Walt Disney Animation Studios hit somewhat of a snag in the early 2000s. While The Emperor’s New Groove was a very good film, most of what followed after was mediocre to say the least. Disney struck gold with Tangled in 2010, and ever since then they have been successful; with films such as Winnie the Pooh and Wreck-It Ralph, the studio is going through another renaissance period, if you will. As a long-overdue adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, can Frozen be yet another worthy entry in the Disney library?
In the kingdom of Arendelle, there were two sister princesses: the younger was named Anna, and the older was Elsa. Elsa possessed the ability to create snow, ice and freezing temperatures at will, and one day while playing she hurts Anna with this magic. As a result, their parents force her into hiding and control her powers, while Anna has no memory of the accident. Many years pass, and on top of their parents having passed away, both Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are depressed having been shut out from one another for years. That is until the day that Elsa was to be coronated as the new queen of Arendelle. However, on this fateful day, circumstances lead to her accidentally exposing her powers to the common people. Thus, she runs away from the castle in an emotional rage and casts a spell over the land that causes everything to freeze over. As this poses real danger to the safety of Arendelle, Anna makes the decision to find Elsa, recompense with her and set things right between them and the kingdom as well.
Frozen is not perfect, for one could argue that it rushes through its storyline – which is a bit predictable. I can forgive that second point though, considering that most Disney films are. Even so, this is most definitely one of the best animated films to come out of the studio in a long time; in fact, I would even put it up there with Beauty of the Beast and Tangled as one of the best Princess films. One key reason why this is so is because of its subversive storyline, for here Disney plays with clichés. For example, there isn’t a traditional villian, and there’s clever commentary on romances in previous Disney films along with the sister dynamic between Anna and Elsa. Surprisingly though, such elements actually benefitted the narrative, for screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee effectively played with such clichés. As a result, she has crafted a smart, sweet and heartwarming story that is innovative despite having a familiar Disney vibe. Frozen also benefits greatly from a sweet romance, memorable characters, consistent stream of laughs, very fast pace and excellent songs that actually tie into the narrative.
Frozen may not have the most recognizable voice cast, but at least the filmmakers focused on getting truly talented people instead of just stuffing their cast with celebrities. Kristen Bell is comparable to Mandy Moore as Rapunzel in Tangled, for her performance has a modern edge while offering a degree of tenderness to her character Anna. Stage actress Idina Menzel also proves to be quite a lovely addition to the cast, for both her singing and conversational voice do well to emphasize that Elsa is experiencing different struggles than her sister. Not only that, but also that she is emotionally damaged from what has occurred in her life. Both Bell and Menzel ultimately bounce off each other quite well, even if their two characters are not seen on screen together that much in the film. Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana and Alan Tudyk also provide some great voice work here – Groff is hilarious in certain scenes involving the moose, Sven – but the undoubtable standout is Josh Gad. He plays a talking snowman named Olaf, and he is simply hysterical. His character’s eccentricity, naivety and very fun personality is perfectly conveyed through Gad’s voice work, making for some of the funniest moments in any movie this year.
It was no surprise to me that Frozen has spectacular animation, but I was nonetheless blown away by the visuals of this film. The animation is clean, bright and very fluid, adding a great sense of vibrant life to the picture that Disney has always been lauded for. All of the characters are well-realized and unique, while the environments are immaculately detailed. Certainly one of the greatest strengths of the aesthetics is the art design, for there are some truly incredible shots that are geniusly crafted. You truly get a sense that this is a living, breathing world, and it’s a very beautiful one at that; the 3D also does well to emphasize this, even if the effect is not necessary.
Being a Disney film, the music is also a great strength of the film since it adds to its heartwarming nature. The lyrics relate well to the narrative, and the music itself drives much of the emotion behind this film, while the songs are also consistently fun and very memorable. In fact, Frozen has some of the best songs in a Disney film in years.
Perhaps I am giving Frozen too much praise here, but I must say that this film may potentially become yet another Disney hit. With its fantastic animation, excellent voice performances, clever songs, consistent laughs and a heartwarming story, Frozen has the recipe to win over people of all ages. It twists around the traditional Disney formula, so even if the plot progression is familiar, the actual story is refreshingly new when compared to typical Disney fare. When all is said and done, Frozen is simply the best animated film of the year. Not only is it a suitable family film for the holiday season, it will warm your heart any day of the year.
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With fantastic animation, clever songs, consistent laughs and a heartwarming story, Disney’s Frozen has the recipe to win over people of all ages.
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