By Nicole Ackman
When Disney’s “Frozen” came out in 2013, it truly seemed like a cultural reset. Disney parks were flooded with little girls in Elsa dresses and you couldn’t escape hearing Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” even if you wanted to. While Brenda Chapman had directed “Brave” the year before, “Frozen” marked the first time that a Walt Disney Animation Studios film was directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee also wrote the script, along with co-directing, and it seems fitting that a film so focused on the love between two sisters would be the first at the studio to have a female director.
However, while the character of Elsa got all the glory, her younger sister Princess Anna has been majorly overlooked. Voiced by the talented and sunshine-y Kristen Bell, Anna has a character arc just as touching as Elsa’s throughout “Frozen” and its sequel “Frozen II” (2019).
While Anna may actually have more screen time, it seems that it was the character of Elsa that blew up culturally. Part of this is because of how popular the song “Let It Go” became; it’s what was used for all of their big performances, including the Oscars (at which John Travolta famously called Idina Menzel “Adele Dazeem”). Elsa merchandise also sold at higher rates than Anna merchandise and in Disney parks, you will still see more little girls in Elsa dresses. Luckily, with the opening of the Broadway adaptation, the marketing team seemed to shine an equal light on Patti Murin’s Anna.
“Anna might not have the magical icy powers that her elder sister does, but she has plenty of great qualities all her own. Even as a child, she’s brave and trusting.”
While Elsa is also a fantastic character, Anna represents a new kind of Disney princess. She’s more in line with Rapunzel from “Tangled” than many of the princesses of the past decades in her relatability and depth. Anna is a character with many flaws: she’s awkward, clumsy, naive, and sort of looks like a gremlin when she first wakes up (one of my personal favorite things about her!). She loves chocolate and struggles to talk to the handsome Prince Hans when she first meets him. Rather than an archetype or a trope, she feels like a fully developed character.
Anna might not have the magical icy powers that her elder sister does, but she has plenty of great qualities all her own. Even as a child, she’s brave and trusting. She has remained hopeful in the face of the tragedies of losing her parents and being pushed away by her older sister and hasn’t become bitter. One of the best things about the “Frozen” films is how they emphasize the power of sisterly love and it’s Anna that really demonstrates it. She doesn’t give up on Elsa even when everyone else has and she is willing to sacrifice herself to save her sister.
Anna may have the healthiest relationship ever shown in a Disney Princess film. We first see her become infatuated with, and engaged to, Prince Hans who seems to be everything dreamy and princely. However, while “Love is an Open Door” is an adorable love song, it also reveals that Anna is so desperate for affection because of her parents’ death and Elsa shutting her out that she falls headfirst for the first person to really notice her. Later in the film, she realizes that it’s Kristoff that she actually has true feelings for, a relationship that’s been built on trust and compromise.
“Anna is the warmth to Elsa’s cold and deserves more recognition than she has received. I liked Disney princesses growing up, especially Mulan and Belle, but never truly identified with one until presented with Anna.”
“Frozen II” further develops the relationship between Anna and Kristoff. Anna is somewhat worried that Kristoff is planning on breaking things off with her while Kristoff struggles to find the right moment to propose. Both of these are natural and normal things that people experience in relationships and it’s great to see them represented in a children’s movie. Towards the end of the film, Kristoff tells Anna, “My love is not fragile.” It’s refreshing to see a male romantic hero in a children’s film who freely admits his feelings and worries and is mostly concerned with how to support his partner.
In “Frozen II,” Anna also gets the chance to prove that she’s a leader too, perhaps even more so than her older sister. Of course, she is the one who saved the kingdom in the first film with her sacrifice but in the second one she gets a promotion from her position as princess. She is often seen comforting and taking care of others: Elsa, Olaf, and the people of Arendelle. She’s the one to make the hard decision to right the kingdom’s past wrongs committed by her grandfather and she also helps keep the peace between the warring peoples. She proves that while she might be bright and cheerful, she also is smart and diplomatic.
Anna is the warmth to Elsa’s cold and deserves more recognition than she has received. I liked Disney princesses growing up, especially Mulan and Belle, but never truly identified with one until presented with Anna: a girl who loves chocolate and dreams of finding romance, but also fiercely loves her sister and always wants to do the right thing. She’s a fantastic role model for young girls and boys. While Elsa gets most of the attention, Anna deserves to be recognized for being a strong female character as interesting and exciting as her sister.