There will be spoilers in this review so if by some miracle you haven’t seen the movie stop reading and watch it. (I personally don’t care about spoilers but to some that is a big deal)
Here we go! The big controversial post . It was so big, it seems you either love it or hate it, and I am on the loving it side! Let’s get cold and talk some FROZEN!
Make sure to look at my initial review after seeing it in 2013. At the time I thought all the songs ran together like a Sondheim musical without a standout cabaret like number. Boy was I wrong on that one!
But I also said in my review
“It is worth your money and will be an experience that will stick with them forever just like the princess movies stuck with me. Plus, these are strong, independent women who come to their own rescue without the need of Prince Charming. Love that.”
I still like that. I think in many ways Frozen is the new Little Mermaid. It’s about a girl who is told by her parents she has to live a certain way, a way that isn’t right for her. She learns through the movie to be herself and that her parents were wrong. The only difference is Ariel is never led to believe her ambitions will hurt anyone but herself. They do end up hurting other people, but Ariel is never fearful of that. From the get-go Elsa almost kills her sister and the fear that could happen again causes her to be paralyzed into not living her life. In a way she is brainwashed into believing she is wrong and bad. Ariel is rebelling but Elsa cannot rebel because people will die.
But the appeal in the characters of Ariel and Elsa is similar. Both feel uncomfortable in their own skin and both break free through the course of their movies. They both have freedom anthem songs and they both greatly appeal to young girls for that reason.
Before writing this post I asked my twitter and facebook friends why their daughters liked Frozen. Some of the responses:
“My 11 year old loves the new songs, the twist they put on Hans and when Elsa saved Anna by unfreezing her with the power of love”
“My son loves Sven. He is 3. Whenever he sees a moose or cow anywhere he will say ”There’s Sven”
“My oldest 5 says she likes the movie because the princesses are the good guys…she likes how they win”
So that gives you an idea of some of the appeal to youngsters.
Because I’ve seen this reaction from the kids in my life it has seriously bummed me out to see the negative backlash around Frozen. It makes me sad because I was allowed to love The Little Mermaid and nobody said I was stupid or it was awful. I had never even heard of anyone not liking Little Mermaid till a few years ago. It all goes back to my Content, Content, Content post. If you don’t care for it fine but do not make little girls feel badly because they do like it. Youtube is especially brutal. Every video of little girls singing Let It Go has so many hateful comments. Get a life people.
I’ve felt very defensive of the movie because of these girls and boys who love it. So, in the comment section if you hate it please try to keep the discourse to a respectful level as we have done so far on the blog. I will try to let you guys discuss and not get too involved.
On the blu-ray there is a cool featurette about the history of The Snow Queen at Disney. Evidently in 1940 there was a plan to make a package film of the works of Hans Christen Andersen but it was eventually scrapped.
Evidently pitches for The Snow Queen happened after The Little Mermaid in the 90s and again in 2002 by exec Harvey Fierstein when it was rejected by the studio.
When John Lasseter was made CCO after the purchase of Pixar by Disney he assigned Chris Buck of Tarzan fame to begin working on the Snow Queen. Buck decided:
“he wanted to do something different on the definition of love”
Josh Gad was evidently involved early on when it was closer to the original story but in 2010 the concept was rejected again.
After the success of Tangled, they picked up the project again and in December 2011 Disney announced Frozen and gave themselves under 2 years to complete. Quite the ambitious project but I guess with so much groundwork being done on story and ideas that helped.
Immediately song writers for Avenue Q, Kristen Anderson- Lopez and Robert Lopez, were brought on board and the idea of the ‘frozen heart’ was developed with the songs.
They had a challenge of creating a fairytale movie without a traditional villain. Pixar’s Brave tried to do this but much less successfully. We had to always keep our heart open to Elsa. Buck said of writing “That was a concept and the phrase…an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart”
Jennifer Lee from Wreck-it Ralph was brought in as co-director and she said “Anna was going to save Elsa. We didn’t know how or why?” Lee then went on to rewrite the script again and with only 17 months left till it’s release. (Pretty amazing what they pulled off).
I guess in the original script Elsa was in fact more ‘evil from the start’ and didn’t want Anna to get back to Hans. Anna was also more brooding and resentful about her spot as the second daughter.
