taking it to the source

Frozen Composers Assess 6 Fan-Created Homages to Their Songs

If you haven’t grasped how big the box-office Disney juggernaut Frozen has become, here’s a pretty good indicator: Last week, the soundtrack knocked Beyoncé out of the number-one spot on the Billboard album chart. And here’s another: The animated movie, which took home the award for Best Animated Movie at the Golden Globes on Sunday, will be turned into a Broadway musical. But these days, the best measure of pop-culture popularity is by counting parody videos and memes related to the phenomenon, and Frozen keeps racking them up. Vulture sifted through the many song rewrites, covers, and homages floating around online, and to find out how the fans did, we went to the creators of the source material: Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the married writing team best known for Broadway shows like Book of Mormon (him) and In Transit (her), who invested two years of their lives in shaping Frozen’s musical landscape. Read on to see how they rate the fan-created versions of their songs, which of their lyrics appears to quote Arrested Development, and which line was actually contributed by a 6-year-old.

Love it. There certainly was a lot of use, when we were talking about this on the video conference [during the writing process], I was always saying, “Elsa is just saying, ‘Fuck it! Fuck it!’” And after a while, Chris Montan, the head of music at Disney, would be like, “Whoa, language!” But it’s a big part of what Elsa is experiencing, which is just like, “I can’t win here! So fuck it all!”

It’s funny, because that fan is doing something lyrically similar to what I had pitched at the very last screening. Because we were really writing up until the last minute. I pitched doing a reprise of “Snowman” at the very end of the movie — just at that moment where they’re about to ice skate, having Olaf fall apart, and having Anna and Elsa turn to each other and sing: “Do you want to build a snowman?” “Come on, you know I do.” “Together as a family, you know we’ll always be, me and yoooou!” But they did it orchestrally, and I think that was a much more nuanced way to do it.
Bobby: And personally — I mean, I know people have reacted well to the video that’s out there, but I think that if you watch it in the flow of the movie, it would be jarring to have them break into song at that moment. Now, on the stage, you might want to have a song there, because you can’t have close-ups. There’s no delicate shot of Elsa crying and hugging the frozen Anna. So you’d need to accomplish the close-up with a song onstage.
Kristen: So put a pin in that!

Kristen: They are awesome. I love them so much. They remind me of our girls when we started this process — our now 8-year-old was 6, and the other one was 2 — singing “Let It Go: The Toddler Version.”
Bobby: Yeah, it’s funny, because we’ve been going through this phenomenon just locally, in our house, for the last two years with those two. And now it seems to have caught on.
With two little girls in the Disney princess demo, did they contribute to the song-writing process?
Kristen: Yeah! Our older daughter, Katie, suggested a rewrite of a lyric that’s in “First Time in Forever” At first it was [sings] “I hope that I don’t vomit in his faaaace” —
Bobby: Disney came back to us, and said, “We have can’t have that sort of bodily fluid lyric in the song.” So we were trying to rewrite it, and Katie came up with the line that’s in there.
Kristen: I think we were just out running an errand, and I was giving some possible lines to her — I forget what they were now — but she was the one who said, “How about, ‘I wanna stuff some chocolate in my faaaace!’”
Bobby: She was also our go-to child actor for all of the times we needed a kid. And she’s the one [playing young Anna] in the movie. I never told you this, Kristen, but when we were recording Katie for the first time for “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” she said to me, “You know, I think a 5-year-old would say, ‘Do you want to make a snowman?’ She wouldn’t say, ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’” And I said, “You know what, you’re right. But I just like ‘build’ better.”

Vulture: The best part about all these little girls singing “Let It Go” is when they turn into bitchy little divas following the line “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
Bobby: That was our little Avril Lavigne line. Because at the point when we were writing the song, Elsa was really more of a villain. And you know, the character evolved after the song but I think it still works.

Kristen: Now, I’m assuming that they have known each other for more than a day, and that things are gonna work out well for them. And it’s adorable, and I just love that it happened. And you have to just erase the fact that that song was written to basically be shallow. [Laughs] I will say that, when Bobby and I wrote that song — we sing our kids to bed every night , and for about a month, they just wanted us to do the duet version of “Love Is An Open Door.” And we really enjoyed it.
Bobby: I don’t know if they wanted it, but we definitely did it for a month, yeah. [Laughs]
Vulture: Was “finish each other’s sandwiches” an Arrested Development reference?
Kristen: Ohhhh, this is so controversial. Bobby had watched the show. I had not. But I wrote that lyric.
Bobby: And I didn’t catch it as a reference until my brother said, “You guys were quoting Arrested Development?” and I said, “Huh?” and then I watched it and went, “Oh, no.” And we actually pitched Disney on a couple alternate lines, but in the end they insisted on this one.
Kristen: [Sings] “We finished each other’s — sauerkraut.” It just didn’t have the same ring. But I will go to the grave saying: I wrote that lyric while eating a sandwich.

Bobby: I discovered that on Tumblr. I think I was the one who made it popular! Because I thought it was amazing. I guess any child’s song, if you kind of pitch it a little bit eerily and detune it the way he did — like, “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you” — it will turn into something scary. But I was just impressed how the whole song kept building. It just feels like The Shining, the way it builds. And I thought it was perfect. Just perfect. [Laughs] We played it for Katie, whose voice it is, and she said, “Off! Turn it off! Turn it off!” She did not want to hear any more.

Frozen Songwriting Team Rates Fan Homages