Disney’s animated film Frozen was inspired by Saami culture, and for its sequel, Frozen 2, Walt Disney Animation Studios received consultation from a Saami working group (“Verddet”) on elements within the film that are inspired by the Indigenous people’s homelands. As a result, the film has also been dubbed into North Saami. We spoke to Christina Henriksen from the Saami Council about Saami elements in Frozen 2, how Saami culture was represented in an appropriate way, and what is means to a Saami audience to have a version of the movie in their mother tongue.
What is Saami about Frozen 2?
Without spoiling too much of the content, obviously there are a lot of elements in Frozen 2, or Jikŋon 2 as it is called in Saami, that are recognizable for a Saami audience. For me, the Saami way of thinking comes forward in parts of the movie. Some of the dresses are inspired by our traditional clothing, and the Northuldra people have similarities to Saami reindeer herders. There are many other elements that you might recognize if you are familiar with the Saami culture. Hopefully, watching Frozen 2 will make viewers curious about Saami and Indigenous peoples’ culture, and further seek knowledge.
How were you able to ensure that these elements were culturally appropriate?
One of the reasons why the Saami Council and the Saami Parliaments contacted Disney after Frozen 1, was to make sure that our culture and our history would be presented in an appropriate way. After receiving a positive response from the Walt Disney Animations Studios, we therefore established a cooperation group, which included representatives of the Saami Council and Saami Parliaments, Saami film institutions, and legal advisors. Through the cooperation between our group with Walt Disney Animation Studios, we could ensure that things were carried out on a proper way.
Was this consultation process not in place of the first part of Frozen?
Frozen 1 was inspired by Saami culture, I think we can say that. Disney representatives had travelled to Sápmi and been inspired, they had also talked to Saami people. But this time, for Frozen 2, it was the first time that there were actual negotiations, resulting in an agreement, and an organized cooperation with representatives from different parts of the Saami community and the Disney filmmakers.
What does this cooperation mean to Saami people?
The fact that the movie is dubbed into North Saami means a lot to the Saami audience especially to kids, who are now able to watch a popular movie like this in their own language. Another part of the agreement included a trainee program. We have just received 21 applications from Saami youth to become trainees in the Disney Animation Studios – this is a wonderful opportunity for our creative talents. Also the Saami film environment, including Saami synchronization, experienced growth after the cooperation. Thus, we have learned that it is possible to establish a respectful and constructive dialogue with large commercial corporations.
Do you think the movie can raise awareness about Indigenous peoples?
Yes, I think after making the movie Moana, in which Indigenous cultures of the Pacific were displayed in a contest manner, Disney may have realized that involving Indigenous peoples from the beginning might be a beneficial working method. These movies are a way of telling our stories – although they obviously are fictional. Frozen 2 is not necessarily a story from Sápmi, but through our cooperation we could ensure we were not culturally appropriated.