'Let It Go': A Hit Song, Spawned From Partnership

Apr 24, 2014
Originally published on September 11, 2014 9:25 am

Has "Let It Go," the showstopper from Disney's Frozen, been stuck in your head all winter? You're probably humming it right now. It's a big-sounding song with a strong emotional core, written by husband-and-wife songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. If Queen Elsa, once destined to be the story's villain, is Frozen's superhero, then the Lopezes view "Let It Go" as her origin story moment.

Their own origin story is equally as magical, hinted at in the way the charming pair finishes each other's sentences (and sandwiches). Of their first meeting at a musical theatEr workshop, Kristen says: "I fell in love with him immediately." Bobby says: "I thought, 'Thank God, someone who gets me. I can probably get with her.' "

The duo's knack for blending sweetness with irreverence shines through in lyrics such as "I don't know if I'm elated or gassy / But I'm somewhere in that zone." Their musical credits collectively include In Transit, Disney's Winnie The Pooh, Avenue Q and Book of Mormon, the latter two of which earned Bobby multiple Tony Awards. (He now is an EGOT winner.)

On Ask Me Another, Kristen and Bobby graciously lent their voices to a rewritten version of "Let It Go" that quizzed contestants about other cold and frozen items. And later, the gloves came off during a VIP Challenge that pitted spouse against spouse in a Broadway musical mashup showdown.

Interview Highlights

On trying to write songs for an earlier version of Frozen

There was a script, it was very Romancing the Stone live action at the time. And we tried to write songs for that script, and it was like tuna and chocolate, a little bit. Like, "You put your chocolate in my tuna!" None of those songs stayed.

On finding the inspiration to write "Let It Go"

We stood on picnic benches [in Prospect Park] and imagined what it would be like if you'd put your whole life keeping your feelings in and trying to be perfect. And at the time, she was supposed to be a villain. But up on that picnic table, I started to feel sorry for her, and I started to think, "Well, that stinks!" She's been repressing who she is her whole life, and here at this moment, she's being chased out of a village from these people who she's been sacrificing her whole life for. She has to say goodbye to all of that, and yet there's this release.

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You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and let's welcome our very important puzzlers, the Oscar-winning songwriters from the Disney film "Frozen," Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.


EISENBERG: So the story of "Frozen," based on "The Snow Queen," which is a fairytale I actually remember reading when I was a child. I grew up in Canada, so I was like, "The Snow Queen," I love this.

BOBBY LOPEZ: It's not that interesting to Americans, actually.


KRISTEN ANDERSON-LOPEZ: No. I think it's a Canadian thing, 'cause us Americans are like, what?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Exactly.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: They're like, boy gets glass in his eye? And so we had to adapt to that.

LOPEZ: There's actually no sisters in the original. It's kind of about this boy and girl who are not brother and sister, but they're friends, but they're not boyfriend and girlfriend and it's just very enigmatic. It's very strange.

EISENBERG: And when it was brought to you, what stage was the story in?

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: There was a script. It was very "Romancing the Stone," live action at the time.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And we tried to write songs for that script and it was like tuna and chocolate, a little bit. Like, you put your chocolate in my tuna.


LOPEZ: Get it out. Wash it off.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: It sounds much dirtier than it should have sounded.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: But anyway, none of those songs stayed.

EISENBERG: And when-where in the process did "Let It Go" come in as a song that you are like oh, this seems like it will help inform a character or was it...

LOPEZ: We took this walk in Prospect Park, actually and we were kind of standing up on picnic tables and going like, yeah, OK, so I'm a snow queen...

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I'm tortured.

LOPEZ: And I'm up on a hill.



ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And Bobby looks better doing it than I do even.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: But seriously, we stood on picnic benches and imagined what it would be like if you'd put your whole life keeping your feelings in and trying to be perfect. And at the time, she was supposed to be a villain. But up on that picnic table, I started to feel sorry for her, and I started to think, well, that stinks. She's been repressing who she is her whole life, and here at this moment, she's being chased out of a village from these people who she's been sacrificing her whole life for. She has to say goodbye to all of that, and yet there's this release. And it just started getting a little more complex and...

LOPEZ: We started getting very dramatic and emo with it.


LOPEZ: Uncharacteristically.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I have to say, Bobby was a...

LOPEZ: Yeah. I wrote all the drag queenish kind of lines.



