Review: ‘Frozen’

Disney is a strange company, but in the best way possible. They’re bold enough to buy the Marvel franchise, hire Pixar’s mastermind as their creative director of pretty much everything at this point, and continue crafting movies that stay true to the Disney tradition, at least by most loose definitions of the term.

By this tradition, I mean the continuation of the Disney princess phenomenon, including its most recent renaissance (as they say) of the classic Disney Princess movies reinvented to capture the cutting edge animation that reached new heights in the late 80s with The Little Mermaid, only to reach full form thanks to breakout 90s hits like Beauty and the BeastAladdin, and Mulan.

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The rise of Pixar brought on a new age, however, with the onslaught of yet another renaissance in animation — one that rendered any other offering by Disney (ironically) obsolete.

Pixar was their critical and family-driven darling, and the mouse studio didn’t really have the creative direction to answer this problem for quite a while, even when DreamWorks came into its own with the introduction of Shrek and those frankly despicable minions.

This is all to say that Disney plays the long game when necessary. After the tempered success of Princess and the Frog in 2009 and Tangled a year later, it became more than clear to me and others that Lassetter’s Disney was on a true comeback, beginning with Bolt and carrying on today to Frozen.

You see, Disney has been experimenting over the past few years with what I call the “Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks” trilogy. They’ve taken the strongest elements of each animation studio and developed full-fledged Disney movies with them.

One might argue that this all started with Meet The Robinsons or the aforementioned Bolt, but these movies were mere precursors to what Disney would ultimately settle on creatively. No, this all started with Tangled, a new take on a classic Disney character named Rapunzel.

The checklist is simple:

1. Does the movie have a Disney Princess and/or fantasy setting?

2. Are the animation and storytelling in sync, as it is with Pixar?

3. Does it contain lovable side characters that shape the marketing campaign akin to Dreamworks?

This list is a complete yes to the “trilogy” that is Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen. And it shows in how Frozen in its most basic components is a mixture of several movies and concepts: It has the character relationships of Shrek, the plucky female from Tangled, and the Broadway musical effort of Wicked (complete with the plot of two sisters at odds with each other).

This is no complaint, as Frozen manages to also maintain its own originality and charm between the pages, mostly thanks to the ambitious retelling of The Snow Queen (though the similarities between stories is slim at best), a story that isn’t told often enough complicated by Disney’s best soundtrack in years, perhaps since Mulan or Lilo and Stitch if you’re an Elvis fan.

 

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The Snow Queen is an old Danish fairytale most audiences have never heard of, centering around two sisters who happen to be princesses living in a kingdom Disney has deemed Arendelle. The oldest sister, Elsa, has magic powers of no explanation: she can turn anything into snow or ice for reasons the audience is never clued in on, thankfully. As she grows older, her powers become harder to control, and for reasons I won’t spoil, she shuns her doting sister, Anna, for the majority of their childhood.

The opening sequence to Frozen is clearly gunning for the same emotional beats of Up and its first eight minutes, offering a lively, albeit sad look at the broken relationship between these two girls. You don’t have to be a sister or have one to feel the cloying sentiment in this number, aptly called Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

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After an unfortunate incident, Elsa unintentionally curses the kingdom with an eternal winter (even though it’s summer), covering the land in snow and paranormal snow creatures. She runs away in order to isolate herself and is pursued by Anna and some of her new friends, a group of misfit characters to put it kindly.

Plot-wise, the story is strong and well-written, focusing more on its comedic timing than anything all that dramatic, but the music seems to be the tool that delivers the film’s most poignant moments, including some key lessons meant to empower young girls, including a twist on the romantic love story that is sure to delight parents.

The characters, for the most part, are likable and effortless in their inclusion as this is Anna and Elsa’s story.  When we are introduced to Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, who have a friendship reminiscent of Han Solo and Chewbacca, the movie succeeds at making them a worthwhile addition without distracting from the main plot. Even Olaf, who should have been annoying in hindsight, provided the levity and fun required of him in a film that could otherwise be deemed dark and heavy-handed.

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The only complaint worth lodging at Frozen in my view is the ending, as it goes with many animated movies of recent years. It’s not terrible in any sense, but it is a slight let down in how the film builds and executes, aside from a minor twist on the material involving the impact of the two sisters and their relationship. For every other character, there’s little for them to do by the final minutes.

Other than that, Frozen is a fantastic installment in the Disney archives, providing a new and fun adventure that children and nostalgic young adults like myself will enjoy thoroughly.

