Those who have seen Frozen 2 already or who have been paying attention to the film’s trailers will know that Elsa and Anna encounter a tribe of indigenous people called the Northuldra in the upcoming sequel. But you may not know that Disney went to great lengths to avoid cultural appropriation, even going so far as signing a contract with an indigenous culture agreeing to respectfully portray their people in Frozen 2.
The first Frozen film opened with a choral chant that likely wasn’t recognizable to many audiences before seeing the film. But to the indigenous Sámi culture in Scandinavia, the chant meant so much more. The song — also used throughout Frozen 2 — was written by South Sámi musician and composer Frode Fjellheim, who draws on the ancient Nordic Indigenous vocal tradition joik that was later outlawed when these communities were Christianized.
And in the years since the song was first used in Frozen, it has sparked debate about whether or not Disney culturally appropriated or even whitewashed the Sámi people and their culture. So to avoid appropriation and erasure of the Sámi in Frozen 2, Disney made an effort to sign a contract with Sámi leaders in order to affirm their culture. The Frozen 2 team — including Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Peter Del Vecho — sought expert advice in order to portray Indigenous culture in the most respectful way possible.
Disney was inspired by Sámi culture for not only the Northuldra songs but also their dress and their connection to the land and its elements. Getting their clothing right was especially important when considering that Indigenous people are often the subjects of cultural appropriation through costumes. And the Sámi culture hold specific beliefs about nature, so Disney wanted to get these things right. Disney also agreed to create a Sámi-dubbed version of Frozen 2 (they did something similar when they agreed to dub Moana in Maori, Tahitian, and Hawaiian languages).
We don’t want to spoil important plot points of Frozen 2, but we will say that the Northuldra tribe inspired by Sámi culture plays a very important role in the Frozen sequel. And given how present they are throughout the film, it’s great to know that Disney wanted to avoid cultural appropriation at all costs.
The contract was signed by Frozen 2 producer Peter Del Vecho and Sámi parliament representatives and outlines Walt Disney Animation Studios’s “desire to collaborate with the Sámi in an effort to ensure that the content of Frozen 2 is culturally sensitive, appropriate and respectful of the Sámi and their culture.” Take a look below:
“Disney’s team really wanted to make it right,” says Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute. “They didn’t want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration.”
Frozen 2 isn’t the first film where Disney has made an effort to respectfully portray people of color, and by the looks of it, it won’t be their last. But as fans of the studios, the animated Frozen film franchise, and the narratives and themes of Disney movies, we’re happy to see that the Frozen 2 team went to such lengths to be respectful when including the fictional Northuldra tribe in their story.
What do you think of the way Disney approached the portrayal of Indigenous cultures in Frozen 2? Let us know your take in the comments!
Source: Now Toronto