Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Shane Morris
Stars: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Josh Gad
By Nicole Ackman
For Disney fans, it is hard to believe that “Frozen” (2013) was released just six years ago. The tale, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” has permeated pop culture in a way that even Walt Disney Pictures couldn’t have predicted when it was released. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, “Frozen”’s themes of family, love, isolation, and finding yourself have resonated with people across the globe. And of course, “Let It Go” became such a hit that it was almost impossible to avoid hearing it for many months. In addition to the film making it onto In Their Own League’s Top 50 Female Directed of the Decade list, now is an appropriate time to look back at the first “Frozen” film as its sequel has just been released.
“Frozen” came out on November 27, 2013, and was a huge commercial success. In fact, it was the highest-grossing film of 2013. It tells the story of two sisters: Elsa (Idina Menzel), who must learn to accept and master her magical icy powers, and Anna (Kristen Bell), who takes a long journey to help her sister and maybe find love along the way. Add in a reindeer loving ice delivery man (Jonathan Groff), an adorable reindeer, and a summer-loving snowman (Olaf) and you clearly have a Disney classic on your hands. The movie also contains maybe the biggest Disney princess movie surprise of all time when the dashing Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) turns out to not be what he seems.
What She Said:
“Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen is the loose inspiration for Frozen, a celebration of family and the bond of sisterhood set against a beguiling snowbound backdrop. And like Tangled before it, Frozen has all the hallmarks of an instant classic.”
The voice talent in the film is impeccable. Idina Menzel, known for her roles on Broadway in “Wicked” and “Rent,” and Kristen Bell both have very emotive voices and great singing voices. Jonathan Groff is splendid as the more matter-of-fact Kristoff and one of the disappointments of the film is that he doesn’t get a proper solo, aside from his short “Reindeers are Better than People.” He is particularly hilarious when Kristoff provides a voice for his reindeer, Sven, in imagined conversations between the two. Santino Fontana is, simply put, the perfect Disney prince and Josh Gad often steals the show as the hilarious snowman Olaf.
The movie contrasts the two sisters against each other: Elsa is reserved and isolates herself from other people in fear of hurting them with her uncontrollable magic while Anna is a cheery extrovert who is eager to go beyond the castle walls. The themes of family and love between sisters are strong in the film; it clearly prioritizes Anna’s love for her elder sister over her relationships with either of her suitors. It’s a touching movie, especially for anyone with a sibling, and sure to bring on some tears.
One of the best things about the film is that it features a Disney princess (or rather, a queen) whose story has nothing to do with romance. The screenplay was written by Jennifer Lee and perhaps it is because it was created by a woman that it allows one female protagonist to have a romance and the other to not without condemning either. While Anna seeks a fairytale romance and has to learn that true love is something that must be earned and is not love at first sight, she’s allowed her love story without judgement. Meanwhile, Elsa is focused on figuring out who she is and how to interact with others without losing control of her magic — with no romance mentioned at all. Post “Frozen,” Disney has released another Disney princess film without a romance: “Moana” (2016). Perhaps, this film showed that young girls don’t need a prince involved to love a princess movie.
Elsa’s story about isolation and repression resonated with many in the LGBT community. In “Frozen,” she has to hide her true identity for fear of hurting others or being rejected by them. Then, when she finally hits her breaking point, she has a beautiful number (“Let It Go”) in which she finally is able to express herself, use her magic, and be who she is. Throughout the film, despite Elsa’s fears, her sister Anna supports her continually without judgement. It’s an empowering message that it’s better to be who you are and that the thing that sets you apart often isn’t bad, but rather beautiful.
What She Said:
“With its wonderful songs, spectacular animation, and heartwarming story, ‘Frozen’ ranks right up there with ‘Beauty and the Beast and ‘The Little Mermaid’ in the Disney pantheon.”Betty Jo Tucker, ReelTalk Movie ReviewsTwitter:@MovieAddictRevu
The animation style in “Frozen” is very similar to the style developed for “Tangled” (2010). In fact, many Disney fans have theorized that Anna and Elsa may be related to Rapunzel because of how similar they look. However, the studio developed a beautiful new animation for Elsa’s ice magic and ice castle. This style is a nice blend of the older classic Disney style of animation and the newer modern style seen in Pixar and Dreamworks films.
The movie has a gorgeous score by Christophe Beck and songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. While “Let It Go” became a cultural phenomenon spawning hundreds of covers, the other songs are equally lovely from the duet “Love is an Open Door” to the upbeat “Fixer Upper.” However, one of the main issues with the film is the pacing of the songs. While the beginning of the film is packed with songs, there are none in the last third in the movie. The movie is also missing a great villain song, one of the hallmarks of any good Disney film.
“Frozen” has definitely had the most impact on pop culture of any Disney princess film this century. Disney parks and Halloween nights are filled with little girls dressed as Elsa and Anna and many young boys also love Elsa and her “superpowers.” There is also a popular Broadway musical based on the film that is still running after several seasons and is soon going to London’s West End. The fact that its sequel is being released into cinemas is rare amongst non-Pixar Disney sequels and proof of Disney’s faith in its lasting power.
What She Said:
“Frozen’ has both showtunes and darkness, but most satisfying is a formula-defying finale that successfully subverts the fairytale status quo.”Catherine Bray, Time Out
“Frozen” is one of the most successful Disney princess films ever made. It won the Academy Award in 2013 for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song and made over a billion dollars. But awards and financial success aside, it has been important to many people across the world from members of the LGBT community to little girls. It carries an empowering and feminist message of accepting oneself and focuses on the love between two sisters. It may not be a perfect film, but it feels safe that say that “Frozen” is one of the Disney films that will endure for decades.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Extra Bits:
Where to watch:
Disney Life: Stream
Google Play: Rent & Buy
YouTube: Rent & Buy
Who to follow:
Jennifer Lee @alittlejelee
Main Twitter: @DisneyFrozen
Kristen Bell @KristenBell
Idina Menzel @idinamenzel