Animated Movies, Disney, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Frozen’ Is Modern, Fun & This Generation’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Ever since I saw the first concept art of the characters from Frozen, I was all in. I knew that this movie was going to be something special: another masterpiece from Walt Disney Animation Studios. We, here at the Rotoscopers, began to hype the heck out of this film even months before Disney itself began to officially promote it because we wanted the whole world to know. But as the release date began creeping up and the reviews began to come in, I wondered and even doubted, “Is it going to be as good as all the hype? Did we perhaps hype Frozen too much?” Well, my friends, I’m happy to say the answer is no. Frozen is as good as every bit of hype.

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Frozen tells the story of two princesses–Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel)–who live in the Norway-inspired kingdom of Arendelle. However, Elsa has a secret power: she can control and create ice and snow. After an accident with her powers, Elsa’s parents decide to keep her isolated and away from her sister and everyone in the kingdom. The palace gates are closed, the castle staff is minimized–no one can know about this. Elsa’s told to “conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show.” This sudden separation is heartbreaking to the outgoing and friendly Anna, who is left in the dark about the real reason for Elsa’s isolation.

elsa-frozen-trailer-elsa-gloves-coronationFast forward a few years and the King and Queen have passed away and it’s now Elsa’s turn to take over the crown and become queen. The palace gates are finally opened again to visitors to celebrate Elsa’s coronation. Elsa does her best to relax and conceal her powers, but they inevitably get unveiled in a moment of anger. Elsa, horrified, flees Arendelle, leaving in her wake an eternal winter, which has trapped everyone in Arendelle with little resources for survival. Anna, determined that her sister isn’t dangerous, chases after her with the help of burly ice-trader named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to save both her sister and Arendelle.

Frozen is truly magical. When watching it, I was filled the happiness and nostalgia of the Disney Renaissance classics like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. The filmmakers–directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee–did a fantastic job making this film feel fresh and modern, while still infusing the “Disney vibe” into the entire thing.

For those that don’t know, the first 30 minutes of Frozen are really a full-blown musical. From “Frozen Heart” to “Let It Go”, the entire first act features five songs, one right after another each working harmoniously in succession to both progress the plot while developing the characters. I don’t think we really have had a Disney musical hit the music so strong at the beginning quite like Frozen. I had constant goosebumps during these sequences and had to keep pinching myself to see if I was dreaming; it really is that good. As a Disney fan, Frozen is heaven in a movie.

Frozen-let-it-go-elsa-making-castleMajor props go to the husband-and-wife songwriting team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of Book of Mormon and Avenue Q fame. These two really took up the challenge of following in Alan Menken’s Disney legacy and put their own modern twist on the songs. This could have been a bit of a risk, but it worked and really allowed the Disney animated musical to evolve from it had started doing about 25 years ago. Some of the songs are even a bit operatic, much like Les Miserables, which again was another risk that ended up working and taking Frozen to the next level.

The characters are fantastic and fresh. The juxtaposition of the two sisters–the warm, bubbly Anna and the cold, standoffish Elsa–create an interesting and complex family dynamic. Kristen Bell’s voice fits the character of Anna perfectly; she’s fun, quirky, full of heart and even slightly hilariously awkward. Elsa, on the other hand, is one of the most complex Disney females we have ever come across. Knowing her backstory, you feel for her and deeply understand her internal conflict. I was concerned about how the more mature-sounding Idina Menzel would be as a 21-year-old princess; however, Disney surprised me yet again and she was magnificent. Especially when it came to film’s showstopper song “Let It Go.” Queen Idina steals the show in that moment and we all bow down to her.

disney-frozen-hans-anna-boatAnother character I enjoyed was Prince Hans, a prince from a neighboring kingdom of the Southern Isle. He’s manly, fun and is quite the gentleman. He hits it off immediately with Anna and you get to see some of their lovey-dovey antics in the song “Love Is An Open Door.” The ice-harvester Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven are also interesting and balance out Anna’s eccentricity. Also, the Duke of Weselton is another favorite character of mine. The entire ensemble seems to work perfectly with each other, even ancillary characters like Oaken the owner of a trading post.

We wouldn’t be an animation site if we didn’t talk about the animation in visuals. One word: stunning. The characters are much more complex and detailed than what we saw from Disney just a few years ago in Tangled. For Tangled, the main technical challenge was hair; in Frozen, it was snow. Since nearly the entire film is set in a snowy setting, the snow had to look convincing and it does. My hat goes off to the Frozen animation and visual team for creating a world that both looks real and stylized.

