Whether you loved Disney’s Frozen or you’re beyond sick of hearing your little cousin sing “Let It Go” on repeat, there’s no denying Elsa, Disney’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, is an interesting character. She’s neither the villain nor the hero; she’s a princess, but she breaks many unspoken Disney Princess conventions. Forbidding your eighteen-year-old sister from marrying a man she just met? In 2019, that seems fairly normal. But compared to other Disney-remastered fairy tales like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Elsa also inspired young children all over the world because of her ice powers. They all want to be able to create a beautiful ice castle, bring snowmen to life, and make stunning gowns out of nowhere. Not to mention, she goes on to become the ruler of Arendelle, and really, who wants to be a princess, when you could be a Queen? And finally, she conquered Disney fans’ hearts with her beautiful ballad, “Let It Go.” Translated and sung in dozens and dozens of different languages, this powerful song really captured the message of the movie (and has been stuck in everyone’s head since 2013—thanks, Disney).
Thing is, there’s more to Elsa than cool ice powers and a catchy song. She’s a pretty complex character, and there are many things that people get wrong about her. Stay tuned to learn everything you didn’t know you needed to know about Elsa, the Snow Queen of Arendelle! Here are 25 things people get wrong about Elsa.
25 She Wasn’t Meant To Be A Hero
Little girls today love Elsa! She’s beautiful, she’s a queen, she has ice powers and her own castle. She’s misunderstood, but she’s nice. Right? Well, it’s not so simple.
In Disney’s original script, Elsa was actually the villain of the movie.
She was conceptualized quite differently, and intentionally cursed Arendelle with an eternal winter. Later, the writers switched up the script so that Elsa could become a more nuanced, complex character, rather than a one-dimensional villain. After the ballad “Let It Go” was written, there was no doubt left: this Elsa wasn’t sinister.
24 A Snow Queen Inspired By Hans Christian Andersen
You might think Frozen isn’t inspired by childhood fairytales, unlike many Disney movies. Turns out, while Kris, Sven, Anna, Olaf, and Co. are completely made up characters, Elsa is actually based on a character from a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. She is inspired by the Snow Queen, from the story by the same name. This explains why writers first thought of her as a villain, as there’s nothing nice about Andersen’s Snow Queen. Frozen was initially titled The Snow Queen, and, in some translations, writers kept the original title.
23 Her First Designs Didn’t Feature A Blonde Braid
As Elsa wasn’t meant to be a hero, her first character designs were more punk-rock than her gloves, dress, and blonde braided hair.
Initially, Elsa had short, spiky black hair, that would turn ice-blonde during the “Let It Go” sequence.
This design provided more of a before/after contrast, but it was scrapped along with Elsa’s role as a villain. Another design featured ice-blue skin and flaming blue hair. That certainly sounds impressive, but hard to reconcile with the Elsa we know and love!
22 She Has More In Common With Anna Than You’d Think
Elsa and Anna may seem as different as night and day, at first. Elsa is broody, quiet, and authoritative; she lacks confidence in herself and lives in fear of her own powers. In contrast, Anna is a much more traditional Disney Princess, bubbly, sweet, and outgoing. The two sisters have their differences and their disagreements, but they have more in common than you’d think. They share a love for chocolate, for instance! The Frozen short released a few years after the original movie shows the two sisters being much closer after the events of the 2013 movie.
21 She Is Only The Second Disney Princess To Have Powers
Disney movies are all about magic and fantastical things. Ariel was a mermaid, Mulan had a dragon, Belle married a cursed prince, Aurora had fairy godmothers… and yet very few Disney princesses have their own powers.
In fact, only Elsa and Rapunzel from Tangled possess true magical abilities.
In Wreck It Ralph 2, Elsa seems to forget this, as she asks Princess Vanellope if she has “magic hands.” In many ways, Elsa breaks the archetypal mold of the traditional Disney Princess.
20 And Also The Second To Not Have A Love Interest
Turns out, true love sells: almost all Disney Princes and Princesses get their happily ever after with a romantic partner. Elsa is only the second princess to make it through the entire movie without being stuck with a love interest of some sort, the first being Merida from Brave. In fact, as you may remember, Elsa challenges the way Disney Princesses usually behave around their crushes when she forbids Anna to marry a man she’s just met. With good reason, as we later find out.
19 And The Only One To Become A Queen!
That’s right: she may officially be one of Disney’s 15 Princesses, but in her Kingdom, Elsa’s a Queen! And you’d better not forget it, too, because she’s a powerful one.
She’s the only one of the 15 Disney Princesses to become a Queen, which makes sense, as she’s the heir to Arendelle’s throne.
