Disney, Opinions

Why “The Snow Queen” Was Always Meant To Be a Disney Movie

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When I first heard the storyline for Frozen, I’ll admit that I was a little surprised. We had all known that Disney was going to be creating a movie based off of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Snow Queen. I had been anticipating this to become a Disney movie for a long time, even before it was officially announced. This is a tale that I have grown up hearing, and it just always had that potential to be a Disney movie. I was just surprised that the frigid queen would be a protagonist in the plot.

the-snow-queen-gerda-kaiFor those of you who don’t know the original tale, The Snow Queen is a Danish story about two children: Kai and Gerda. The devil had created a magic mirror that only showed the negative things in the world, but he accidentally shattered it and a shard fell into Kai’s eye, completely changing his personality and making him angry and aggressive. The Snow Queen notices this, and takes him, making him forget Gerda and become even more hateful. Gerda (much like Anna) goes on a quest to save her friend. She (of course) ends up saving him, after traveling across the land and sneaking past the Queen, ultimately saving him by crying warm tears, which wash out the shard of glass.

This is an extremely watered down version of the tale for times sake, but to make a long story short, I always thought that this would be a great story for Disney to do. When I was little, we went to go see the play-version of this, and I remember sitting there, thinking quite vividly about how great it would be to see this on the big screen (well, at least until my sister threw up on me and we had to leave early, but that’s besides the point.)

But I had always thought that Gerda was a great character. She travelled across the lands to save her friend from continuing down a dark path. This is the girl rescuing the guy for once, and I while I have never had anything against Snow White or Cinderella, I just thought that this would be a nice change up.

Then I heard that Frozen would be about two sisters, one of them who was the Snow Queen, but was cursed to be so. At first, I was frustrated. Why fix what isn’t broken? I had known that if this ever would become a Disney movie that certain aspects would be included: Gerda would be a princess, there would be musical numbers, and Gerda and Kai’s friendship would be more romantic. I mean, let’s face it–this is Disney that we are talking about.

However, the more I thought about it, the more fond I became of the idea of two sisters. We of course, do not know the exact details of Frozen (well, most of us don’t) but we know the gist. Two sisters, one blessed/cursed with powers over snow (depending on how you view things) and the other going to save her, and teach her that she is more than her powers, and is truly a good person.

This is exactly like Kai and Gerda. Kai never meant to view the world darkly. He was forced to leave his friends due to the ice that was encasing his heart. Elsa leaves because of her powers, and her fear of what they could do to other people.

snow-queen-yerko-coverThe Snow Queen can be a metaphor, for the coldness that can sometimes plague you. While Kai was abducted by the Snow Queen, we can presume that this is symbolic of how you can be led down dark paths sometimes. Elsa was in the same place; just in a very dark state of mind, trying to not let her powers take over. Anna/Gerda make it clear that you can find the light back in your life, you just sometimes need a friend to help show it to you.

Which brings me back to my main point. Why was this long-ago fairy-tale always meant to be a Disney movie (you know, besides the fact that Disney has a passion for adapting fairy-tales?)



1. Friendship


I have stated before that I have found Olaf a little annoying, but he is right when he says that, “some people are worth melting for.” This is a common theme in both the original and today’s version of The Snow Queen that should be expressed more often in films.

2. Finding yourself


At some point, we face that inevitable question of who we are, and we need to discover that. Both Elsa and Kai struggle to come to terms with who they are, whether it is fighting a prophecy and trying to control themselves, or struggling with their inner psyches, they realize that they need to be strong, and allow others to help them every once in a while. Sometimes in life, you realize that you are your own worse enemy, fighting against yourself. Both Elsa and Kai prove though that you can do good, even if you ever do go to a dark place.

3. Scenery


This might seem random, especially since I just handed you guys two meaty themes to chew on, but this story takes place in an extremely beautiful area. I just remember looking at my old storybook, filled with beautiful illustrations of snow, swirling and tumbling, and thinking, “Wow, I wish I could see this actually move…”

4. Characters


I have already scrapped the surface of this a little, but I thought that with the original story, it was so great to see the girl saving the boy. But now, I have grown to love the idea of a sister dichotomy, and learning that family comes first, and that you have to save them, no matter what path they fall down. Plus, this moves the focus away from the romance, which can now be side stories rather than the main focus (whoa, Disney, changing things up on us there!)

5. The Snow Queen


I had always imagined the Queen being like the White Witch from the Narnia series. Evil, and dark, and forcing other people to become as cold-hearted as herself. I always wanted to see a Disney-animated version of her, I had imagined a cold Maleficent-esque character parading around a icy castle. Now, there is no antagonist. Elsa is the Snow Queen, but her main purpose for leaving Anna is so she doesn’t hurt others. This is a much more original idea, and I praise Disney for it…

…which is exactly why this timeless classic is perfectly suited for Disney.

As you will learn later this Frozember, this has been a Disney movie years in the making. They kept waiting, but now they feel that it is ready. They didn’t rush things at all, but waited until they had the perfect story to suit this tale. They could have made it generic, or could have completely followed Anderson verbatim, but instead, they kept the original heart of the story, but changed it enough to make it original and unlike anything we had ever seen before.

Are you pleased that Disney made The Snow Queen into a movie?

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About Alissa Roy

Alissa is a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, studying Media Arts & Technology. Her hometown is in the Middle-of-Nowhere, NY, where winter is approximately 6 months of the year. She is extremely nerdy, and loves all things animated, literary, or Harry Potter related. Her older sister spawned her love of animation by dragging her downstairs at 2 a.m. every morning and making her watch various films until their parents took them back to bed. Some of her all-time favorite films include Mulan, The LEGO Movie, Up, Tangled, and The Lion King. She also collects old Peanuts comic strips, and spends her free time reading, writing for the Rotoscopers, and working a variety of jobs. You can follow Alissa on Instagram and Twitter: @ThisAlissa. See her work here.
  • Qindarka

    You rightly pointed out that Elsa is playing essentially the same role as Kai, a point often missed, with many seeming to think that Kristoff is Kai based solely on the fact that they are both male.

