit, the company has high hopes for their new adaptation of Aladdin.  I think Frozen is well suited for the stage, with two strong female protagonists and some stellar songs for them, with the potential for some gorgeous sets and staging.  But could any of these deleted songs be revived for the stage?

Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King both brought back deleted songs for their stage versions (“Human Again” and “Morning Report”, respectively), and I think several of these songs from Frozen could make the cut.  I think “We Know Better” absolutely should make it onto the stage, as it would require no tweaking to fit in at all.  It could be the show’s first song (perhaps after an intro of “Frozen Heart”) and be followed by the freezing of Anna’s mind and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”  I’m of two minds about reintroducing the prophecy aspect, although it would be an easy way to pad out the running time of the show, and if they did the “Spring Pageant” would be a solid way to introduce it.

I would love to see “More Than Just the Spare” return, as Anna will need a big number to compete with Elsa’s “Let It Go”.  With a few lyrical changes it could fit nicely into the existing story and characters, maybe just removing the references to the way Elsa is presented to the village.  I think it’s best to keep the sisters locked up like they are in the film, which gives a more interesting set of circumstances for character development.  Perhaps set it after the death of their parents, when Anna attends the funeral but Elsa does not, and Anna complains to Elsa (through the closed door) that the village really wanted to see the queen and not just the “spare.”

“Life’s Too Short” is a great song, but I just don’t see how they could fit it in.  It doesn’t mesh well with the characters as they’re shown in the film, and the movie already has a song in that place.  Perhaps it could be rewritten a bit and used somewhere else, but I wouldn’t want them to force it in.  As for the reprise, I think there definitely needs to be a song at that point, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be an expanded version of the “Life’s Too Short” reprise.  The stage version will definitely need more music and that’s the perfect spot for a tragic song.

As for “You’re You” there’s no way I want it to ever be a part of the stage version as it was originally intended.  “Love is an Open Door” is perfect and “You’re You” just makes Anna look bad.  It could maybe be reworked for Hans’ big reveal as a villain, perhaps explaining to Anna why he chose her to exploit, but I wouldn’t want it to exist as a love song and for Anna to buy it.  Anna’s too strong of a character for that.

Kristoff will need a bigger song in the stage version, though “Reindeer(s) Remix” isn’t it, as fun as it is.  I can’t wait to see what Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez come up with for him.  In all, the prospect of a stage version is really exciting, and I can’t wait to see it either on Broadway or on tour some day.  I hope Disney really commits to it (they look serious considering there’s already a website), and that they take their time to work out all of the little details.  The new/reused songs are important, but so are things like how Elsa’s magic will work onstage and what forms Olaf and the trolls will take (I vote puppet).  I wouldn’t want to see anything major get cut or screwed up just because they didn’t take the time go get it right.  Regardless, I’d be willing to bet we haven’t heard the last of these deleted songs.

16 thoughts on “Analysis: The Deleted Songs of Frozen

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  4. We know better is not upbeat! It wouldn’t be a great addition to the movie! It’s bad! Frozen is the worst movie ever!

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  5. ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry is more upbeat than ‘We Know Better’ Frozen! The beginning of that song doesn’t make me mad as much as the beginning of We Know Better!

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  6. ‘We Know Better’ is more emotional than ‘Do You want to Build a Snowman?’ because of the crying in the beginning!

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