Customer Experience Secrets From “Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2”

Into The Unknown Art

I watched “Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2” this month on Disney Plus. If you’ve not seen it, you’re missing an entertaining, 6-part documentary that focuses on the challenges and creativity needed to undertake not just any Disney animated feature, but the follow-up to what had been Disney’s most successful animated feature, “Frozen.”

But, that success came well before November 2019 when “Frozen 2” appeared on the movie screens everywhere and became the highest grossing animated film of all time, plus the third-highest grossing film of 2019 and the tenth-highest grossing film ever. That record-breaking success, however, took 4 years of planning and the labor of 400-plus film making visionaries at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The documentary was created from over 1,300 hours of footage, shot over 115 days, beginning in December 2018. The docu-series takes the viewer behind the scenes of many aspects of the production from voice acting, storyboarding and animation, the songwriting process, private screenings, to the first audience preview of “Frozen 2” in San Diego a little less than one year later.

Unlike other behind-the-scenes film documentaries, though, “Into the Unknown” focuses heavily on how the key people most directly involved in the creative process—from the co-directors, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, to the incredibly talented cast, production team, animators, script writers, music writers and musicians, effects artists, and more—all came together to create something truly magical once again.

Watch the trailer for “Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2:”

As a Disney geek, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey behind the scenes. But, as a business owner, I noted three, blockbuster movie making processes used in the making of “Frozen 2” that can be easily adapted to generate blockbuster, “WOW!” level customer experiences in your business and in far less time than it takes to produce an Academy Award winning sequel..

1. Create The Experience For Your Customers.

It is obvious from the very beginning of “Frozen 2” production that the film making process was a team endeavor with a heavy focus on wowing the audience. As a matter of fact, co-director Jennifer Lee, says in the documentary, “For ‘Frozen 2,’ there’s a sense of responsibility and high expectations. We don’t want to let the fans down. We’re making this movie for them.”

There’s also an overwhelming sense of commitment from the filmmakers to not let past successes make them complacent as they strive to recapture lightning in a bottle.

Into the Unknown The Making Of Frozen 2 Directors

(from left to right) “Frozen 2” co-director Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho, and co-director and writer Jennifer Lee.

When it comes to delivering customer experiences, do you approach the process with a sense of responsibility and high expectations to “WOW!” your customers? Are you consistent in delivering a high-level experience each and every day?

Each return visit a customer makes to your business should be treated as a blockbuster sequel…a chance to go above and beyond their expectations…to capture lightning in a bottle.

The design of customer experiences is not a means to make your business look good. It should be a process focused on putting your customers in the spotlight, making them feel so valued, special, and important they’ll be excited to come back for more…and bring their friends and family with them.

2. Walk (or Run) In Your Customers’ Shoes.

Throughout the documentary, viewers are introduced to the creative minds responsible for drawing the various characters of “Frozen 2” and to the struggles they encounter in getting the animation sequences exactly right.

Melanie Walters, a supervising animator for Elsa, had her boyfriend film her running down the street as a reference for Elsa running. “You want to get whatever reference you’re using to be as accurate as possible to the shots, so it’s more informative that way,” Walters said of the rather unconventional technique. In other words, to fully realize the detailed movements of the character so it could be drawn as an accurate, realistic depiction, Ms. Walters had to first walk—or more appropriately, run in Elsa’s shoes.


Customer experience is all about how you make your customers feel, from first contact through the duration of their relationship with your business.  Much like an animator, to fully reference those feelings, you have to walk (or run) through every touch-point of your business, just as your customers do, in search of ways to make them say “WOW!” with each encounter; while at the same time, removing flash-points that can detract from the experience.

As an example, how easy do you make it for your customers to navigate your website? How quickly does it load? How simple is it for your customers to contact you? How responsive are you to your customers’ needs, wants and expectations? What trouble spots or flash-points can you identify, modify, or remove that will make the entire journey of doing business with you one that will transform satisfied customers into loyal, raving fans?

These are just a couple of the dozens of touch-points your customers encounter during the journey of doing business with you. To make certain that journey is an accurate depiction of the emotional experience you want them to enjoy, you (or your team members) should make a regular habit of looking at your business from your customer’s point of view.

