While not present in Frozen, Alfred Molina and Evan Rachel Wood voice King Agnarr and Queen Iduna in Frozen 2 – why were the characters recast?
Within Frozen 2, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna’s (Kristen Bell) parents, were voiced by Alfred Molina and Evan Rachel Wood, respectively, but those roles were recast from the first movie. In the first film of the Frozen franchise, Agnarr and Iduna were originally voiced by the character actor Maurice LaMarche and the co-director of Frozen, Jennifer Lee – so why were the voice actors for the former King and Queen of Arendelle recast in Frozen 2?
King Agnarr and Queen Iduna were featured very briefly within the beginning of Frozen. After consulting with the Rock Troll Pabbie (Ciarán Hinds), Agnarr and Iduna enforce the rule that Elsa’s magic should remain hidden from the rest of the world, including Anna, and seal off the castle. After Agnarr and Iduna leave on an unknown trip, the couple get caught in a storm at sea and the two disappear from the story. In Frozen 2, however, Agnarr and Iduna are featured more heavily throughout the film with flashbacks, one of which explains Agnarr and Iduna died trying to discover the source of Elsa’s powers on a voyage to Ahtohallan. Since their roles were relatively short within Frozen, one reason Agnarr and Iduna’s voice actors were recast for Frozen 2 is due to the fact that the demands of the roles increased dramatically within the sequel, specifically for Iduna.
Jennifer Lee, the former voice of Queen Iduna in Frozen and chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, is most notably known for writing, directing, and producing various Disney projects, such as Wreck-It-Ralph and Zootopia. Apart from voicing a few additional minor characters within Frozen, Queen Iduna appears to be Lee’s only voice acting role to date. When Iduna’s role within Frozen 2 began to involve an increased amount of acting and singing, Lee announced during a press conference for the film that she would be stepping down as the voice of Queen Iduna and would be replaced by Evan Rachel Wood. Not only was Wood chosen as Lee’s replacement for her acting ability and melodic singing voice, which is featured on Iduna’s solo ballad “All is Found”, but Lee likely stepped down because her own duties as director of Frozen 2 increased as well.
While there’s no official word from Disney why Maurice LaMarche was recast, LaMarche was most likely replaced for the same reason that Lee was recast as the voice of Iduna: the role of Agnarr was being expanded and demanded a voice actor with specific expertise that wasn’t necessary when casting the minor role in Frozen. While LaMarche is a skilled character actor, voicing iconic characters such as Brain in Pinky and the Brain, LaMarche has mainly lent his voice to comedic roles. Alfred Molina, LaMarche’s replacement within Frozen 2, has a wide variety of experience portraying dramatic roles on stage, within live-action, and animation, which was necessary to portray Agnarr given the character’s new direction within Frozen 2. While Frozen depicted Agnarr as a stern and authoritative father figure, the role within the sequel demanded more warmth and sympathy in order to establish Agnarr as a fair ruler and distance him from his father’s cruel actions against the Northuldra people.
Not only did Disney expand the roles of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna within Frozen 2 in order to address the mystery of what happened to Anna and Elsa’s parents in the beginning of Frozen, but their bigger role within the plot was also meant to combat a common trope found within many of Disney’s animated films: the absence of parental figures. Often implementing a tried-and-true formula, Disney’s animated films commonly begin with the tragic death or absence of a parental figure (especially that of mothers) during the protagonist’s formative years. While Frozen begins in a similar nature, Disney switches up their usual formula within Frozen 2 by bringing Anna and Elsa’s parents back through flashbacks, and specifically provides Iduna with a principal role, since her lullaby acts as the catalyst for the entire film and sends Elsa on her journey to Ahtohallan.
With the actors Alfred Molina and Evan Rachel Wood portraying Agnarr and Iduna, Frozen 2 follows the standard formula found in most Disney films while also paving the way for a new one where the protagonist(s) not only overcomes their tragic past, but can learn to be healed by it.
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Frozen Complete Series