The style and look of Frozen‘s world is beautiful. The use of colors in this film is also interesting, since it seems the obvious choice would be to stick to a cool, blue color palette. But there are lots of vibrant bright colors that saturate the screen at unexpected times, such as the golden hue that reflects off Elsa’s ice palace at sunrise and the fuchsia hue it has during the day. Animation is also well done. I remember being particularly impressed with the dancing and characters during the ball room scene.

Frozen isn’t without it’s faults though. While the exposition songs I felt were spot on and absolute perfection, I personally thought the latter songs were unnecessary and stopped hindered the plot. Particularly “In Summer”, a quick two-minute song sung by the enchanted talking snowman Olaf, didn’t seem to work. Also, the film’s final song “Fixer Upper” felt like it was brutally forcing a romance that was nicely and subtly growing on its own, as if the audience wasn’t able to pick up on this. But, maybe that’s just me. For the most part, the third act is less tight than the first act. The story gets wrapped up way too quickly and doesn’t really provide the resolution that I was expecting.

olaf-frozeh-some-people-are-worth-melting-forSpeaking of Olaf, he was the character who was most hyped by Disney itself in the film’s early marketing days. Apparently, in test screenings, he was an absolute home run with the kids, so Disney decided to further capitalize on this. In these trailers, I found him a bit grating, but in the movie I sort of warmed up to him. He didn’t distract from the plot, but instead sprinkled in needed comedic moments here and there. I didn’t love him as much as everyone else did as, to me, he was walking the line of being fun and annoying. Also it seemed he had little to do with the plot, other than to show Anna where Elsa’s ice palace was located, which further cemented him as a sidekick character. However, that being said, he really is an innocent, fun, naive character. I’m positive he’ll be the new Iago, Timon, or Mushu.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Frozen is a new Disney masterpiece. It will just as big of a success as Tangled, while simultaneously and successfully giving the film a modern Broadway feel in a fairytale setting. Some have said that it’s the best animated musical since Beauty and the Beast; for me, honestly, I’ll have to see the film a few more times before I can comment on that statement. But what I can say is that Frozen is this generation’s Beauty and the Beast. The songs, score, characters, and animation work flawlessly together to present a film that will remembered, loved and revered for generations.

✮✮✮✮1/2

 

Do not discuss spoilers on this post.

To discuss the film to your heart’s content (even with spoilers!), please visit our ‘Frozen’ discussion thread

 

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About Morgan Stradling

Morgan is a native of Arizona and desert rat who loves the heat--she doesn’t even turn on the AC in her car in the middle of the summer! She loves big eyeliner, SURVIVOR, Lady Gaga, and, of course, animated films. She just graduated with her MBA in Marketing from ASU and now works as a Project Manager for a tech company. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
  • Max den Hartog

    Great review! Like you said I have to see it again to decide if it is as good as
    Beauty and the Beast. When I first saw it I freaked so much out I didn’t got
    the chance to concentrate all the time 🙂 I hope to see it again at a
    pre-screening next week. 4.5 Stars

  • Stephanie

    There were moments when I wondered if I liked Frozen more than Beauty and the Beast. The answer is ultimately no, but it is definitely up there as one of my favorite Disney films. While it does not top Beauty and the Beast, I think over time Anna may become my favorite Disney princess. She is funny, awkward, and a little sister just like me. Of everything in the film, I felt the relationship between Anna and Elsa was spot on and a highlight for me. Particularly in the beginning when Anna wants to get up and play in the middle of the night or when she and Elsa become separated. I’ve been there are it is a very emotional 15 minutes or so for me. “In Summer” wasn’t my favorite song, but I have grown fond of “Fixer Upper” while listening to the soundtrack. I was worried about Olaf and was glad to have those fears thrown aside. I do wish there was a scene showing him come to life and head off the mountain before meeting up with Anna and the two Svens. Another disappointment I had was that Jonathan Groff did not sing more. Seeing it the second time, it makes sense that he’s not bursting into song, but IT’S JONATHAN GROFF! I want to hear the man sing. I could go on, but all the really needs to be said is that Frozen is pure Disney magic.

  • Brandon Kelly

    I will give my review this weekend, still haven’t seen it.

    • I haven’t seen it yet either.

      • Brandon Kelly

        I’m seeing it on Saturday with a special friend of mine (already have the tickets). We are both obviously big Disney fans. The reviews seem very positive so I’m excited.

  • Great review, Morgan! I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m glad to know that the hype is well worth it!