The goal is to make the experience of doing business with you so incredibly easy and enjoyable that customers would find it extraordinarily difficult to take their business elsewhere.

3. If You Can Do Better, You Have To Do It.

Some of the most moving sequences of “Into The Unknown” is seeing the humble, painstaking, collaborative effort of cast and crew to assure that the quality of the production would live up to their high expectations before one frame of film could be shared with the general public.

Every 3 months the animators privately screened what they had created in front of an audience of their fellow, “Frozen 2” production team peers alongside other accomplished, Disney animators. At the conclusion of those screenings, the film’s directors and the numerous production heads would listen intently to the objective, sometimes intense feedback from their select audience.

Frozen 2 Screening

That level of humility is what it takes to complete such a massive project…not to mention Academy Award caliber films. In some cases, that feedback literally pushed animators back to the drawing board to start over. At times, it also caused scripts to be shredded, forcing screen writers, song writers, actors, and others to completely redo their previous work.

At no time in the documentary do you ever see or hear anyone complain, though, about the feedback. Instead, they treated their peers’ comments as an invaluable opportunity to improve upon their work and in achieving the ultimate goal of assuring the film’s chances of going above and beyond fan expectations.

As co-director, Jennifer Lee, says (and demonstrates throughout the film making process) “If you can do better, you have to do it.”

How open are you in your business to listening intently to good, bad or maybe even intense feedback from your customers on how they feel about the experience of doing business with you? I’m not talking about on-line reviews. On-line reviews only tell part of the story. They don’t address the valuable details that could help you elevate the customer experience to Academy Award winning caliber.

Just like the production team of “Frozen 2,“ if you can do better, you have to do it. To ignore the opportunities presented to you to “do better“ can be detrimental to the success of your business.

To gain a true customer assessment, you need to dig deeper, either through face-to-face conversations, focus groups or through surveys. Regardless of the method, you must be humble and courageous enough to ask the most difficult questions. “Where can we improve?” “How could we have made the process better for you?” “How could we have made your time with us more efficient and more enjoyable?”

No doubt it’s difficult asking tough questions without knowing for certain what the exact response will be. You might say its like stepping into the unknown. (Pun intended.) But, demonstrating that kind of humility is necessary in order to learn what processes are in need of attention. The least appealing alternative is to continually operate your business not knowing what you don’t know.

How your customers respond to your questions gives you an invaluable opportunity to, either build upon the quality experiences your customers enjoy most or to shred the disruptions and barriers they feel detracted from the “WOW!“ level experience you intended.

The success of customer experience, like a movie, is about the emotional impact it has on the audience. Your customers‘ input may force you back to the drawing board to start over and try again, but it will better assure your chances of exceeding your audience’s expectations in the long run. If you can do better, you have to do it.

Just like it was for the “Frozen 2” production team, your past successes mean little when placed next to the ever-evolving expectations of your fans, your loyal customers. Your success relies on doing what is in their best interest and never letting them down. The experience you deliver is for them.  So, walk in your customers’ shoes, listen intently to their opinions of the experience you deliver and do whatever is necessary to make the needed adjustments, even if it means starting over from scratch.

If you can do better, you have to do it. That’s how blockbusters are made. That’s how Academy Award winners are made. That’s how “WOW!” level experiences are made that will attract more of the high-spending, loyal, raving customers you want to attract most to your business.

I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite moments from “Into The Unknown: Making Frozen 2” to share with you. You’ll find those clips here.

Photos via Disney.

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Ron Ruth is a proud member of the National Speakers Association and is an eSpeaker Certified Virtual PresenterThis article authored by: Ron Ruth  |  Keynote Speaker, Customer Experience Design Consultant & Coach, Founder of the Inspiramaginativity™ Institute.

Ron Ruth, Keynote Speaker, Customer Experience Design Specialist and Creative Brainstorming Facilitator.

Ron is the author of “How To Speak Fluent “WOW!”—The Language of High-Spending, Loyal, Raving Customers.”

Contact Ron to speak at your upcoming event, either in-person or on-screen (virtually), or to provide a special, Customer Experience training session for you and your team – email or call (816) 224-4487.

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