    Also, Kai’s corruption in the source material is likely a metaphor for puberty and the negative changes associated with it, the fairy tale emphasizing the purity of childhood. Some lines to show that:

    “Unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Biblical reference)

    “There sat the two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!”

    In the same sense, Frozen is a celebration of childhood. Olaf is an obvious symbol of that. In Elsa’s isolation, she still remembers the bond forged with her sister in those early childhood days. There is also a bit more to that but would venture into spoiler territory.

    • Qindarka

      Sorry, wanted to add more.

      What strikes me as an improvement from the source material is that in Frozen. Kai/Elsa undergoes genuine internal conflict rather than being merely a helpless object of rescue who has been corrupted by an external force.

      I do sometimes lament the loss of what could have been an epic romance though.

  • I honestly am not familiar with the original “The Snow Queen” story, so I can’t say. But I have been extremely excited for “Frozen” ever since I heard about it. I actually wish they would have skipped “Wreck-It Ralph” and just gotten straight to “Frozen”.

  • Yuri Allysson

    Tatally agree. It’s exactly what I think. And, someone noticed that Kristoff is basically a male version of the robber girl?

  • Pedro

    Absolutely! I’ve always wanted the snow queen to become a disney film, it was always one of my absolute favorite fairytales, and I think the changes they made were brilliant and make it work as a film! I think it has the potential to become one of the all time great disney films

  • Fadi Antwan

    To be honest, I always want Disney to make fairy tales even if I am not familiar with them. They just never go wrong with these.

  • disqus_4f0x2ILDgI

    Great post. And yes, The Snow Queen was always perfectly suitable to be made into a Disney movie. While it is a pity that we miss out on the “girl saves the boy” fairy-tale(maybe another time, if Hansel and Gretel ever gets adapted by Disney), we end up with the tale of two very fascinating sisters who share an incredibly complex relationship with each other. Which is actually better because it is now a more personal story.

  • Meg

    Ahhh, I agree. I love the dynamic between the sisters and how they’ve switched it up to be sister saving sister. Opposed to what was said in this article, I actually think even the girl saving boy thing is a becoming somewhat of a cliche. I mean I think it’s pretty safe to say, John Smith, Shang, Naveen and Flynn fall some what under the dudes in distress trope. Plus I know waaay more movies other than Disney movies have done it before. Even though it’s a cliche I still find it entertaining if done right don’t get me wrong.

    But it’s a little harder for me to think of stories where it’s girls helping girls. So I think it’s a nice little switch up. Plus I think it’s kind of clever that Disney has Anna saving Elsa pretty much from herself. It’s not like she’s kidnapped or in any true danger, I’m just assuming it’s something like just telling Elsa she’s loved and she’s more than her powers or something like that. So in the end you have your conflict, with someone who needs help, but it also adds and makes the character Elsa much more interesting and complex.

    • Name

      This is not the first Disney movie that deals with sister relationships. Lilo and Stitch also worked with sisters, sometime n a more realistic way, because they got angry at each other. Anna barely seemed angry at a person who has let her completely alone for more than 5 years.

  • Tanya Burkowitz

    guys the actual meaning of Frozen is all about two sisters. When Elsa was 8.45 years old she turned on the air conditioning but it only made Anna cold and put a streak in her hair. Norwegian doctors operated on Anna until finally Anna could walk again after getting hurt at the fair. Elsa was transformed into a potato by villagers for eating a pickle and now hans and Kristoff are on a quest to rescue Elsa the potato from being deep fried and served as funnel cake!

  • Christine Huang

    Someone should do an article of computer animation versus hand drawn.

  • Brittany

    Here’s a neat article that explores the troubles disney had trying to adapt the original story to work for film, mostly pointing to not being able to give the evil snow queen more depth and they weren’t satisfied with the ending of the two kids not really defeating her at the end. –> http://tinyurl.com/meg5h7j

    I would still be interested in seeing the original story because the kai/gerda thing is very romantic and I love stories about purity beating evil. But I think the way Disney has switched up their own story with the sister dynamic also has good potential. I’m curious how it will play out since I don’t have a sister myself (or any sibling bond) so it seems like new territory. I also like how now the snow queen has a more identifiable struggle. Disney has always changed up fairy tales and that’s okay because I love the hopeful tones they give them. In this case it just seems more inspired by the book rather than based on it.

  • Brandon Kelly

    You know what I just discovered? Though Frozen was inspired by The Snow Queen, it is also inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale the Snowman with the Olaf character. Because I think the Snowman story deals with a snowman wanting to experience warm weather. Correct me if I am wrong.

  • Lyk

    It’s Hans Christian Andersen*

  • Laura

    At first, I thought it was a pitty that Frozen didn’t keep as Andersen’s original tale… but it’s a great movie. I’ve loved Gerda character for many years… and I also love the crazy and brave Anna from Frozen… maybe because they’re quite similar.

    And after reading your post I appreciate this Frozen version of the tale much more, reading you I realized that the sister-sister change is a win (to avoid making a romantic plot!) and the other one is the lack of an evil character. To me, the biggest win in this movie is the amazing self-discovering plot of Elsa (and the superb Let It Go scene).

    If you think about it, the lack of an evil character and the female-female family relationship are also present in Brave…