Frozen II

Frozen 2, Climate Lit

“Our lands and people, now connected by love.” 

Frozen 2 showcases how the work of climate justice requires the courage to confront the colonial past and the courage to imagine a new, equitable relationship with nature and other peoples.

Frozen 2 extends the story of Elsa and Anna (see Frozen) through investigating the source of Elsa’s ice powers and their kingdom’s history. When Elsa hears a strange voice calling to her, she decides to go into an enchanted forest to investigate along with Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff. They meet nature spirits and the Northuldra, the Indigenous people that Anna and Elsa’s mother belonged to. The girls also find their parents’ ship and are able to witness the memory of their last moments. Much like the first movie, Elsa sends Anna away so that she can learn about her power on her own. Elsa finds out that their paternal grandfather killed the leader of the Northuldra to weaken the Indigenous people’s ability to use nature magic and thus “tame” their rivers and land. Elsa’s discovery ultimately means that she freezes to death. But her last act is to send a message to Anna, asking her to destroy the dam that their paternal grandfather built, even though doing so would destroy Arendelle. When Anna does so, Elsa thaws and becomes a nature spirit. As such, Elsa is able to save Arendelle from the ensuing tidal wave. The film ends with Anna ruling Arendelle and Elsa remaining with the Northuldra. 

Frozen 2 invites conversations about climate justice and environmental justice: about our responsibility to set things right after we recognize how one people’s prosperity can be built on the destruction of another people’s environments (see environmental injustice and slow violence). The “treaty” Elsa and Anna’s grandfather established with the Northuldra turns out to be an act of ecocide through violence against the Indigenous people and their land (represented by murder and the building of a dam). It all works for a while, although the enraged nature spirits of the Enchanted Forest (see animism) trap the Northuldra and a few Arendellian soldiers behind an impenetrable wall of mist: a concept that reflects the slow violence of environmental destruction. Eventually, however, violence against nature turns against the perpetrators too and now the kingdom of Arendelle is threatened unless someone corrects past mistakes. Elsa and Anna reject their grandfather’s colonial domination, resource extraction, and the taming of nature. They become agents of ecological restoration and environmental justice, choosing harmony with nature as the path forward. Elsa risks her life to investigate her unfairly won privilege, and Anna finds the courage to act on Elsa’s discovery despite the consequences. Elsa ultimately becomes a bridge between the human and natural world.

Disney expresses a more overt climate change theme in this sequel than they did in the original, though they noticeably avoid representing the corporate culprits of real-world climate change by locating the problem in the actions of one king. Disney’s choice to feature the Northuldra characters, modeled on the Sámi people, reminds the audience that ecocide is almost always part of colonial violence and showcases the historical impact of human-caused climate disasters on Indigenous people. Decolonization and healing nature must go hand in hand. Frozen 2 was developed with cultural consultants from the Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the Saami Council, though they did not employ Sámi voice actors for any of the Northuldra characters.

©2021 ClimateLit (Sara Austin and Emily Midkiff)

More Frozen franchise reviews:

This film is featured in the Climate Literacy in Education’s critical essay: ““The Next Right Thing”: Frozen 2 and Youth-Led Activism

Publisher: Disney, 2019

Pages: 103 min.

ISBN: n/a

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Films

Topics: Activism, Animals, Animism, Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Colonization, Conservation, Ecocide, Ecological Restoration, Ecosystems, Environmental Injustice, Environmental Justice, Extreme Weather Events, Flood, Forests, Human Impact, Industry, Slow Violence, Youth Climate Activism