Unlike many of her fellow Princesses, she didn’t marry a prince. Elsa is even crowned on-screen! She’s Queen in more ways than one, too: she’s the Queen and ruler of Arendelle, but also the legendary Snow Queen.
18 She’s More Scared Than You’d Think
Many young Disney fans envy Elsa’s cool ice powers, but what some people get wrong is that the Snow Queen of Arendelle is scared by her magical abilities. There’s a reason she ran off, after all.
Her powers are basically unlimited, and, as she lives in fear of using them, her fear makes them stronger and more dangerous.
It’s a vicious, magical circle, and, until the end of the movie, Elsa is truly scared of her own abilities and of what she might do to people.
17 Her Love For Others Is Unconditional
She may be the Snow Queen and have ice powers, but Elsa’s heart definitely isn’t frozen. She deeply loves her sister and her people and is absolutely shattered when she injures Anna. Olaf may seem like a comical, somewhat annoying snowman, but he’s a testament to Elsa’s ability to love. Indeed, when she created Olaf, she created life for the first time, and Olaf is also the incarnation of a childhood memory with Anna, which shows how much Elsa loves her little sister.
16 The Original Snow Queen Was Made Of Ice
One of Elsa’s alternate designs—the one with blue skin—is a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. Indeed, in the fairy tale, the Snow Queen was beautiful, but inhuman, as she was quite literally made of ice. In contrast, Elsa’s final design seems almost warm. Other tributes to the Andersen made it into the movie, however, including the names of the character: Hans, Kris, Anna, Sven. They almost sound like “Hans Christian Andersen!” It’s pretty nice to see Disney include nods to the legendary writer.
15 Her Powers Go Beyond Just Creating Ice
Sure, Elsa’s the Snow Queen, so her powers are obviously centered around ice and snow. However, there’s a lot more to her magical abilities than snowflakes and ice castles. She makes a dress, for instance, which is an interesting power. As we’ve mentioned before, she creates life when she makes Olaf (and Marshmallow), making her powers almost god-like. We also see her melting or breaking ice, meaning she might potentially control water, too. Elsa’s powers are almost unlimited, and it’s quite probable she has many more hidden abilities.
14 Her Braid Was More Complicated To Animate Than Rapunzel’s Hair
You’d think Rapunzel’s long, flowing magical locks would have been trickier to animate than any other Disney Princess’ hair. That’s incorrect, however, as Elsa’s signature braid was surprisingly hard to animate.
The animators had to invent and use a whole new software, called Tonic, to get Elsa’s 420 000 strands of hair right!
That’s almost 20 times more strands than Rapunzel. In fact, her hair was so hard to animate, a small glitch made it into the final movie when she lets down her braid.
13 Her Ice Castle Is Inspired By The Hotel De Glace In Québec
While Frozen is set in Arendelle, a kingdom (or should we say, queendom) inspired by Norway, Disney animators had to go all the way to Québec, Canada to get inspiration for Elsa’s stunning ice castle. The Hotel de Glace is a stunning ice castle where guests get to sleep (with coats and hats and gloves and many, many warm blankets) in beds made of ice, in rooms made of ice, with ice statues as decorations. Since the release of the movie, the hotel has added a Frozen-themed suite to its rooms.
12 She’s Not A Teenager (Unlike Other Disney Princesses)
Elsa’s a Queen while other Disney heroines are princesses, which makes sense, as she’s a bit older than your typical Disney protagonist. Snow White, the original Disney Princess, was only fourteen, which also makes her the youngest Disney Princess. Most of the others are between 16 and 18 years old; only Tiana and Cinderella are 19. At 21 years old, Elsa is the oldest Disney Princess and the only one who’s not still in her “teens,” which partially explains why she’s a bit more mature and reserved.
11 Elsa’s Movements Reflect Idina Menzel’s
Idina Menzel, the legendary Broadway actress who played Elphaba from Wicked, lent her voice to adult Elsa. To get Elsa’s movements in “Let It Go” just right, animators observed Idina as she sang. That’s why she seems so fluid and graceful while she’s singing her liberating ballad!
Disney worked really hard to have Elsa and Anna seem natural, both in their speech and in their movements. For instance, they had Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell (Anna) say their lines together, which is unusual.
10 She Had More Than One Voice Actress
Idina Menzel voiced adult Elsa, of course, and many other talented women dubbed the Snow Queen in translated versions of Frozen. But even in the English version, Elsa had several voice actresses.
Eva Bella voiced the young Elsa, and Spencer Lacey Ganus voiced teenaged Elsa.
