Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
Frozen II (2019) had some huge show-shoes to fill after the crazy success of Frozen (2013) and Disney/Pixar did not disappoint! The film did very well in handling some very heavy subject matter with age-appropriate story-telling and language with just the right amount of humor and song to keep children, teens, and adults all on the edge of seats. The cast was all perfectly utilized in the emotional and addictive soundtrack for some songs that will become the earworms for transitioning into the new year. If you haven’t already, go see this movie and enjoy!
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
Elsa and Anna, though not necessarily raised in foster care, were orphaned as teens when their parents allegedly died in the Southern Seas after their ship succumbed to a mighty storm. The first installment in the Frozen series covered some serious topics, but in Frozen II (2019) Disney/Pixar has decided to return to some questions left from the first movie. Why does Elsa have powers? Where did they come from? Did the former King and Queen of Arendelle know more than they let on to our favorite sisters? All of these questions are answered by the end of the film, but not without an outlander adventure north so that (literal) walls can be broken down to reveal the truth.
Children in foster care or adoptive circumstances often find themselves with unanswered questions as well relating to their family of origin. Though foster and adoptive youth may be very happy with their life now, lingering questions and secrets are hard to ignore during crucial points of development and identity. For this reason, children and youth of most ages can enjoy this film with their families.
- Change and “Growing Up”
Throughout the film there is a constant theme of change. Though Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf all find great contentment in their life in Arendelle, Elsa can sense that change is coming and absolutely unavoidable. There is change in circumstance upon Elsa learning her true identity, change for Anna and Kristoff’s relationship, and change for Olaf as he “grows up” or “gets older”. Children in foster care, more than the average child, often must endure and work through change in every aspect of life. In “home”, in “parents”, in schools, and even in what they eat!
- Truth Must Be Found, Not Hiding Secrets
In Frozen (2013), Elsa declared “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”. Frozen (2019) shows an Elsa ready to break down walls and move passed any barrier, done with hiding and secrets. “Truth must be found, without it I see no future”. Many foster and adoptive children and youth struggle with secrets that they have been told they must keep, whether it be due to threats of harm or separation from the only family they know. This film is an excellent tool to use to talk to children about how secrets can be damaging when kept and how telling the truth can help bring healing and connection, inside and outside.
- Memories Not Remembered
Amidst his trivia facts, Olaf states that water has memory. At first this appears to be a part of his usual drivel, but during the course of the film this becomes a literal fact as Elsa uses her powers to channel memories remembered by the elemental spirits in water form to reveal secrets of the past. Caregivers of foster and adoptive children, I am sure, would love to have this ability to turn back the time and find out what happened to our children. Often, foster and adoptive children have many traumas that they do not remember, but like the water in Frozen II (2019) their bodies and brains certainly remember and respond to triggers just as intensely as memories that are remembered. This can be a great discussion point to help children and caregivers alike better recognize and understand how trauma can be very present even if a child cannot name where it came from.
- Violence in Fight Sequences
There are a few battles from the past shown that include the use of swords, shields, and bows with intent to kill. There is also an incident that reveals that Elsa and Anna’s grandfather, King Runeard, murdered the Northuldra chief. There are also a few sequences that show earth giants chasing and throwing boulders at Anna.
- Elemental Disasters Similar To Weather Disasters
When the elemental spirits are trying to move people from an area there are sequences of floods, fires, earthquakes, and windstorms. This could be problematic for children who have endured acute traumas from related weather events.
- Death of Parents and Main Character
The deaths of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle are paramount to the plot and are discussed and visualized in a still image in ice of the two embracing before succumbing to the water from the storm that caused their ship wreck. Olaf also reenacts the entire first move to the the Arendelle guards and Northuldra villagers and this includes the deaths of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna, Anna’s freezing from the curse, and other perilous scenes. The most major spoiler and intense character death though, is of Olaf “flurrying” apart upon Elsa becoming frozen and cut off from her magic. Olaf is seen slowly fading out of conscious before disintegrating. Olaf is restored by the end of the film, but this was easily one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the film and caused the entire theater I was in to erupt in open sobbing. Themes of death, loss, and separation are always difficult for children but the loss of Olaf as a very beloved character can be very hard for children who already have struggles with loss.
- Suggestive Jokes
There aren’t many suggestive humor pieces in this film, but Olaf does respond in one scene as if he believes the Northuldrans are offended by him being “naked” and takes off pants in another scene, announcing that he doesn’t understand how Kristoff can wear them for even an hour. This may be problematic for any children who disrobe too frequently but the joke may not register fully depending on the age.
- Elsa Hears Voices
This is not treated as a mental health issue, but caregivers should be aware that in the beginning of the film Elsa is bothered by hearing voices others cannot. This eventually turns out to be the elemental spirits communicating with her (as she is one herself), but this may still be problematic for a child who has struggled with responding to internal stimuli such as hearing voices.
About the Author: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.