Disney’s tradition of taking and adapting famous fables and tales continues with Frozen, their version of The Snow Queen. In the land of Arendelle, young Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has the elemental power to make and control snow and ice. While playing with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), she accidently injures her and in a desperate attempt to protect them both the King and Queen separate them and lock the doors to the Palace for good. Years later after the unfortunate death of their parents, Elsa comes of age and the doors are finally opened for her coronation, but her secret is revealed and unable to control her emotions causes a permanent winter of the kingdom before fleeing into the mountains. Anna, concerned for her sister leaves her love Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and joins Ice salesmen Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) in a quest to go find her.
Ticking all the prerequisite boxes, Frozen is a return to familiar stomping ground for Disney. There’s Princess’ and Princes, with kingdoms, humourous side characters and a comedic sidekick, in this case the show-stealing snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). What is surprising is the narrative strokes, where the Mouse House appear to be branching out and trying new things. There are some beautiful subversion of tropes from the classic films, including a couple of twists that work really well.
Frozen is also a proper musical, with the same structure as a musical theatre show. The music is written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, whose previous work includes the shows Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. While Idina Menzel is one of the biggest names on the stage. It is clear that Disney wanted to bring the magic of the stage to life on the screen and it in general they succeed.
The story suffers from inconsistency and uneven pacing. When it is funny or when you get a good song, Frozen soars to the heights of the classics, the song ‘Let It Go’ for instance is as good as anything from Disney’s glittering past. Despite this positives there are too many dead periods in terms of action and comedy and some of the songs are forced and instantly forgettable. There’s also a lack of a memorable antagonist for a large portion of the film, which leaves a lot of the story to focus on the relationship between the sisters.
This is an admirable attempt to put an all female relationship front and centre, but all the best lines still go to the male characters and the animation of the Princesses shows them with stick-thin wastes and eyes as big as their fists. Obviously having learnt their lesson from later attempts to ‘sexy up’ Merida from Brave, these two princesses have the hourglass figure from the start. Despite this somewhat uncomfortable portrayal of women, the voice actors Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are superb and bring depth and pathos to the two at the heart of the tale.
In the world of animation Disney are still very much the king and Frozen is a worthy addition to their canon. Uneven and far from perfect it’s still better than a lot of marquee releases in the field and in Olaf they have once again created a hilarious and memorable classic character, while the song ‘Let It Go’ is a bonafide classic in the making. Kids will love it and parents will have plenty to keep them amused, it’s just a shame it doesn’t have that final emotional punch to raise it up to the heady heights of classic territory.