Handsome Half and I finally got caught up on our Pop Culture when we saw Frozen. This Disney blockbuster raked in more dollars than snowflakes in a Wyoming blizzard, to the musical tune of $400M. This leaves even The Lion King in the dust.
Well, first of all, the animation is stunning. Snowflakes blow into drifts which blow into bridges and snow sculptures. Water freezes and ice skitters across ponds and stacks up into ice crystals which grow into ladders, ceilings, light fixtures, palaces—and weapons.
In other words, computer animation has evolved into a state of breath-taking hyper-reality. In fact, this movie stands as a tour-de-force of what that medium can accomplish.
Fortunately, the story is just about as good as the animation. You have a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen, as its base. You’ve got two strong female protagonists who are also sisters. And you’ve got strong, positive male characters too.
One of the major complaints of Brave (which I agree with) was that, while it had two strong females (mother and daughter), the males were all caricatured as testosterone-fueled baboons.
With Frozen, writer Jennifer Lee (among others) portrayed the female and male characters realistically, showing complexity, intelligence and courage flowing along both sides of the sexual divide. Disney’s latest, Maleficent, continues in this vein (do we see a trend?). If so, let’s hope this trend becomes the norm. Animated films are among the first places where children see role models. Both boys and girls need to see each other as partners.
Unlike The Lion King, which so close to Hamlet it seemed more like ‘ripped off from Hamlet’, ‘Frozen’ takes enough liberties with its source material to stand as an original take. Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee manage to keep everything together, an impressive feat with an animated film in which all the parts are rarely together in one place.
Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), the older, and Anna (Kristen Bell), the younger, are princesses, the only two offspring of royal parents. Elsa was born with a strange superpower; she can, if she wants, freeze anything with a touch, or with a bolt of some sort of freezing ray. One day, at play, she accidentally ‘freezes’ Anna’s brain. Fortunately, through troll magic, she is saved, but, since she’d coaxed her sister into using her power, she’s made to forget her sister’s magic. Elsa is made to wear gloves. The two are now estranged, and Anna can’t understand why.
But life has worse in store for the two girls; their parents die in a shipwreck. As they grow up alone and Anna becomes increasingly hurt and alone. Years pass until Elsa reaches majority and is crowned Queen of the land. Their relationship finally reaches a breaking point during Elsa’s coronation.
Everything works out well in the end, thanks to help from Kristoff (Jonathon Groff) and his faithful moose Sven, and a magical snowman, Olaf (hilariously voiced by Josh Gad). Love saves the day (in more ways than one), in an ending echoed later in Maleficent. The sisters reconcile, and Elsa learns the secret to controlling her power.
Here, the animation and acting come together, lending strong support to the story line also. The film is presented as a musical, with actual production numbers, so the bevy of strong singers (led by Menzel in top form) deliver the goods.
This movie deserves all the awards (including Best Animated Feature) and box office it has earned.
Buried beneath all that cold and snow is a wonderful, refreshing film—a treat and lesson for everyone. It’s what Disney does best, and here is done better than has been done in a long time.