ANDERSON-LOPEZ: He really, he wrote, (Singing) the snow glows - and he sings it like the character from "The Office."

LOPEZ: Yeah. A Ricky Gervais kind of like.


LOPEZ: (Singing) A snow glows wide on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And then, but I was listening to a lot of Tori Amos at the time and I took it and I was like, (Singing) a swirling storm.


EISENBERG: That is very Tori Amos.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And, but, and we put a lot of our emotion in it, like a lot of things we didn't realize we needed to express went into this song.


EISENBERG: So they rewrote the characters based on the material that you gave them as a song.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: They did and I - we're so grateful...

EISENBERG: That's incredible.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: ...to Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck for saying, let's do it.

EISENBERG: That's amazing. Well, I haven't seen a Disney movie in a very, very long time. And I have to say when I was watching this, I was immediately taken by the fact that the language is pretty modern and a lot of the tone is edgier than I thought. In that song where Anna's getting excited that all the people are going to come to the palace for a party...

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: "First Time Is for Ever."

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's the greatest lyric of all time. I would like, did they just say that? I don't know if I'm elated or...

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Elated or gassy.

EISENBERG: Elated or gassy. I was like...


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: You know, we've all been there.

EISENBERG: That's amazing.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I'm there right now.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Totally, right now, and I apologize to you.


EISENBERG: So it was like, there was a lot of irreverence woven in there that I was wondering, you know, is that something you have to push for or is that just the expectation?

LOPEZ: We have a line in there, in that same song, about why have a ballroom with no balls...


LOPEZ: Which we thought surely, that will not pass muster.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Bobby actually wanted it to be (Singing) We have a ballroom, just no balls. And I knew that that would never pass muster.


EISENBERG: This is delightful. So you two met at a, the BMI Workshop, which is a Broadway musical theater workshop. So what was your first impression of each other?

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I fell in love with him, immed - like, I met him, he walked in the room, he hadn't even sung yet, and I had just gotten out of a long relationship and I was, like, that is what I want. That is what I want. I hope he's not too young or gay.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And the thought bubble over his head at the time - because I came up to him and I was like, oh my god, oh my god, you're so talented. It was the first song he had ever done for "Avenue Q," and I just was sycophantic in every way. And...

LOPEZ: I was like, thank god, someone who gets me. I could probably get with her.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And the rest is a beautiful marriage.


EISENBERG: OK. Now Kristen and Bobby, we're going to pitch you against each other later in the show. But right now, I'd like to use your talents and voices for our next game. Would you be up for that?

LOPEZ: Absolutely.


EISENBERG: All right.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Let's do it.

EISENBERG: Let's welcome our next two contestants, Emily McSpadden and Justin Mazouat.


EISENBERG: This is going to be an amazing game. Our puzzle guru Greg Pliska has rewritten the lyrics to Bobby and Kristen's Oscar-winning song "Let It Go." Have you seen "Frozen?"




EISENBERG: OK. If there's something you would like to let go of in your life Emily, what would it be?

MCSPADDEN: Oh gosh. Probably, you know, just road rage.


MCSPADDEN: It's probably healthy for me to start letting go.

EISENBERG: OK. That's good. Justin?

MAZOUAT: I'm an accountant by day, so that would be a good place to start. Just...


MAZOUAT: Is forget that.

EISENBERG: Just let go of what you do.




EISENBERG: So in this version of "Let It Go," the lyrics are going to be about things that are frozen or at least very icy. And you have to guess what the frozen icy item is. And what's even more incredible is that Bobby and Kristen will sing these clues, accompanied on guitar by Mr. Jonathan Coulton. So ring in when you know the answer.

JONATHAN COULTON: Are you ready?



COULTON: Bobby and Kristen, are you ready?

LOPEZ: Ready.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I'm so excited.




ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) The snowcaps white on this mountain at times, roughly six months at a spin. It's a sacred sight for the Shinto and the tallest peak in Japan.



MCSPADDEN: Mount Fuji?

COULTON: That's correct.



LOPEZ: (Singing) The wind is howling, but the Eskimos keep warm. What building keeps them in, shields them from the storm?


COULTON: Justin.

MAZOUAT: An igloo?

COULTON: Yeah. That's right. That's a tough one.


COULTON: It's kind of a "Sesame Street" parody of a game show.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I feel like an Indigo Girl.


LOPEZ: I wish the movie had somehow been written in a way that supported these precise lyrics. That would've been...



ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) Don't drink that gin. Don't drink that rum. Cocktails made with tequila are more fun. Cointreau and lime with crushed ice and salt is nice.



MCSPADDEN: Margarita.

COULTON: Margarita.



LOPEZ: (Singing) Let it go. Let it go. You're not a planet anymore.


LOPEZ: (Singing) Let it go. Let it go. Just dwarf, no less, no more.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) Your orbit's wrong and you're so far away. It's cold in space. And Aries has a bigger mass anyway.






COULTON: So sorry.

EISENBERG: I know. Don't worry, Pluto didn't want to be a planet anyway.

MCSPADDEN: That's right.


LOPEZ: (Singing) It's funny how flash freezing makes your veggies taste the same.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) Taste the same.

LOPEZ: (Singing) And the quick freeze that I invented means you should know my name.


COULTON: And yet.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: We didn't get either.

LOPEZ: Yeah.

EISENBERG: It's a...

COULTON: Frozen vegetables.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Frozen vegetable section.

EISENBERG: Yeah. A name of a brand.

COULTON: They're not penalized for guessing are they?



COULTON: Justin?

MAZOUAT: Mr. Birdseye?

COULTON: Yeah. That's right. It's Mr. Birdseye. Of course.


COULTON: His name is Clarence, apparently.

MCSPADDEN: Clarence?

EISENBERG: He used to be a taxidermist before he went into frozen foods. How creepy is that?

MAZOUAT: Is that true?




ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) It's time to have a slushy treat, 7-Eleven can't be beat. It's cold. It's sweet and one day a year, it's free.


COULTON: Justin.

MAZOUAT: A Slurpee?

COULTON: Slurpee is right.


COULTON: All right. This is your last clue.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) Let us go. Let us go. Where Amundsen and Scott once raced. Let us go. Let us go to a very, very, very cold place.

LOPEZ: (Singing) There we'll stand for a six month day. Let the ice caps melt. There's land underneath us here anyway.


COULTON: Justin.

MAZOUAT: The North Pole?

COULTON: No. I'm sorry. Emily, do you want to guess?



MCSPADDEN: Greenland?


COULTON: No. You're both wrong. What a bummer of a way to end the game.


COULTON: Does anybody know what it is? The other one?

AUDIENCE: South Pole.

COULTON: South Pole or Antarctica. That's right.

EISENBERG: Our contestants are tied. So they get a tiebreaker.


EISENBERG: It's just a question, though.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: I could musical lives this to the tune of what, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

EISENBERG: Yeah you want to?




EISENBERG: Kristen, would you like to deliver the tiebreaker?



ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) What's a dessert named for a U.S. state is made with cake, ice cream and meringue?



MCSPADDEN: Baked Alaska.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: That's right.


COULTON: (Singing) Do you want a baked Alaska?


EISENBERG: Congratulations, Emily. You're moving on to the final round.


EISENBERG: And a huge thanks to Bobby and Kristen Lopez.



ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Can I say something crazy?

LOPEZ: I love crazy.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) All my life has been a series of doors in my face. And then suddenly I bump into you.

LOPEZ: I was thinking the same thing. 'Cause like, (Singing) I've been searching my whole life to find my own place. And maybe it's the party talking or the chocolate fondue.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) But with you...

LOPEZ: (Singing) But with you I found my place.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) I see your face...

BOBBY AND KRISTEN LOPEZ: (Singing) And it's nothing like I've ever known before. Love is an open door. Love is an open door. Love is an open door...

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) Love is an open door. Let's listen to this nice guitar playing.


ANDERSON-LOPEZ: And look at the stars.


LOPEZ: (Singing) I mean it's crazy.


LOPEZ: We finish each other's...


LOPEZ: That's what I was gonna say.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) I've never met someone...

LOPEZ: (Singing) Who thinks so much like me. Jinx. Jinx again. Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) You.

LOPEZ: (Singing) And I.

LOPEZ: (Singing) Were meant to be.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) Say goodbye...

LOPEZ: (Singing) Say goodbye...

LOPEZ: (Singing) To the pain of the past. We don't have to feel it any more. Love is an open door. Love is an open door. Life can be so much more...

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

ANDERSON-LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) With you.

LOPEZ: (Singing) Love is an open door.

LOPEZ: Can I say something crazy?


LOPEZ: Who invented flash freezing?



(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.