There’s a lot of things to like about Frozen. The animation is beautiful, the script is tight, the performances are great, and it even features a catchy tune or two. It’s also got some great sound. Check out the opening ice cutting sequence. It probably had whole cinemas ducking for cover in 3D but even in plain old 2D it works. The effects are great and when you get out from under the ice into the open air there’s that indefinable ‘softness’ to the soundstage that only happens in a snowy environment. And the film has a lot of it; ice, snow, crunchy, soft, cracking, and exploding and it all sounds just right. But my favourite thing about Frozen are some door knocks from right at the start.
The song “Do you want to build a snowman” is really a very clever bit of film making. It packs a huge amount of exposition and character introduction into just over 3 minutes of music you can happily hum along to (at least the first couple of times through!). But the bit I enjoy the most is the knocking.
The song has 3 distinct knocking sequences and the first two are pretty identical (6 secs and 53 secs) where Anna is trying to get her sister to join her in a bit of snowman construction. The distinct rhythm and timbre of the knocking in these two sequences is beautifully contrasted with the third sequence where an older Anna goes to her sisters room after their parent’s funeral (2:22). The 3 slow knocks have a distinct cadence and hollowness to them that not only fits the mood of the moment but also chimes nicely with the minor movement within the score.
I suppose for me this sequence of knocks highlights all the things that well thought out sound design can do to materially add to the narrative of a film. But it also makes me wonder if this kind of detailed consideration can really only be expected to exist within the world of animation? If this had been a live action sequence might efforts have been made to retain production sound? How might the door have sounded on set? Would it even have been real? How would the actor and performance have factored into decisions about effects? I don’t mean to imply that a live action film wouldn’t have had such a well considered sound treatment, rather that the myriad other considerations that come from working with actual live actors and sets might well have gotten in the way of this kind of subtlety in the reckoning. Regardless, this is currently one of my favourite pieces of sound in any film. Enjoy.