    And I wonder if the people who voted for (0 stars: worst movie of the year) were serious or just making a joke. If the latter, I don’t think it’s very funny. If the former, I can’t imagine how “Turbo” can be a better film.

    • No one yet has voted it 0 stars. I put all those categories up there (with descriptions) 5 through 0 stars, just in case someone really wanted to vote it a 0. Thankfully, no one has put 0. 🙂 Mostly 5s and 4.5s!

      • When I click “View Results”, it says that 3 people have voted 0 stars.

        • Fadi Antwan

          Oh I didn’t notice the 0 stars ratings either first. It’s because the option was mistakenly placed between 2.5 and 3 stars.

        • Meh. Haters gonna hate. Hopefully they were joking.

  • checkmarkdheart

    I did like the film. I saw it at an early screening a few weeks ago and liked the film. It’s certainly not my favorite and I had hoped it would surpass tangled in being my new modern favs but I’m not sure it did. I think it might have to do with “In Summer” and “Fixer-Upper”. I was hoping for a re-prise at the end once the sisters had reunited. But ah oh well. I still enjoyed it. And I love these two girls.

  • Armond

    You guys need to do a podcast on Frozen!

  • Edouard Dia

    Please, be a little more honest and critical ! It’s gorgeous but too fast, with a story very clumsy sometimes . It’s not that epic, you barely see Elsa, Kristoff is a great character but invisible, Sven too. They reach the palace too fast. Emotion and drama could have been huge but humor and visual effects are overwhelmming it all… In theory, Elsa and her story should have been the darkest an most complex Disney stuff ever. It never reaches Beast, Quasi, Pocahontas or even Tarzan. I really think that, i’m sad, as a hardcore Disney fan.

    • Well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I was being honest and critical by my standards, not yours. I didn’t feel it was necessary to break down the movie in a review, since I didn’t want to ruin and spoil the movie for those who hadn’t seen it. I mentioned that it had faults, but didn’t feel the need to go into every single one. I will, however, go into more detail about what I liked and didn’t like in the podcast, which is where we do more long-form reviews and analysis.

      • Pedro

        Thank you Morgan 😀

    • Aliscen Khaw

      I had to agree with you, they should work on the story’s pace, anna’s end scene with elsa sobbing wasn’t long enough and the beginning story of their childhood should have been longer, to establish the sadness== and i think its just me, but i felt the song were too much that it became distracting sometimes( but they were quite good)

  • TT

    frozen looked like tangled, but better. its plot looks like beauty and the beast, but not as perfect. I love frozen tho. its now one of my favorite Disney film.
    and about olaf, I think hes important. the fact that he showed the staircase is one. but he also did save anna from that room that’s about to break.
    and I hafta agree with u. ‘fixer upper’ sounds really forced and its not necessary.
    I bet that most people loved frozen in the theater, cause everyone was laughing, “OOOHHH”ing at the twists and animation, “AWWWWW”ing at the heartbreaking moments. and in the end, they all clapped.

  • Edouard Dia

    Oh please. be sure i’m very fond of your wonderful site and activities for a long time. You and Chelsea are 2 wonderful and wild sparkling girls. I was aiming too high on Frozen and my complain was not adressed to you directly but to all those smiling reviews i’ve been reading for a few days. I really think Frozen is not as strong and sublime as the 90’s gems. Story problems, Emotion problems…That’s my personal opinion after all. It’s still a beautiful piece of work. Best regards !

  • Aliscen Khaw

    well an amazing movie, but definitely not up to beauty and the beats’s par, to me there was too many questions in the film there was quite a few loop holes that keeps you questioning , hope there’s a sequel to resolve this or something. The visuals however were stunning and absolutely flawless animation with good character developments, this would be the part that i will compare to the likes of lion king and so on, but story wise…they need to work on the pacing, it was too fast, anna’s end scene didn’t even hit me as hard as flynn’s death! I’d say it was the shot problem, cause they should have done a close up shot on elsa’s face grieving, then it would have establish the sadness and true loss, and complete LOVE she felt for Anna.

    • Not Without

      What was the Marshmallow show? I missed that oy!

      You’re spot on about the shot at the ending. I new right away what was going to happen but it wasn’t intense like Beauty and the Beast where all was lost. It was nice to finally have the villain not fall to his/her death however.

