Neither great nor terrible, Frozen is a decent film that occupies the middle of the animated bell curve.
Disney is back in the fairy princess business, and by god it wants you to know it. Except, it doesn’t want young boys to know it, which is why this film is called Frozen instead of The Snow Queen.
When Disney finally bought Pixar in 2006, the deal essentially saw Pixar's creative team taking control of Disney’s animated output. Given the strong quality control Pixar has over its products, this was no bad thing.
But not all of the experiments worked. Determined to resurrect Disney's tradition of hand-drawn animation, they made The Princess and the Frog in 2009, a tremendously underrated film which moved the classic tale to 1920s New Orleans. The film’s undeserved financial failing made Disney gunshy, and their takeaway was this: stick to computer animation, and no more princesses in the titles.
In fairness, this shift didn’t kneecap the quality of the films. 2009’s Rapunzel film Tangled is an outstanding work, with rich characters, beautiful animation and incredibly catchy songs. Tangled really worked, which is why it appears to be the template Disney has used for its newest animated feature, Frozen.
Based loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen a story Disney has been trying to adapt since the 1940s the film follows Anna and her sister Elsa, two princesses who are left alone when their parents die at sea. The relationship between the two is difficult: Elsa has magical powers, which due to an unsatisfactorily explained plot contrivance, have been wiped from Anna’s memory.
To keep Anna safe, Else keeps her at arm’s length as they grow up. But on the evening of Elsa’s coronation, she accidentally creates a permanent winter in the kingdom and retreats to a remote ice palace of her own making. It’s up to Anna to save her sister and her kingdom.
The parallels with Tangled are striking. Both changed the name of their original story to a more marketable, generic title. Both feature a similar working-class man developing a love-hate relationship with a princess. Both have a crazy, anthropomorphised horse/moose for company. Both even feature a princess whose power is represented by a streak of colour through the hair.
The comparisons, though superficial, reveal an attempt at a modern formula. And although Frozen is enjoyable enough, the characters aren’t quite as engaging as they ought to be, the songs not quite memorable enough. The animation, however, is superb. On a technical level, it’s a marvel.
Frozen represent the middle of the bell curve in terms of animated features. It’s a far cry from the insufferable toy-selling, pop-culture spewing, catchphrase-ridden films churned out during at the beginning every school holiday period, but nor does it hit the heights of Disney’s best output. It is admirable, enjoyable, but ultimately unmemorable.
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