Starring: (voices of) Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk
Directed by: Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck
Disney latest animated family film is the rather winter-y Frozen, which is computer animated, much like their last two films were, and like Tangled, it continues the tradition of musical about princesses. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, directed by Jennifer Lee, who also wrote the screenplay, and Chris Buck, who directed Tarzan for Disney back in 1999, and features the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the elder princess of Arendelle, who possesses powers to produce ice and snow. One time while playing, she accidentally hits her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), in the head with a blast of ice, and from then on she is kept separate as she tries to keep control of her powers. Any memory that Anna had of her sister’s ability were taken away, and she was never told why her sister no longer spent any time with her. A few years later, the King and Queen die in a storm at sea, and Elsa is next in line. On her coronation day, she fails to control her powers, putting Arendelle in an eternal winter, as she disappears into mountains to be alone, thinking it the best way to keep everyone safe.
In what may be a sort-of Disney first, there are two female leads who are both real princesses, who know their heritage, and neither is evil, which I actually loved, especially that one isn’t like the Wicked Witch. Elsa has these powers, but they aren’t necessarily for evil, she just didn’t the correct guidance on how to use them. And Anna, in true Disney princess, falls in love with her first prince she comes across, Hans (Santino Fontana), though she did spend her entire childhood alone. As Anna is the one who goes off in search of Elsa, and has the love story in the film, she comes across as the lead protagonist, however I do feel like they tried to make it as equal as possible.
Jonathan Groff plays Kristoff, a mountain man who sells ice for a living, so when the kingdom comes under an eternal winter, his livelihood is at stake, and so he is willing to help Anna find her sister. Kristoff feels a lot like Flynn from Tangled, much like his reindeer Sven feels like Maximus, the horse, the difference being Sven is actually Kristoff’s, whereas Maximus belonged to the palace, not Flynn. Frozen does not suffer in any way because of this, but it is something quite a few people will pick up on, much like how I have already read that people have found Olaf, the snowman, hilariously voiced by Josh Gad, is similarly played to Sid from the Ice Age franchise. For me, Sid had become a bit tiresome by number four, but I really enjoyed the character of Olaf, so maybe it isn’t all that similar. Apart from Josh Gad, I didn’t any of the other voices especially great. Apart from Idina Menzel, and Jonathan Groff in places, whose voices I am familiar with, to me the voices could have been anyone’s. They didn’t really leave their mark on the characters, which maybe wasn’t necessary given that the characters worked really well as they are, but they why have recognizable names.
There is an obvious absence of a major villain, which is usually a staple in this genre of film. In a way, the antagonist is actually magic, until Elsa figures out what to do with it, that is, which is rather unusual given the importance of magic in so many of the Disney Princess films, which always have the distinction of good and evil magic. In Frozen, it’s more of a choice, than different characters being assigned good and evil. Maybe this is just the start of Disney’s more evolved ideas about magic and the supernatural.
The songs, written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, are actually really good, much better than the songs that the last few Disney musicals had. I think it is pretty noticeable though that the score was done by someone else. Not that it matters too much, the background score is good too, but at places it doesn’t have that sense of continuity that it might have had if it was all by the same composer. The film looks amazing, although it does get to the point where, with all the snow and ice, it is almost too white. But the effects of the ice, and what Elsa can do with her powers is pretty impressive, and I’m sure kids will love it in 3D. It might have had the old school Disney charm, had it been hand drawn, but I don’t think what they would have sacrificed in terms of effects and detail would have been worth it.
I don’t think this review sounds excited enough, but I did love Frozen. It’s exactly the kind of adorable and funny film to come out in time for the Christmas holidays, and it should appeal to adults as well as kids. Josh Gad’s Olaf is possibly the best thing about it, and undoubtedly will get the most laughs, but there’s plenty else to love in this before he turns up. As many others have been saying, this is possibly the best Disney film to come along in a while. I cannot wait to watch it again.
Frozen releases on 6th December in the UK.