Over the past decade, a new moviegoing tradition has emerged: the second a movie’s credits start, half the audience walks out the door, while the other half furiously googles “Does this movie have a post-credits scene?” Films regularly threw in cute little stinger scenes before the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies made it a habit (and a regular marketing device, slinging the next movie in the franchise before audiences had even started digesting the one they were sitting in). But lately, it’s become almost an obligation for certain kinds of movies — especially superhero films, comedies, and animated movies like Disney’s new Frozen 2.
Frozen 2 does have a post-credits scene, and it’s typical for animated movies largely aimed at kids: a cute, weightless little gag that throws back to something that happened earlier in the film. It also operates as an in-joke for dedicated Frozen franchise fans, bringing back minor Frozen characters that didn’t otherwise appear in the movie. But the scene also has mildly creepy implications if viewers think about it at all.
[Ed. note: gigantic spoilers ahead for Frozen 2.]
What happens in the post-credits scene?
Midway through Frozen 2, Olaf the living snowman (voiced by Josh Gad) recaps the entirety of Frozen in a comedic rush for an audience of warriors who weren’t around for that movie, because they were trapped in an enchanted forest, behind a magical wall. In the post-credits scene, he similarly gives a quick recap of Frozen 2 for an audience that largely missed the action of the movie: Marshmallow and a crowd of snowgies.
Frozen fans will remember Marshmallow as the giant ice-monster Queen Elsa creates in Frozen. After Elsa’s ice powers run amok at her coronation, she retreats to the wilds and builds herself an ice castle. But her sister Anna shows up to try to persuade Elsa to come home. They argue, and in desperation, Elsa creates Marshmallow to push Anna and her guide Kristoff out of the palace. Marshmallow later fights Anna’s two-faced fiancé Hans and his men when they come to capture Elsa, and the snow monster is seen plummeting off a cliff after Hans cuts off one of his legs. But he shows up again in Frozen’s post-credits scene, limping back into the palace with his leg partially reattached, finding Elsa’s tiny dropped crown, putting it on, and smiling.
The snowgies, meanwhile, are from the 2015 short film Frozen Fever, in which Queen Elsa sets out to give Anna a perfect birthday to make up for all the birthdays they missed together in childhood. But Elsa has a cold, and every time she sneezes, tiny mischievous living snowmen pop out of thin air. They cause some chaos, but the short ends with Olaf ushering a crowd of cheerful snowgies past Marshmallow and into Elsa’s ice palace, where they’re presumably going to live from now on. Frozen 2’s post-credits scene confirms that Marshmallow and the snowgies are still living happily at the palace together.
Except Elsa dies
So … in Frozen 2, Elsa dies on a distant island, or at least she Disney-dies, which is to say she experiences a brief life hiatus, long enough for everyone to gasp and fret and maybe cry a little before she comes back safe and sound. (Actually, she turns to ice, exactly as Anna did in the first Frozen, and with about as much apparent long-term impact on her health. Ice curses do seem to run in the family.)
But when Elsa is briefly not-alive, Olaf dies too, because her magic isn’t maintaining him anymore. He disintegrates in Anna’s arms, dispensing gentle life wisdom and reassuring her that his death is okay.
But if Olaf discorporates because Elsa’s magic is temporarily bound up in ice … so would Marshmallow and the snowgies, which are just as much products of Elsa’s will and magic as Olaf is. And unlike Olaf, they weren’t off on a magical quest and aware of the dangers, or in the company of supportive, mournful friends. They would have just found themselves suddenly coming apart, like Spider-Man disintegrating in Avengers: Infinity War (and in the million memes about that moment that followed). They would have had no idea why they were suddenly breaking into their component snowflakes.
And Olaf doesn’t come back until a revived Elsa consciously re-makes him. Which means for the ice-castle denizens to still be around to hear Olaf’s story, she would have had to go back to her ice castle at some point and take the time to rebuild Marshmallow — a dumb giant originally made in a fit of frantic anger — and dozens of mini-snowmen which she never consciously made in the first place.
All this is certainly more interrogation than the post-credits sequence needs, given that it’s just an echo gag, and more Olaf goofery. Probably audiences are going to be happier not thinking about it at all. It doesn’t feel like the writers did, so we’ll probably all be happier — you know what I’m going to say here, just brace yourself for the inevitable — if we try to let it go.