Disney’s newest animated feature “Frozen,” hit screens on Nov. 27 with an all-star cast headed by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell and directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee—Disney’s first female director of an animated feature. As a lifelong Disney fan, I jumped at the chance to have an excuse to go see the film (and review it for Literally, Darling, of course).
First up, the story. “Frozen” is based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” written by Hans Christian Andersen, who also wrote “The Little Mermaid.” It’s common knowledge that “Frozen” went in and out of development for more than 10 years, repeatedly being shelved, dusted off and taken back out, only to be ultimately reshelved again a year or two later. In some ways, this definitely shows through in the movie, it feels a little bit disjointed at parts and doesn’t feel as smooth as if it had gone from concept to finish in one straight shot. However, the story that they eventually decided on is a good story, and I appreciated how a lot of traditional Disney tropes were either subverted or tossed out the window, such as marrying someone you’ve known for a day, princesses being ladylike and the heroes being dashing, charming and handsome.
I will also say that “Frozen,” had the absolute best plot twist of any Disney movie I have ever seen, one that I did not see coming at all, and for that I am very glad. There were several other twists included in the story, some that you could see coming if you know the original tale of “The Snow Queen,” and others that were foreshadowed in the movie itself. These all kept the story interesting and fresh, it’s not always easy to see what’s coming next and that keeps you guessing.
Next up, the characters. The characters were different and fresh, and none felt like they were exact copies of stereotypes or of other Disney characters. Elsa, the tragic Snow Queen, is misunderstood and scared, forced to shut out the world for fear of exposing her magical powers. That includes shutting out her younger sister, Anna, who is boisterous, awkward and naive, part of which stems from growing up by herself without the company of many friends, or even servants, and without her older sister. Kristoff is the grumpy and gruff mountain man, who likes reindeer better than people, particularly his best reindeer friend Sven. Hans is a Prince from the Southern Isles who takes a shine to Anna immediately—after his horse almost knocks her into the fjord. Rounding out the cast are Olaf, a magical snowman accidentally brought to life by Elsa, who’s sweet, naive and completely idiotic, and the sinister Duke of Weselton who is ready to do anything to exploit Arendelle’s tradeable goods.
The characters all worked fairly well together, though there were a few moments that seemed over the top and out of place, particularly since it’s a Disney movie, but they were, for the most part, easy enough to overlook. I found myself really like Anna and Hans the most as they both had different personalities from anything I’d previously seen, though Anna’s naivete reminded me of Rapunzel from “Tangled,” who also grew up alone, so the parallels there were easy to draw.
The music! Any good Disney movie has to have good music. The soundtrack for “Frozen” was composed by Christophe Beck with the husband and wife team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez writing the songs and lyrics for the characters. While I know that having a different composer for the score of the film versus the songs can work in movies, such as “The Lion King,” where it’s done brilliantly, I don’t feel that “Frozen” achieved that quite as flawlessly. The melodies for the songs, while they weren’t jarringly different from the score, definitely felt out of place at times and, like the story, things felt a little disjointed. One example was Olaf the snowman’s little ditty “In Summer,” which took a two minute break from the main story to launch you into a completely different summer environment while he sang about getting a tan. Cute, fun, sure, but to completely launch from these sweet background instrumentals to this ditty was completely out of place.
Two exceptional songs from the movie were “For the First Time in Forever,” a duet between Anna and Elsa, and “Let It Go,” sung by Elsa. Maybe I’m biased, because I am a huge fan of Idina Menzel, but these numbers were both incredible, and excellent examples of using the song to tell the story. The film could have continued without either of these songs—the Princesses could have gotten ready without music and Elsa could have simply built her ice palace silently—but the music added to the story, it made both of these moments more poignant and emotional, and for that, I tip my hat.