Spencer Ganus also lent her voice to many other characters in several other films and video games, such as Happy Feet or the game Spider-Man 3, while Eva Bella went on to voice Shimmer in the popular cartoon Shimmer and Shine.
9 An Army Of Marshmallows
Olaf wasn’t the only living snowman Elsa created. During her voluntary exile, she also created Marshmallow, a much bigger, badder snow-creature. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is one snowman you don’t want to mess with.
Many people think she created this sole bodyguard to reflect her own loneliness.
The truth, however, is that Elsa was originally meant to have an army of Marshmallows…you know, since she was originally meant to be a villain. An army of giant snowmen marching on Arendelle does sound spooky.
8 Elsa Was Once Meant To Be Based On A Famous Singer
As you’re probably beginning to gather, many designs for Elsa were scrapped before Disney decided on the one we know and love today. One of these designs was meant to be based on late British jazz singer Amy Winehouse. Given it’s a quasi-requirement for Disney Princesses to be able to sing like larks, it makes sense that the designers would take their inspiration from real-life singers. We don’t know about you, but we would have loved to see what this version of Elsa might have turned out like.
7 Something Elsa’s Dubbers Have In Common
As I’ve mentioned before, Idina Menzel, who voiced Elsa, played the witch Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. This is actually something several of Elsa’s dubbers have in common.
Idina originated the role of Elphaba, and several of the voice actresses who played Elsa in foreign dubs of the film also played Elphaba.
That’s pretty cool to think about! For instance, Willemijn Verkaik played both Elphaba and Elsa in Germany, and Hye-Na Park lent her voice to the Korean version of “Let It Go” and played Elphaba in the Korean production of Wicked.
6 Elsa’s Powers: Not So Out Of Control
While it’s true that Elsa’s accidentally injures her sister and that she accidentally curses Arendelle with an eternal winter, her powers are not as out of control as they seem. Just like her ice castle, Elsa’s powers mirror her state of mind. Did you notice that when she’s angry, the castle grows red and menacing? The same goes with her powers—the more intense Elsa’s emotions are, the more powerful she is. If she’s not feeling good, her powers grow unstable. On the flip side, when she’s at peace, she can wield her powers with precision.
5 Not All The Critics Loved Her
Elsa and Anna weren’t just beloved by young Disney fans—critics responded largely in a favorable manner to Frozen, and especially to Elsa’s character. She’s complex, she’s got a catchy song, and she’s more level-headed than most of the other Disney Princesses: what’s not to love? But as it turns out, not all the critics liked Elsa of Arendelle. She received her fair share of criticism, and not only because every 6-year-old you know won’t stop singing “Let It Go.”
4 The Parallels Between Elsa And Elphaba
Elsa and Elphaba have more in common than Idina Menzel’s powerful voice. They’re both strong women who are shunned by their peers for being different; they’re both immensely powerful, both supported by “sweeter,” more conventionally princess-like characters (Glinda and Anna), and they both have an “I’ve had enough of this” moment that they express through songs. Indeed, both “Let It Go” and “Defying Gravity” deal with the characters embracing their power and deciding they’ll make their own rules; the songs are musically similar, too.
3 A Reason For Her Behaviour: She’s Anxious
I’ve already mentioned that Elsa lives part of her life in fear, but according to someone who knows Frozen inside and out, there’s more to it than just fear: director Jennifer Lee explains that the way Elsa behaves is “intentional to show anxiety and depression.” So when she shuts her sister out, she’s not being a bad sister: she’s dealing with mental illness. And when she flees Arendelle after injuring Anna, that can be seen as a manifestation of her anxiety.
2 Elsa And Anna Almost Weren’t Sisters
Can you imagine? Elsa and Anna are such an iconic duo that it’s hard to conceptualize one without the other. As it turns out, though, an early version of the script depicted Elsa and Anna not as sisters, but as two unrelated heroines. Elsa always was the Snow Queen of Arendelle, but, at some point, Anna was supposed to be a simple peasant, who traveled to the castle to ask the Queen to freeze her broken heart. Not quite as light-hearted and child-friendly, let’s say.
1 Elsa Isn’t Their First Attempt At A Snow Queen Adaptation
“The Snow Queen” was written and published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1844—that’s seventy-nine years before Disney Studios were even created. Suffice to say, Disney had plenty of time to adapt Andersen’s fairy tale as a movie.
They actually tried several times to reinterpret “The Snow Queen” but didn’t get to a satisfactory result until 2013.
When you think of the amount of work that went into the animation and the amount of research that went into the story (including bringing a live reindeer to the studio), that’s hardly surprising.