Sunday’s Academy Awards held special meaning for the College. Kristen Anderson Lopez ’94 won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for her composition “Let it Go,” featured in the Disney movie Frozen. Lopez co-wrote the song with her husband Robert Lopez, who is now classified as an ‘EGOT’-someone who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award and the only such person to have won all four in one decade. Apart from the Oscar, all his awards can be attributed to his work on the Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, two wildly successful Broadway productions.
Frozen has already followed in the footsteps of such productions’ successes, perhaps even outshining them. Apart from winning the award for ‘Best Song,’ the Disney production also garnered the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the film has dominated box offices worldwide since Nov. 2013, grossing over $1 billion globally so far. Its soundtrack has spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard 200. “Let it Go” is its central song and now sits on the tip of many tongues around the world. Idina Menzel, the star of the film and the singer of the award-winning song revealed to Good Morning America that even her four-year-old son can’t stop singing the song. “My son sings ‘Let it Go’ to me in the bathtub!” Menzel said. Menzel performed the song at the awards ceremony to great applause, even after John Travolta’s faux pas in introducing her as “Adele Dazeem.”
But the award was not without great competition or controversy. In the category, alongside “”Let it Go” sat such notables as “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 by Pharrell Williams, “The Moon Song” by Karen O from Her and “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by U2. There was originally a fifth song, “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the eponymous film, which was disqualified due to the composer Bruce Broughton’s violation the Academy’s anti-campaigning rules. Apparently, Broughton sent emails to his friends asking them to assist him in winning the award after having heard of his nomination. To be eligible for the category in general, the songs must contain words and music written specifically for the given film, and must also be noticeable in the movie or as the first song playing during the end credits.
The eventual decision to award the Oscar to the Frozen husband-wife duo was without much contention. The song was, in fact, favored to win by publications such as Rolling Stone, who called it a “bona fide anthem that’s Disney’s single biggest and best song in a generation, a tremendous showcase for Idina Menzel’s genre defining pipes and a rallying cry for its new not-your-mother’s-princesses vibe.” But its predictability does not make the award any less of a major coup for the two first-time nominees.
The song, although definitely acclaimed for its musical and melodic prowess, has received equal attention for its empowering and socially conscious lyrics. Entertainment Weekly’s Marc Snetiker described the song as “an incredible anthem of liberation,” while Joe Dziemianowicz of The New York Daily News called it “a stirring tribute to girl power and the need to ‘let go’ of fear and shame.” Its role in the story of the film played as much part in its acclaim as any other aspect did.
Robert Lopez, when speaking to the LA Times, attributes this to his wife, claiming that her penchant for narrative was what won them the job in the first place. “They pitched us this story. Whenever Disney asks if you want to do a fairy tale musical, you say yes. I think part of the reason they wanted us was because of her [his wife, Kristen]. She has this great head for story. I think they wanted Frozen to benefit from her story talent and our musical instincts.” In fact, “Let it Go” was the first song written for the film and ultimately changed the entire narrative direction. Originally, Menzel’s character, Elsa, was intended to play the role of a villain but after having heard the song, co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee rewrote her into being one of the film’s protagonists. The Lopezes also credit Menzel with making the song come to life, telling The Wall Street Journal that her voice is “one of the most glorious voices of Broadway and an icon in musical theater.”
Kristen Anderson Lopez is sure to continue flourishing in the entertainment industry with her Drama Desk Awards-winning musical In Transit coming to Broadway soon as well as her work underway on a new romantic stage musical Up Here with her husband. The College is fortunate to count her among its many talented alumni.