Then the Lopez’s wrote Let it Go and the song was so powerful they rewrote the script again with Elsa as a more nuanced character.
“Forget villain. Just what it would feel like. And this concept of letting out who she is[,] that she’s kept to herself for so long[,] and she’s alone and free, but then the sadness of the fact that the last moment is she’s alone..”
Then they decided to switch things up again and make Hans duplicitous and a sociopath type character. This had certainly never been done with Disney. Every character had been pretty obviously bad from the start even if the characters don’t see it such as Clayton in Tarzan or Radcliffe in Pocahontas.
2012 they got the voice talent on board and went with Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, and Broadway superstar Idina Menzel. In my opinion Frozen has the best singers in a Disney musical bar none.
That’s only a handful of the details out there. They did amazing things with the set designs, backdrops, story etc. I personally find them all fascinating but most importantly there is a definite sense of teamwork with Frozen because it was created under such time constraints all facets were working together at the same time. Beauty and the Beast was very similar.
And all that teamwork produced something very special. Something a lot of people responded to in a way a movie hadn’t done in a long time. With on demand and high def the days of people going to movies 12+ times were kind of passed us but Frozen had that kind of success and it made over a billion dollars. It stayed in the top 10 until March which was the same time it was released on DVD!
I thought it would be fun to do something different for the story portion. I wanted to tell you about the story but also explain why it was different and why people responded to it. (I’ve been thinking about this review the whole time writing the blog). I was at Costco and found this ‘Busy Book’ and I think it does a good job explaining each of the character’s appeal, story and why they are different.
First we have Elsa
That sums up Elsa pretty well. Worried she will do harm she hides her powers and then runs away causing the freeze.
Then there is Anna
Anna really is all of the adjectives loving, energetic, fearless optimist. She is a really complex character who is stupid yet brave and combined with Elsa they are a great team. She also has great romantic comedy banter with Hans at the beginning and Kristoff as they search for Elsa.
Olaf is our fun snowman who I think is in the movie just the right amount to remain funny.
Olaf is big-hearted and willing to sacrifice himself for his friends. A terrific character.
Anna meets Kristoff and he is not a fan of hers at first. They have a lovely romantic banter. He is a simple guy and wants to sell his ice in peace.
Kristoff is the pleasant side of Elsa. Kind of the character that is allowed to be who he is and isn’t stymied by his parents (or trolls!). He prefers to be alone but also has a ‘very kind heart’. I love Kristoff. He will tell you what he thinks even if you don’t want to hear it. Love that.
Then we have Kristoff’s friend Sven who I am so glad they did not make him a talking reindeer.
Sven could have been a throw-away character but they give him a lot of humor and heart.
Finally we have our villain who again doesn’t start as a villain, Hans
THE SONGS and more Story
Let’s talk for a second about the songs, which I LOVE!
We start out with a very strong introductory song called Heart and it introduces us to the theme of ice and a frozen heart. The choral work is beautiful. Reminds me a lot of The Lion King intro or Hunchback of Notre Dame choral work.
We then get our introduction to Anna and Elsa. This involves Elsa hurts Anna with her magic winter powers. The trolls tell the family that they must shut magic out and hide it for everyone’s safety and until she can control it.
This is a bit of a plothole because why not explain to the family that love is the antidote? Surely she could work on that instead of being just shut in? But I put that along with Gothel telling Rapunzel her actual birthday or the Beast being 11 when the spell was cast. Somethings have to be in order for the plot to start, so not a major stumbling block for me.
Anyway, Elsa shuts Anna out because her parents tell her to. We then get a great song of storytelling and character development with Do You Want to Build a Snowman. The girls parents die and all along Elsa follows orders and keeps away from her sister to keep Anna safe.
The day for Elsa’s coronation comes and Anna is excited to finally be opening the doors. Elsa is naturally nervous. So we get a song called For the First Time. Kristen Bell is wonderful in this song.
The ball comes and Anna meets Hans and falls in love with him and they sing a very funny song- very well sung by Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana. It pokes fun at the instant love tropes used in many previous Disney movies.
Anna and Hans ask Elsa for her blessing and she refuses causing them to fight and her powers are revealed. Elsa runs away and Anna goes after her.
Elsa realizes now everyone knows she might as well Let it Go! I don’t know if any of you have ever had a secret and then it is finally out but I have and it feels great. It’s out there and you can be you!
