Out of the Disney Vault: Into the Unknown -- The Making of Frozen II
Let...*what* go, exactly?
As I watched — for the first time in forever and also the first time, period — the six-part documentary series Into the Unknown — The Making of Frozen II, I could not stop thinking about an entirely different film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. It’s not that the docuseries is unfocused. It’s that the context established by the docuseries sent me back to a night in the middle of May of 2012 in Tempe, Arizona. On that night, my wife and I were in an audience of a couple hundred people watching a rough, work-in-progress test screening of Wreck-It Ralph, followed by being part of a distinctive post-screening focus group. Yes, really.
In the moment, I cannot emphasize to you enough how excited I was. I knew enough — or presumed I did, more accurately — to expect that the roughness of the story would be plainly evident. My wife and I knew we were getting something far from completed, because we knew enough about the impending existence of Wreck-It Ralph to know that the film was still seven months from release, and could feasibly change based on audience feedback. We also knew that some of the people responsible for the making of the film were in the audience — a couple rows of the stadium-seating theater were cordoned off for people from Walt Disney Animation Studios. At the time, I can only tell you that I recognized one person among those two rows of VIPs: John Lasseter. Yes, really.
I was so stoked about being able to watch something so far in advance, in the same way that I was stoked about the mere potential of getting to have my feedback potentially guide or help refine whatever finishing touches had to be made on the film. (I don’t share that detail with you for any other reason so you can scoff at me for my naivete.) And about 20 or 30 minutes into the test screening, I got a sinking feeling that never went away. Because the thing is, I did not much like Wreck-It Ralph. And the reasons why I did not like the film made me realize, “There is no way that this film could possibly be overhauled in seven months, unless every single person in this theater is united in not loving the end product.” So it did not surprise me that, after the screening ended and the remaining 20 of us went to a separate, cleared-out theater to offer our feedback…I was the only person who was critical of the film. Yes, really.
This experience really served as an instructive moment as I watched Into the Unknown, a genuinely fascinating documentary focused with surprising clarity and honesty about a film that a) is massively, financially successful and b) absolutely makes no logical sense.