Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Disney's Frozen warms up The Snow Queen

Image: Disney
 The 53rd animated film from Walt Disney, Frozen draws upon Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen as it's icy inspiration. It revolves around two royal sisters, who have been left to inherit the throne following their parents' premature death. The eldest sister, Elsa, has uncontrollable powers in which she can summon and control ice and snow, and after a close call with her sister, Anna, she is forced to "conceal, don't feel". She locks herself away until Coronation Day, while her sister spends her days alone and confused as to why she has been shut out. After Elsa loses control of her powers on Coronation Day, she sets into motion an endless winter, and exiles herself to the mountains. Anna leaves her brand new love interest Hans to take care of royal matters, and sets off into the mountains to find her sister. There's also a snowman named Olaf, built by Elsa (he likes warm hugs), a grumpy ice salesman named Kristoff and a reindeer named Sven who I want to be my new best friend. 

Although it conforms to traditional Disney-esque adventure sequences and a selling point of princesses in peril, there are many revolutionary moments in this particular film. There are unlikely heroes, and even more unlikely enemies. Isn't that how life really is? However, without spoiling a major plot twist for you, one of the main villains is someone neither I or my friend trusted from the start. Call it female intuition. The film doesn't wrap things up with white wedding bows, which is an essential and generic component in any traditional Disney fairytale. I approve of it. The ideological roots of Frozen make for realistic and flawed princess role models. The short that comes before the film itself, declares "Make way for the future!" and this is a contemporary fairytale built for the little girls of a not so nice real world. The idea that women need to be married to live their own personal fairytale is dated, and the fact that neither Elsa or Anna end up in holy matrimony shows how far women have come. We don't always want to put a ring on it. It is worth noting that Frozen boasts Disney's first female director, Jennifer Lee, who co-directed the film with Chris Buck.

Image: Disney
The crushing duality of traditional "evil" characters is a heavy theme here, as in the original Snow Queen, the main character is portrayed as evil and is undoubtedly a villain. Elsa however, banishes herself to free herself from self sublimination and to prevent herself doing any harm to her sister. She seems to only lash out in self defence, and Frozen's boldest act is providing us with two /very strong female protagonists who ultimately save each other. Although Anna ends the film with some sort of romantic closure, Elsa is content with her new found freedom as she has learned to control her powers and is ultimately accepted by everyone in the Scandinavian land of Arendelle.

The eight original songs included in the soundtrack are perfected by the vocals of Broadway favourite Idina Menzel and the adorable Kristin Bell. Idina Menzel, Wicked's original Elphaba with a set of golden lungs,  is given her own Frozen version of Wicked's Defying Gravity with Let It Go, as Elsa accepts herself after exiling herself from Arendelle. There's a fun little number with trolls, and a nice tribute to the reindeer folk in the lullaby Reindeer Are Better Than People. The face off between Elsa and Anna in the reprise of For The First Time in Forever feels very Wicked, and the overall feeling from the musical numbers give you the impression that Frozen is already adapted for the stage.

The visuals are beautifully crafted, and after seeing this in 3D I have little doubt that it is just as impressive in good old fashioned 2D. The imagery is captivatingly pretty, detailed, and seamless- which is something we have come to expect from each new Disney feature. If we take anything from this film, it's that we might get hurt in the cold but it's nothing we can't fix ourselves. We can manage quite a lot without a perfectly groomed prince, and even the coldest of hearts can be thawed. You can't help but feel a chill when you watch this film, but as Elsa sings in her ice shard castle, "the cold never bothered me anyway".