I have a confession to make: I’m not a huge fan of Disney animation. I say this even though Wide World of Disney was essential TV viewing for me every week growing up. I delighted in the cartoons of Mickey, Donald, Goofy and the rest, but never took to them the same way I took to Bugs and the Gang over at Warner Bros. All those classics like Cinderella, Snow White, Fantasia and the like? Never seen them. I can count the number of non-Pixar Disney animation films I’ve seen on one hand. I don’t know why I’ve never seen them; they just don’t really appeal to me. Maybe it’s the curmudgeon in me, but I just find that I’m not interested in the stories they tell. They all have the same narrative.
Which leads me to Frozen.
Frozen is the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, princesses for the Kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa, the eldest, is going to someday become Queen. As children, Anna and Elsa were the best of friends, sharing everything. One day, that all changed. Elsa has the power to conjure and control intense cold, and as a child, she accidentally injured Anna with it. The incident was erased from Anna’s memory, and Elsa was taught to fear her power, and suppress it. As a result, the two drifted apart, and they cut themselves off from the outside world. Then, after a tragedy, the time of Elsa’s coronation arrives. A time for celebration, Elsa has the castle reopened for the people to celebrate. During the course of the celebration, however, Elsa’s power is brought out, and the Kingdom is stuck in perpetual winter. Elsa flees, and Anna sets out to bring her back.
I don’t remember if Frozen was a movie I wanted to see in theatres, but given my track record, I’d say likely not. Over the past year or so, however, it has become somewhat a phenomenon for Disney, and a lot of that had to do with the tone. While Frozen ostensibly continues the Disney tradition of telling stories about princesses, it is by no means the same old narrative. Elsa is not a princess who requires rescue from an evil villain; Elsa is a princess who needs help understanding herself. The power to control the cold has no explanation; it’s just always been a part of her. Anna, not knowing about the power, only wants to help. In the discussions of the film I’ve seen, a lot of them revolve around this film’s message about acceptance and love, both of one’s self and by others. In a world which seems to continually fight and struggle to suppress a person’s right to be who they are meant to be, this is a powerful message to send, and it’s this message which made me determined to see the film.
After I sat down to watch it, I found Frozen to be a quite enjoyable tale with lots of humour and, if you’ll pardon the expression, warmth. A movie is sometimes only as good as its cast, and this is especially true for animated films. The story told in Frozen relies on the two sisters; if you don’t believe them, then you have no movie. Fortunately, Kristen Bell (Anna) and Idina Menzel (Elsa) absolutely deliver in their performances. They make the film a highly memorable one. The relationship between the sisters is completely solid and watchable. The rest of the cast do a fine job as well, but it’s Anna and Elsa who make Frozen the hit it deserves to be.
One of the benefits of watching a movie on DVD rather than in theatres is that you sometimes learn more about it that makes you appreciate it all the more. Frozen, for instance, had its partial origins way back in early Disney times, when Walt Disney wanted to do a film based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Ice Queen. Concept art was created for it, but for one reason or another it was never produced. I have no doubt that if this film had been created back then, it would be very different to the modern take. That would have been a travesty. Frozen has a message that needs to be heard.