      • Aliscen Khaw

        yeah! It was funny of how hans was punished, as for the marshmallow scene, it has something to do with elsa’s crown, you can probably find gifs about it on tumblr, i won’t say anything here cause i might spoil it for some people XD, did you catch Flynn and rapunzel in the movie?they looked so sweet XD

  • WDWofColor

    I saw the movie and really liked it. It had great songs and a fun story, but I’ll be realistic. The animation was amazing most of the time, but at moments the animation looked similar to a Barbie home video(anything that wasn’t a major part of the story). Also, I felt while the songs were fun, catchy, and Broadway-y, they didn’t capture the Disney magic. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t Menken, but these songs weren’t as magical(my personal theory is there weren’t great orchestrations like at the beginning of the reprise of When Will My Life Begin-. These often are included in “classic” Disney songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNCuvMYsagw.) This all being said, I loved the film, it just was wayyyy over-hyped. It is a great movie that will be a classic Disney film, but it isn’t a Rennaisance piece. I would put it on par with Pocohontus, which is an amazing film. GO SEE IT! but go with realistic expectations and maybe you’ll be really wowed

  • voicetek20

    I got a chance to see this movie over the weekend and I quite liked it. However, the commercials call it, “the best film since The Lion King” which I feel is a bit of an overstatement. Let’s not forget the Disney animated movies that came between The Lion King and this one. I don’t feel that Frozen, the film or the music, can even hold a candle to movies like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. When Disney first announced that they were doing a hand-drawn animated movie called “The Snow Queen” with music by Alan Menken I was excited. Then when I saw early concept art I was sure that this movie was going to be the next “Hunchback.” The art looked a bit darker and more epic than some of the more recent releases. However, what we ended up with was another “one word” titled movie that is supposedly supposed to appeal to the masses. We got “Frozen.” As I stated before, it’s not a bad movie and I quite liked it, however, it doesn’t compare to the animated movies of the 90s Disney renaissance. What we have here is a movie that falls somewhere between Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph. While not as good as Tangled (in my own opinion), I found it to be better than Wreck-it Ralph mainly because I prefer the Disney Fairytale Musical. This movie is definitely a “must see” for any Disney fan and will provide plenty to enjoy by anyone who watches it. My one warning though – Don’t expect a Beauty and the Beast level film or you might just be disappointed.

  • Lindsey

    I absolutely love it. Watching it was magical. There wasn’t really anything that stuck out to me as negative while I was watching it, but afterwards, there were few things that could have been fixed with a slightly longer running time. I think Anna and Kristoff should have been travelling longer, and Hans and Elsa should have gotten a little more screentime. Also, Fixer Upper seemed the most forced out of everything in the movie. Oh, and interestingly enough, the only part I thought the animation was poor was the part Morgan mentioned as good (the ballroom sequence). It looked stiff and unfinished. Elsa’s ice & huge snowflakes looked a little off sometimes too. Still, even with its little problems, I gave it a 5 because none of those things detracted my enjoyment. And I think it deserves a five. The sister relationship is really well done. I’m the youngest of two girls and I can attest that that’s what being the younger, more enthusiastic sister is like. The sisters’ characters were treated with respect by the writers (Elsa in particular gets more realistic complexity than any Disney lady I can think of at the moment), and their relationship was put ahead of any romance, which I REALLY appreciated. It’s a real step up for Disney in terms of feminism and just writing female characters. The songs are all fantastic. Yes, Fixer Upper is forced, but it’s still a fun song with pretty good lyrics (from what I remember). Summer is probably unnecessary too, but I wouldn’t want it to be left out. The lyrics are golden. The other songs are consistently strong and move the plot along well. Even Vuelie, which only plays while the movie logo forms and a little at the end is gorgeous. Frozen is Disney’s best movie in a long time, in my opinion. Maybe not since the Lion King, like one critic said, but probably since the early 2000s. I’m rather fond of Treasure Planet, after all. 🙂

    • hakunamatata

      Yea, I agree! This movie…oh its phenomenal.

  • Lyndsay

    I definitely enjoyed this movie, but I honestly think it would have been so much better done in the traditional Disney style of hand-drawn animation. I like the style of Tangled and Brave, but that style almost makes a wonderful epic musical seem childish. I love Disney movies and I appreciate the catering to adults as well as children. But I truly miss the old style of animation from the early Disney days.

  • David Kang

    I have been avoiding spoiler and review until today and I have to say that I couldn’t agree more! Frozen is a great movie but it does have its ups and downs.

  • Bob Smith

    I pretty much agree with almost all of this review. Olaf’s summer song was fun but admittedly unnecessary (if something like that had to be in the film, it could’ve worked instead as a short sequence where we instead see his imagination of being in summer), and the Fixer Upper song, while good by itself, was a tad mishandled. I’m wondering there could be an article talking about one of the major “twists” in the movie, and if it was a good idea or not.