“The cold never bothered me anyway.” — Queen Elsa
During the 1990’s Disney was the king of animated films. It was a decade where they enjoyed a new Golden Age of film animation which first started with Little Mermaid. As the company entered the new millenium their success with traditional animation began to wane and a new kid on the block took over as king. This new kid was called Pixar and soon enough they joined the House that Mickey built. So, it was through Pixar that Disney retained their crown when it came to animated films, but their own in-house animation house suffered setbacks through failed projects and/or subpar productions.
It was in 2010 when Disney itself began a nice comeback with the surprise hit Tangled. This new Disney take on the Rapunzel fairy tale became not just a hit with both critics and fans, but showed that Disney could compete with their very own Pixar when it came to CG animation and storytelling. These were two areas that Pixar were known for and Disney followed it up with another critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite Wreck-It Ralph.
Frozen marks the latest from Walt Disney Animation and, at first glance, the film looked like an attempt to replicate the fun and whimsical nature of 2010’s Tangled. Even some of the character animations looked similar. The film wasn’t helped by a media and ad campaign which made the film feel like it would be about pratfalls and juvenile jokes. Yet, what the public got when it was finally released this past Thanksgiving was a definite return for Walt Disney Animation to their heyday of the 1990’s.
The film takes Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen fairy tale and makes it into a story about the love of two sisters in a faraway kingdom where one grows up repressing her ability to control and create ice and snow for fear of harming her younger sister. It’s this part of Frozen which brings the film from becoming just an animated production for little kids and into the realm of appealing to audiences of all ages. Even Olaf the Snowman who was a prominent face in all the ads leading up to the film’s release ended up becoming more than just comedic relief.
The characters of Elsa and Anna, at first, look like your typical Disney princesses, but as the narrative moves forward the two pretty much blow up whatever negative tropes that have been attributed to past Disney princess roles. Anna didn’t just come off as the spunky little sister, but becomes a multi-faceted character who actually becomes the redemption for her older sister Elsa.
Now, speaking of Elsa, Disney has been famous for creating some very iconic female characters with their animated films. Some of these characters have been the protagonists in their films, but some have also been the villains. In Frozen, Disney has created a character in Elsa who many could say inhabited both sides of the film’s conflict. She becomes a sort of antagonist midway through the film due to fear and ignorance of her ability to create and control snow and ice. This incident also prompts the film’s turn from being just a cute and fun film and into the realm of becoming a classic in the making.
Seeing Elsa accepting her true nature and becoming more confident in herself as a woman makes Frozen a rarity in animated films where females character tend to have male counterparts to help them along. Elsa also becomes such a great character due to Idina Menzel’s voice performance both in the speaking parts and the songs Elsa becomes a part of. In fact, I would be quite surprised if the most pivotal moment and song in the film, “Let It Go”, doesn’t end up winning best original song come Oscar time. Ms. Menzel brought so many facets of emotions through Elsa from a sense of despair to a sassy determination that should make the character a fan-favorite of little girls and mature women for years to come.
Frozen, a film that looked like it was a flop for Disney waiting to happen, ends up becoming one of the surprise hits of this holiday season and cements the return of Walt Disney Animation back to the forefront of animated film storytelling. This was a film that ended up becoming more than it’s initial first impression had going for it. A film that showed the power of female-centric storytelling could compete with the sturm und drang of the male-dominated blockbusters.
I wholeheartedly recommend people see this film on the bigscreen if just to experience Idina Menzel’s performance in “Let It Go” on the biggest screen venue as possible.