How Frozen 2 And Klaus Brought Indigenous Sámi Representation To Film

Breaking the ice for representation in these holiday films.

Frozen 2
Disney

One of the most surprising and pleasant trends coming from the back to back winter animation sensations of Netflix's Klaus and Disney's Frozen are the instances of indigenous Sámi representation.

In Klaus, the Sámi people are presented as they are, speaking their own language and wearing their own traditional garb and living north of the town the film takes place, and while they are essentially seen as outsiders, their portrayal is that of unambiguous warmth and kindness, with utterly adorable Sámi girl Margu helping to soften protagonist Jesper's outwardly selfish but increasingly marshmallow heart. Jesper and local schoolteacher Alva help Margu translate her own gift wishes so that she can send a letter to Klaus, and Jesper and Klaus ensure she receives a special present, like the other children before her.

Klaus Netflix
Netflix

Later in the film, the tightly-knit Sámi community assist Klaus in his gift-making and delivering scheme, and become like a second family to the lonely old man, even creating his soon-to-be iconic red garb in style of their own. Their role in the film is marked with bright colours, kindness, and warmth, and is largely positive.

Even more significantly, creator Sergio Pablos and some of the team worked with the Sámi reindeer herders, for whom working with reindeer was a way of life. It seemed a no-brainer to have them and the legend of Santa Claus be tied together.

Speaking of reindeer, the element of reindeer herding is also seen in Frozen 2, among the "fantasy Sámi", who in the film, are called the Nolthuldra. Reindeer appear to be a major part of their day-to-day, with one of the characters, Ryder, matching Frozen character Kristoff in his love for them.

In contrast with the first film, which used Sámi elements in many parts of the film without representing or consulting with Sámi people in an act marked as cultural appropriation (the most significant offender being the opening song, Vuelie, being taken directly from Sámi tradition) - Frozen 2 consulted directly with Sámi experts, including members of the International Sámi Film Institute, to portray the indigenous Northuldra in the film.

They even signed a contract with the transnational Saami Council, and Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, to make their Sámi-in-all-but-name portrayal positive.

Both of these films performed their due diligence for the culture they were portraying, not even mentioning how visually stunning they both are in terms of animation. Hopefully, moving forward, more animated films, whether 2D, as in Klaus, or 3D, as in Frozen, will be able to balance the quality of work with the kind of cultural consideration that made their films more colourful, deeper, and much more significant than ever before.

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Contributor

Writer, artist, animator, video editor. Indie comics creator, looking to bring LGBTQ+ characters and Filipino culture into mainstream Western media. @MotzieD on Twitter. Originally from Quezon City, The Philippines. Currently based in Ontario, Canada. Independent writer/artist with multiple comics, a novel, etc. Works listed over at motziedapul.wixsite.com/work