Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.
Disney has been on something of a dry run over the last few years. Even it’s most successful studios, Pixar, has been struggling to release quality material as of late. It’s not that there haven’t been any good films produced by Disney, but 2009’s UP is probably the last great film that the studio made. To some, Frozen might be the sign of good things to come. But to me it is simply another entry in Disney’s latest slump. While certainly one of the highlights of their output in recent years, it lacks the courage to run with its interesting premise, and it is this that ultimately stops it from becoming something special.
To be clear, Frozen is a wonderful ride from beginning to end. The world created may not stray far from the template set by other magical kingdoms, but here it is so perfectly realised that it is hard not to get caught up in it. This is partly thanks to some beautiful animation that allows for us to witness some beautiful vistas during the films running.
All this would be for nothing if the story were not engaging and the characters not relatable. Thankfully they are. The story, again, takes a lot of inspiration from other fantasy stories. Princess, witches, magical creatures, and humanised animals are all things we’ve have seen countless times, especially in Disney movies. However, with one simple tweak Frozen makes it all seem fresh again.
As I gather, the original intention was to have the icy queen Elsa be the antagonist of the film, as is standard for such tales. As it happened though, after the conception of one of the musical numbers, the decision was made to make the character more relatable and focus the story around the relationship between her and her younger sister, Anna. This decision is integral to the success of Frozen. Without it Frozen may well just have been a completely forgettable Disney princess movie. With it it is an examination of a family relationship that isn’t often given much consideration.
The scenes between the two sisters are easily the best in the film, largely thanks to some pitch perfect voice acting from Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. Unfortunately these scenes are few and far between. It seems as if the filmmakers felt it necessary to include a romance subplot, that while entertaining, ultimately steals valuable screen time from the films main selling point.
For me Frozen had potential to be a classic, if only it would have been content to simply focus on the relationship between the two sisters. As it is, when the film reaches its conclusion, it is not as emotionally fulfilling as it might have been if we had had more time to establish what went wrong between them and why they were so important to each other.
Most of the film concerns Anna’s journey to find her sister, on which she is accompanied by Ice salesman Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and the animated snowman Olaf. Their adventure is brilliantly paced and full of fun set-pieces that will nod doubt entertain children and parents alike. Olaf also adds a healthy slice of comedy to the mix. It is efficient cinema, and fun to watch, but lacks the emotional edge that will make it memorable in the long run.
Frozen also adds a few musical numbers to the mix. Now, I shouldn’t be considered an expert on these matters, but to me the music seemed simply serviceable. Like everything else in the movie, the musical numbers are bubbly and effervescent, but musically they don’t stray to far from what can be heard in almost any other Disney animated film.
In the making of Frozen I don’t think the intention was ever to make something that would be remembered in years to come. No, instead I think there was just the will to create something that audiences would enjoy, perfect for the winter season. In this, Frozen is certainly a success story. It would take someone with a rather cold heart not to enjoy the ride. However, I find it hard, seeing how close the creators came to creating something that could have transcended that, not to feel the slightest regret that Frozen wasn’t something better.