Anna meets Kristoff and Sven and together they meet Olaf Elsa’s snowman creation. He is a wonderful character and in the movie just enough to not get annoying. His song is well done by Josh Gad. Turns out he dreams of summer.
Anna and Elsa meet but Anna is unable to convince her to come back and Elsa doesn’t want to because she can’t face all the people and doesn’t know how to bring back summer. In an accident she strikes Anna in the heart and tells her to leave. This is all very exciting!
In probably the weakest section Kristoff takes Anna to meet his parents (although Olaf is very funny in these scenes). Turns out he was raised by the trolls from the beginning of the picture and they want Anna to fall in love with their fixer upper.
It’s not the best song but I don’t hate it and it is well sung by Broadway veteran Maia Wilson. I can certainly think of comic relief songs that are far worse.
The trolls tell Anna she must have an act of true love to reverse the spell. They all assume it must be a kiss and head back to find Hans. Unfortunately he is a true villain and has captured Elsa and refuses to kiss Anna, in an attempt to claim her throne.
I don’t think Disney has ever had a villain who has been so duplicitous. It is very effective and genuinely surprised me. I thought Hans was going to be a match for Elsa but no.
Finally we get our ending where Anna is frozen and Elsa devastated but it turns out her love for Anna is the act needed to break the magic.
To me the ending was just about perfect.
Some claim this is ‘false feminism’ but I disagree. The point of Frozen was not to make a feminist picture. It was to show a different type of love. Whether it’s the love of friendship Olaf shows, the loyalty Kristoff shows or the sisterly love between Elsa and Anna the film does an excellent example of showing the power of each kind of love. It’s not trying to be a female empowerment film. It could have as easily been about two brothers loving each other.
The fact that some people cheered it for not having a Prince Charming moment does not mean that was the main point of the ending. The filmmakers are not responsible for every person’s response. They were trying to make a movie about different types of love. Whether that is especially feminist or not is up for debate. I thought it was refreshing and moving. Most of the love in my life has been through friendship and I have always been very close to my 3 sisters so I related to the emotion very well.
I watched Frozen every day this week, so 4 times before writing this review. I have a high tolerance for repetition. If I like it, I like it on the 100th airing as much as on the 1st. Seriously it does not damper from over-exposure like it does for others. I don’t know why but that’s just the way I am. So for me, the popularity of Frozen has no effect in dampening my enthusiasm.
I love it’s story of a girl who is told she can’t be who she is, that she is dangerous, and then her eyes become open and she becomes empowered. It is the Little Mermaid for girls of today and I love seeing that. I love young girls have an anthem in Let it Go like I had Part of Your World. That’s a great thing.
I think the story is a lot of fun. I love the ending. I totally buy them focusing on a new type of love that we haven’t seen in a Disney movie. Whether it is feminist or not I don’t really care. It’s the love of sisters and I certainly relate to that. I love the surprise in the villain, which I think is very difficult to do in a fairy tale. Movies like Treasure Planet look beautiful but fail to surprise me. Frozen did just that.
I think the comic relief is in just enough and there is real heart to it as opposed to say Trashing the Camp segments of Tarzan which are much more grating than In Summer or Fixer Upper. All the singing is the best in any Disney film. It really elevates even so-so numbers.
I loved the world they created. Elsa’s castle is gorgeous. The costumes and character designs look great. Even Elsa’s hair is cool. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf aren’t stock characters but have nuances we haven’t seen in a Disney film. Kristoff is kind of a loner and glad to be so which is refreshing. Anna is very interesting and complex. She is naive, silly, impetuous, free spirit but in a realistic, sweet way. She is allowed to make mistakes in the script and can even be sarcastic.
Elsa is this brainwashed girl who grows throughout the film. She is a villain for a bit but you always like her so she’s not the villain. It is very well written. Most Disney movies have one heroine and I liked there are 2 and together Anna and Elsa balance themselves out well.
Like I said, I know there is tons of backlash but this is my blog and my opinion and I love Frozen. I think it is a terrific movie with great characters, songs, story and animation. I am sure there will be tons of people who feel differently and please share but remember to be respectful and keep the language clean. I worked really hard on this post so please actually read my thoughts before responding.
Thanks and GO FROZEN!!!
Overall Grade/Conclusion- A+