Frozen 3 has the chance to tell Arendelle’s most ambitious story to date with the adaptation of another classical fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the author of the story that Disney based Frozen on. Frozen is loosely based on the classic tale of The Snow Queen by Andersen, famous for works such as The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. Disney’s adaptation tells the story of Elsa (Idina Menzel), a queen cursed to a life of permanent winter due to her unstable power to create ice and snow. The sequel Frozen 2 expanded the franchise’s world beyond the kingdom of Arendelle, introducing the Enchanted Forest and the Northuldra people. Frozen 3 could offer further worldbuilding — by incorporating elements of Andersen’s story The Wild Swans.
Frozen has become the most successful 3D-animated title of all time, with its two installments being in the top 15 all-time highest-grossing films; it’s won two Oscars, two Grammys, and an immense loyal following. The first film, released in 2013, sparked a cultural phenomenon that had children all around the world singing the Frozen soundtrack for hours on end, and all media bombarded with news, song covers, themed events, parodies, and all kinds of homages. Six years later, Frozen 2 built on top of the success of its predecessor and became the highest-growing animated film of all time. Now, the anticipation for a third movie is bigger than ever.
The Wild Swans has a similarly named princess — Elisa — as the protagonist. She lives happily with her father and her eleven brothers until the king marries an evil witch who turns the princes into swans. A fairy appears and tells Elisa to make each of her brothers a shirt out of nettles so the spell can be broken, but she must remain completely silent. The archbishop of the kingdom mistakes Elisa for a witch while she’s gathering the nettles and, because she’s unable to deny it without breaking her vow of silence, she’s appointed for execution. However, she finishes the shirts and tosses them on the swans, reverting them to princes.
The two fairytales share thematic elements of sisterly love, vulnerability, and sacrifice. Either as allies or enemies, Queen Elsa and Princess Elisa offer an interesting parallel that could be exploited in various different ways. Of course, as is the case with all of the previous adaptations, Disney needs to modify the story to make it appropriate for young generations, and those changes will dictate whether Elsa’s mission is to help Elisa turn her brothers back to normal or whether Elisa somehow becomes Elsa’s dark reflection. Whatever route Disney chooses, the clash between two fairytales could inject the Frozen trilogy with an epic sense of magnitude.
The Wild Swans has been adapted many times before, including an animated short film narrated by Alien star Sigourney Weaver and a Soviet animated feature. But despite its popularity, the story has yet to be adapted as a major Hollywood production. This doesn’t mean it’s less worthy of being a feature film, though, since Frozen suffered the same issue for decades. As opposed to other famous Disney adaptations like Snow White and Cinderella, it took a long time for Disney to adapt The Snow Queen as Frozen, but the wait was well worth it. This also further connects the two stories, allowing the possibility of turning the two most overlooked classical fairytales into the biggest possible Disney adaptation — or perhaps even a shared universe of sorts.
In the first Frozen movie, Elsa accepts her identity and opens up to be loved the way she is. In Frozen 2, Princess Anna and Queen Elsa amend the mistakes from the past and make peace with their history. Now, with their story well established, Frozen 3 needs to raise the stakes for the sisters and the kingdom of Arendelle to their maximum degree. What better option than bringing another classical fairytale to the big screen for the first time? Andersen’s The Wild Swans is a perfect candidate.
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