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.
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.
Fast 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.
Major 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.
Another 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.
Speaking 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.
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.
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