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33 thoughts

    1. Thanks! I can honestly say that I was not bored at all, though that may be more indicative of my abnormal love for these types of Disney films.

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  1. I don’t know if I misread, but did you credit the Minions from Despicable Me to Dreamworks?
    I’m pretty sure that Despicable Me is from Illumination Entertainment, not Dreamworks. Not that it takes away from your article, I just wanted to let you know.
    Very good article. I looked on Wikipedia and saw that Frozen has an 86% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m glad I read this to get more detail about the film, though. I really like the Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks checklist. I think that just about pegs what Disney is doing right now. I personally would like it if Disney went back to hand-drawn movies instead of computer animation. I just don’t think Disney’s thing is computer animation, they should leave that to Pixar. I’m not saying that Disney is bad at it, but I think they could be better if their “classics” were hand-drawn instead.

    That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for the article!

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    1. Ah yes you are correct! I made an error in that Despicable Me is owned by Universal/Illumination. A better example, then, would be Kung Fu Panda or Madagascar.

      Though I agree in the sense that hand drawn animation is gorgeous and should be continued, the new generation of children are used to computer animation thanks to the great movies they’ve grown up on during the 2000s. Disney can’t market exclusively to nostalgic adults who long for the days of The Lion King, so I don’t really see them going back to that style. Thanks for your comment!

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      1. Us kids still love the hand drawn Disney. I was shocked, in fact, when I found out that many of them were made decades before my birth. I wish I had time to watch old Disney’s without negative impact (that is, not feeling stressed about homework)

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  2. Tried to post to my answer to your question on my blog. I’m not sure if it showed on the right page. I’m new at this and experimenting. New theme on my blog. Last years freebie.

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  3. I mean, I like Frozen – Idina Menzel is glorious (very broadway, I agree)… but… it just feels a little underdeveloped. The ending left much to be desired, but the whole movie, while it has some amazing songs and scenes and characters, seems like a collage of great ideas hastily pasted together. I think it needed a little more time.

    Then again, I’ve watched it twice already. It’s definitely enjoyable, and worth watching, but it had so much potential to be better.

    Now I sound like a parent disappointed with their child for getting an 80, because they believe they could have got a 90.

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  4. A much more thorough description than I was expecting, as this is my first time reading your blog! Very fair and accurate all around.

    I usually wait for movies to get to the “cheap theater” as I’m a broke single mom and the vintage, 1-screen theater in Minneapoilis has WAY better popcorn than any big movie theater around! However, we had AMC gift cards so my girls and I (ages 11 and 14) decided to go see Frozen last week, mostly because it was what was playing at the time we wanted to go.

    I don’t really pay that much attention to what is out or what is coming out, but all three of us agreed on one thing when we left the theater. That was THE BEST animated movie we had seen in a long time. And you are right, there were definitely some life lessons/love lessons in there that I hope my two girls took to heart.

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    1. I’m glad we agree on how fantastic this movie is. I was a little more thorough than my usual review, so you can count on future articles being a more brisk read!

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  5. I have some questions…

    Since when is Rapunzel a Disney character before Tangled? And talking about that, since when she is a classic Disney character?

    The introduction of Frozen is more emotional than Up !? Now I think you are pulling my leg.

    The best thing about the movie you did not like. The ending was really good.

    I think you don´t know what you are talking about.

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    1. Did you not read what he wrote? He said it was “ALMOST” as emotional as up. Rapunzel was a Disney character before Tangled, because Disney bought the rights to her fairytale ( as they did with every other fairy tale they’ve made a movie about) before making the movie. “Rapunzel” is classic because it’s part of a slew of well-known fairy-tales that are considered “classics”. Just because her movie

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      1. was recent, it doesn’t make her a non-classic character. (sorry about the continuation, accidently hit the post button). As for the ending, it wasn’t as satisfying as I could have been. It seemed a little rushed.

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      2. That is totally untrue about Disney buying the rights to Rapunzel and every other fairy tale they’ve made a movie about. That is ridiculous. Almost all of their “fairy tale” films are based on stories in the public domain. Disney, however, does own the their own versions and depictions of those characters. Anyone can make a version of Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Mulan, Aladdin, and so many more however they cannot copy the Disney versions in terms of character design and script.

