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Frozen returns Disney to its musical roots

There was a time when at least once a year, Disney would release an animated feature that would captivate the hearts and minds of adults and children all over the world. I highlighted many of those films last month (Favorite Animated Films). Now, with recent films like Princess and The Frog and Tangled it appears as if Disney is trying to resurrect the classic animated movie styles of old. Frozen, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale The Snow Queen, is Disney’s latest attempt.

Frozen tells the story of two sisters. Older sister and future queen, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is born with enchanted powers that allow her to create ice and snow. Following the untimely death of the King and Queen (Disney sure loves killing parents in children’s movies), Elsa is sheltered from the kingdom as well as from her younger sister until she can learn to control her powers. After a spat with naïve younger sibling Anna (Kristen Bell) causes her to reveal her abilities to the world on the day of her coronation, Elsa flees and freezes the entire kingdom in perpetual winter. With the help of ice-cutter Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), Anna sets out to reconcile with her sister and save the kingdom.

The animated Disney films of old all seemed to follow a distinct formula to success: A courageous lead, a sinister yet charismatic villain, a plucky side-kick for comic relief, catchy songs, ground breaking animation, and a solid message. Frozen manages to triumph in some of these areas while falling incredibly short on the others. There is no courageous lead. Elsa is a noble, wise, and fierce character, but for most of the film she takes a backseat to Anna who, although sincere, is almost the complete opposite. There is no charismatic villain. In fact, there is barely even a real villain at all which makes the story feel a tad less lively than all of its predecessors. Then there’s the songs. Sure, some of them are catchy, but unlike previous Disney films the setting and era aren’t infused into the music (see Princess and the Frog, Mulan, Aladdin, Lion King) making it feel more like sing along TV than musical theater.

Luckily, the film does manage to hit everywhere else. The laughs come sturdy and the animation is as rich as ever, especially when it comes to Elsa’s magic. And as far as plucky side-kicks go, Olaf the Snowman is as loveable as any Disney character ever. The message about “true love”, which ironically pokes at Disney princess films of old, is perhaps the film’s biggest saving grace. So while the movie may not stack up to some of the Disney classics, it’s certainly worthy of a watch, especially for adults and children with no Y chromosome.


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