Article By: Dan Clark
Somehow Disney is quietly having another animation renaissance. In 1989 Disney reclaimed its crown as animation king with the release of The Little Mermaid, and since the release of Tangled a few years ago Disney has been consistently putting out a quality product once again. While a movie like Wreck-It Ralph felt more like Disney attempting to make a Pixar movie, their latest feature Frozen is a prime example of Disney getting back to what they do best.
As cheesy as it may sound Frozen has that Disney magic that will tingle your nostalgic veins with delight. All the ingredients that have made up the classic Disney formula are present and plentiful. ‘For the first time in forever’ Disney has clearly made the best animated movie of the year. Frozen is a joyous occasion full of charming adventure for all ages. Decades from now the children of today may look to Frozen as the movie that showed them how wonderful the wonderful world of Disney can be.
The story of Frozen is very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, as is often the case with a Disney adaptation their version bears little resemblance to the original product. Here Anna and Elsa are two young princesses living in a life of luxury and mystery. Elsa has a unique gift…or curse depending on how you look at it. She has an icy power that she has yet to learn to control, and must keep secret from the rest of her kingdom. Eventually her secret gets out so she flees to the mountains for sanctuary. Unbeknownst to her as a result of her power their kingdom has fallen under a deep freeze that continues to worsen. In order save their city Anna departs on a journey to track down her sister and save their world.
Disney Princesses have become this advertising force that is ever-growing. Introducing two new princesses in one movie does feel like a very strategic marketing move, but even if that is true these characters at least have some substance to them. Anna meshes some modern girl sensibilities into the archetypal princess role. She has a quirkiness that is very reminiscent of Kristen Bell who voices the character. Bell provides a bubbliness that gives a fresh take to a tired concept. However, Anna’s lacks of growth does hinder her development. In much of the latter half of the film she almost comes off as a background character.
One big reason this occurs is the strength of the side characters, which include a carrot loving reindeer named Sven and a magical snowman named Olaf—who does everything possible to steal the movie. Josh Gad voices the role and gives a performance that is equally heartwarming and hilarious. It is a character so full of childlike wonder you cannot help but fall in love within the first moments he walks on-screen. Gad, the infamous Book of Mormon star, also shows he is now slouch in the voice department either with the song “In Summer”. Of all the songs in the film it is by far the most fun.
When you look at what makes the classic Disney formula work the plot is very rarely a deciding factor. Success lies in the creativity of the film’s imaginative characters and the amount of memorable catchy songs. The way Frozen makes its music a focal point is an element of Disney that has been missing since its height in the mid-nineties.
Right from the start the song “Frozen Heart” establishes the tone. A number of stoic ice cutters recite an evocative melody of the dangers of a life full of ice. It is an ideal amalgamation of what the film will entail; wonder, mystery, peril, and a healthy dose of joy. The song that stands as the films best, and the one that will most likely receive some Oscar consideration is “Let it Go” song by the incredible Idina Menzel. While “Frozen Heart” sets the tone, “Let it Go” embodies every element of the film’s themes. It is a commanding anthem that will have you humming its tune long after the movie is over. It was a few memorable songs short of entering top echelon Disney territory. Songs like “For the First time in Forever” and “Love is an Open” door were cute but ultimately forgettable.
What is not forgettable is the animation of Frozen. This is easily the best looking computer animated film Disney has produced. It all starts with the ultra-realistic rendering of the snowy environment. The snow moves so fluidly as if each flake is working in unison to perform a choreographed dance of winter wonder. Juxtaposing the fluffiness of the snow with the jagged edges of the ice reflected the films split personality—allowing enjoyment to exist in a world full of threatening creatures and harsh living conditions. For those who have given up on Disney allow Frozen to ‘take control’ and change your mind. This is Disney done right—a fantastic tale that has something for everyone and will live on for years to come.