Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 5 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]
- Rating: PG (for action/peril and some thematic elements)
- Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Kids & Family
- Runtime: 104 minutes
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
From the Cover of Frozen II (2019) by 20th Disney/Pixar:
“Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In Frozen Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In Frozen II she must hope they are enough.”
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.
- Why are Elsa and Anna afraid of change? Why does Elsa try to ignore the voice?
Caregiver Note: As Olaf laments to the falling autumn leaves “changes mocks us with her beauty.” Change is the one thing we can count on in life, though many times change can reek havoc on a child’s sense of safety and security. For Anna and Elsa, the three years since the events of Frozen (2013) have brought happiness and security neither have known since Elsa accidentally hitting Anna with her ice powers as children. Elsa especially wishes to ignore the coming changes due to not wanting to lose the comfortable life she has built in Arendelle with her sister. In the same way, children will often try their best to control situations even when it is not helpful for their cause. Caregivers should be mindful that sometimes when a child acts out that this is nothing personal but completely about trying to calm the storm inside they don’t understand.
- When Elsa and Anna have no choice but the investigate what is happening with the elements, what helps them with the change? Who helps them the most?
Caregiver Note: Caregivers should note that children in foster care struggle with immense feelings of loss once separated from their primary attachments (which usually are their biological parents). Even if the previous home was unsafe and full of pain, this is the only connection the child has even known and the unknown can be terrifying for a child in constant transition away from a primary attachment. This can manifest in intense separation anxiety and be very exhausting for a caregiver. However, our children need the constant reassurances to counter the constant whisperings and fears in their hearts. When discussing this point, remind them of how Anna told Elsa, “I don’t worry because I have you. And the gates are open and I’m not alone anymore.” If you remember from the first film, this was a huge source of anxiety for Anna and shows huge growth for her. Remind your child that you are there for them just as Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf (and even Sven) are there for Anna both in her heart and now in person.
- Why does Olaf let the Northuldra children mess with his face like a Potato Head doll? What does he mean by “controlling what you can when things feel out of control?”
Caregiver Note: Though they may not be able to connect the feelings to the behavior, our children from foster and adoptive backgrounds sometimes try to regain a sense of control in (seemingly) chaotic behaviors born out of traumatic experiences. This can be a great discussion to help your child connect how perhaps they may act out more when things feel chaotic. Discuss strategies together on how you can help bring calm to the chaos in those moments where words will fail.
- When things feel out of control, how can we help you control things that you can? What can we agree to make your choice?
Caregiver Note: Children in foster care, regardless of age, have very few things they can control. They are often at the mercy of their parents’ progress on court orders and must live wherever the department deems they must. All the change means intense monitoring of activities and peer involvement. Take this as an opportunity to discuss some things that your child can control, whether that means picking a meal one night a week, choosing their outfits for the day, or even giving input on peer involvement. Make of note of things that perhaps could be advocated with the Child & Family Team as well, such as attending activities that promote normalcy like sleepovers and extracurricular activities.
- Activity: Snowman Faces
Caregiver Note: Gather together large, white pieces of cardstock and several smaller pieces of cardstock of various colors. Also pick up some sprayable adhesive like Tacky Spray. Help your child cut out a snow-creature’s head and several face pieces and accessories. Spray the head with Tacky Spray and arrange the face pieces and accessories. When you are done, you can always take the cardstock off and let the child rearrange the pieces to show how they are feeling that day. This can be a wonderful and meaningful decoration on the refrigerator during the winter months even if you don’t have snow!
- When Olaf says “Growing up means adapting”, what do you think that means? Why does Olaf think that when he’s older things will be less frightening?
Caregiver Note: Often children are afraid of things they do not understand or cannot fathom. I once had a small child I worked with who was terrified of “black holes” and constantly had to run to the bedroom and reassure her that there was not a “black hole” in her room. If I asked the little one (who was about 2 years old at the time) what a “black hole” was or looked like, she never could tell me and would only be consoled if I held her close and showed her the room was vacant of this creature. It wouldn’t matter if I told her black holes were in space and not going to “get her” (as she had heard of them from her older sibling’s interests in NASA projects), she had not developed the ability to think of abstract things and only knew there was something she didn’t understand. In the same way, our children are confronted with situations and experiences they have no way of fathoming whether traumatic or typical to adolescent development but it can be reassuring to know that, even though being an adult certainly does not fix everything, that as children grow they can learn and understand better what is happening around them and that will knowledge there can be less fear. Also remind them that “fear cannot be trusted” but that you can be trusted.
- When Anna is left alone in the cave why was doing “the next right thing” important? How can doing “the next right thing” be a way to control an out of control feeling?
Caregiver Note: Anna is completely devastated. Earlier in the film she confided in Elsa, “I don’t worry because I have you. And the gates are open and I’m not alone anymore.” Suddenly, she is without Elsa, stuck in a cave, and completely alone. It would be easy for Anna to completely give up at this point. But, after taking some time to cry and let out her frustration and feelings of immense loss for Elsa and Olaf, she begins to take steps forward towards a light in hopes of escaping the dark cave. This can be connected for children to help demonstrate that moving forward does not mean that they have to have themselves completely together. Problems are not solved as quickly in movies, but picking the “next right thing” and starting there can give just a little bit of control, and hope, over a situation that seems impossible.
- Olaf calls an enchanted forest a “place of transformation”. What are some places of transformation for you? How can we make them less scary?Caregiver Note: Children in foster care have so many enchanted forests presently and ahead of them in addition to the typical changes that come with growing up. This can look like changes that take place in schools, therapy, agency meetings, and even in going home for children that are able to reunify with their family of origin. This can be a good place to talk about which of these places that your child may need more concentrated support. Remember, because we have more knowledge about the situation than our children usually do about how cases are moving and transitioning, any meeting with a worker or staff can suddenly feel like a child is going “into the unknown” like Elsa.
- At the end of the film, Anna apologizes to Kristoff and he says “My love is not fragile”. How can I remind and show you my love for you is not fragile too?
Caregiver Note: Just as we all have our own unique love languages, so do our foster and adoptive children. This can be a great opportunity to find how children best wish to receive love and support from us and even how perhaps we may be doing something that communicates fragility and may discourage a child from coming to us. It’s important for us as caregivers to be mindful of our body language and tone as well when our children are struggling, even if they can’t tell us that something we do is triggering, their bodies will react to past traumas that may or may not be remembered regardless of our intentions. Having one caring adult who is willing to stick with it even when storms are swirling inside and having that one caring adult show that consistency in that care over time can heal many of the memories below the surface.
- Activity: Water Memories
Caregiver Note: A fun thing that you may not know is that you can test the purity of honey with a water trick. With this trick, you can bring back an organic memory the way Elsa recreates memories stored in water. You will need a cup or bowl with a larger bottom (for the honey to spread out), real organic honey (local is best usually, as store brands often are more additives than honey), and water.
Have your child help you put some honey in the bottom of your cup or bowl. Then, add cool or room-temperature water to the container so there is enough to cover the honey while swishing the water. Help your child move the cup or bowl in a circular motion. If your honey is pure, you will begin to see the honey take the shape of the honey combs it was once harvested from.
With this talk to your child about how, like the honey, sometimes the brain remembers things in the body but not in memories and that this can be why sometimes they might find a situation frightening or stressful though they cannot remember why.
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.