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  6. yeah just noticed there is an odd sentence in thete. I am a sister to no one. seams a bit out of place for a guy to say. if you are an only child then you would say brother to no one. but never mind

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    1. That was his point. If he’s a boy, he can’t be a sister to anyone. This movie is about sisters, so it made more sense to use that terminology. Although, I did pause in confusion for a second there too…

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  7. The REAL reason Frozen is a must see movie — is because it is different from all of the other movies in that it creates a mystery for the human mind to try and figure out. Sure, the journey is there, someone who is cast out and down-trodden until able to find the true gift, and all of the heroes, tricksters, companion, mentor, and all of the ingredients of a great story, this movie has an added mystery.

    Everyone shakes his or her head in dismay when Anna agrees to marry a man she just met (at least we can hope all the heads are in disagreement), and that’s just the beginning. If not for that unforeseen twist that Jennifer Lee added into the story, it would have fared along with Princess and the Frog, as a stroke or two above mediocre. But that little twist keeps the audience entertained with Olaf, until it is able to find out if Anna can find her sister, save the town, and more importantly marry the right man.

    For this, a new age in film is emerging and I intend on getting a front-row seat with success. The old romance stories are okay, and Cinderella sitting in the cinders waiting for her handsome prince to show up will always be in the hearts of little girls. But the fact is, sometimes the princess needs to be unafraid to venture into the world herself and find that prince–and that’s where we are today.

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  8. They actually had a planned song for act 3. It was a reprise of Do You Want To Build A Snowman, sung by Elsa to Anna after SPOILERS Anna freezes. I have no idea why they cut it as it would have made the movie; along with an evil reprise of Love Is An Open Door for Hans.

    Like

  9. I don’t know if I misread, but did you credit the Minions from Despicable Me to Dreamworks?
    I’m pretty sure that Despicable Me is from Illumination Entertainment, not Dreamworks. Not that it takes away from your article, I just wanted to let you know.
    Very good article. I looked on Wikipedia and saw that Frozen has an 86% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m glad I read this to get more detail about the film, though. I really like the Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks checklist. I think that just about pegs what Disney is doing right now. I personally would like it if Disney went back to hand-drawn movies instead of computer animation. I just don’t think Disney’s thing is computer animation, they should leave that to Pixar. I’m not saying that Disney is bad at it, but I think they could be better if their “classics” were hand-drawn instead.

    That’s my 2 cents. Thanks for the article!

    Like

  10. THANK YOU!!!! I’m glad I was not the only one who was thinking “this reminds me of Wicked.” Not to mention Idina Menzel is Elsa. That should be a reason in itself to see the movie.

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  11. Don’t you think Frozen is a little misogynistic in its depiction of women? I found it sad that even in a movie where the main protagonist is a woman, this said woman cannot accomplish anything without the strength or the love of a man.

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    1. Not at all. In fact, I believe the movie accomplishes the exact opposite. For one thing, Anna has incredible resiliency as a girl who becomes a woman in a house where she is shunned by her older sister, but still loves her. She sets out to save her sister alone, and even though she comes to rely on the love of Hans toward the beginning, it makes sense because she’s just lonely. Eventually, however, she learns that all she really needed was the love of her sister. It had nothing to do with Kristoff, who she doesn’t even marry in the end.

      Additionally, Elsa’s arc as the other protagonist is independent of men indefinitely. She doesn’t even have a love interest, unless you count her sister Anna in the sense of familial love.

      So no, Frozen isn’t misogynistic at all. It’s actually a story that does rely on more than just a romance to keep viewers interested and engaged.

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  12. The one thing I think they sort of skipped over was some of Elsa’s weirder powers. Yes, she has control over snow and ice, but she can also somehow make shoes, dresses, block out the sun, and somehow create life? They sort of skipped over the fact that she can create life and is pretty much an all powerful being like that.

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    1. I just love (not) how the trolls never did give Anna her original memory back after she found out about Elsa’s power. The trolls acted as if they had never seen her before. They couldn’t have put two and two together and say, “Your sister did this did she? Who has those kinds of powers? OH! That girl from about 15 years ago… Oh. We fixed your memory once. Let’s put it back. Maybe things will be clearer.”

      Besides this, what were Elsa’s parents thinking?
      “Our little girl can freeze stuff, let’s make her hide that instead of using it as a super power or something.”
      Just imagine what good she could have done if her parents weren’t stupid. She could have made a living, indestructible snowman army! She could do all the cool stuff that she did at the end of the movie, maybe even better, if her parents didn’t make her hide her powers. Her parents should have taught her to use her powers, not hide them.

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  13. Wow. I guess I’m the only one who wants Frozen to not have come out and for Elsa to die in the sequel. I can’t be the only one who hates Frozen. Can I?

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