The Surprising Musical Connection Between ‘Frozen 2’ and ‘The Shining’

Disney films have been inspired by everything from Arabian folktales to Marvel Comics. Frozen and Frozen 2 were inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” One of the songs from Frozen 2 was inspired by something much darker.

Jack Nicholson looking through a door in a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

The dark undercurrent of ‘Frozen 2’

The Shining opens with an iconic scene of a car driving into the Colorado mountains, set to an especially ominous version of “Dies Irae.” “Dies Irae” is a hymn about the biblical Day of Judgement, when all the souls of the dead will rise and be judged by God. “Dies Irae” is a perfect fit for The Shining given its focus on death and resurrection. What’s surprising, however, is how this hymn was incorporated into Frozen 2.

Frozen 2 features a new song called “Into the Unknown,” which sees Queen Elsa communicating with a mysterious voice akin to a siren. Like all of the songs in the Frozen franchise, “Into the Unknown” was written by Robert Lopez, who is also known for his work on Coco, Avenue Q, and The Book of Mormon. When discussing “Into the Unknown” with Vanity Fair, Lopez said it incorporates “‘Dies Irae,’ it’s from a Gregorian chant and it’s all associated with death and danger. You can hear it in tons of movie scores over the years…At the beginning of The Shining.”

‘Dies Irae’ in all your favorite movies

A poster for It’s A Wonderful Life | LMPC via Getty Images

The Shining was not the first iconic film to use this music to symbolize danger. The Guardian reports the song also appears in a morbid scene in the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. The Guardian also noted its use in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and The Lion King. The use of “Dies Irae” might have become a bit of a cliche at this point, but it’s not likely to go away given the hymn’s public domain status. Beyond that, the tune is both haunting and beautiful, meaning new generations of composers grow to love it.

The mysterious voice in “Into the Unknown” is played by Norwegian singer Aurora. While the melody she sings is inspired by an old hymn, her vocals were inspired by, of all things, livestock farming. Lopez explained “The type of singing is inspired by kulning, which is a shepherdess’s call from Scandinavia.”

The many inspirations behind ‘Frozen 2’

Olaf of Frozen | Matt Stroshane/Disney Parks via Getty Images

Inspiration for the Frozen 2 soundtrack came from a myriad of places. In the film, Anna sings a ballad called “Lost in the Woods.” The New York Times reports the song was inspired by Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.” Meanwhile, the film’s version of “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” was influenced by the music of 1970s rock titans Queen and Chicago.

The Frozen franchise is known for taking the familiar and making it extraordinary. While the films are similar to earlier Disney movies, they also subvert many Disney tropes. Fittingly, “Into the Unknown” takes a well-known musical motif and turns it into something new and exciting.