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Should I Watch..? Frozen
What's the big deal?
I'm assuming that, like me, you have no kids then? Very well, Frozen is an animated musical fantasy film released in 2013 and is the fifty-third release in Disney's Animated Classics series which began with 1937 with Snow White And The Seven Dwarves (1). It is a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Snow Queen and tells the story of a princess who bravely pursues her estranged sister across the land after she inadvertently creates a permanent winter. Released to rave reviews, the film went on to gross a staggering $1.27 billion worldwide as well as leading to the usual tsunami of merchandise. It also won two Academy Awards including one for the hugely popular song Let It Go. Such reaction led to the announcement of a sequel currently in development.
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What's it about?
In the Nordic city of Arendelle, Princess Elsa is born with the ability to produce cold and ice at will. One day, whilst playing with her younger sister Anna, Elsa accidentally injures Anna which forces her parents to seek the help of a remote community of trolls. Healing Anna and removing any memory of Elsa's powers, the sisters are separated by her parents until Elsa learns to control them. As a result, the sisters grow up in isolation until their parents are tragically lost at sea.
When the time comes for Elsa's coronation to the throne, she is confronted by Anna who has grown up isolating to such an extent that she immediately agrees to marry the handsome Prince Hans of the Southern Isles at the celebration. Confronting Elsa, she manages to accidentally expose Elsa's powers which causes the new queen to flee from the castle, plunging Arendelle into a permanent winter in the process as Elsa loses control of her abilities. Anna realises that only she can save the day so whilst leaving Hans in control of Arendelle, Anna sets off to resolve the matter with Elsa along with the help of lonely iceman Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and talkative snowman Olaf.
Princess Anna, 18 years old
Queen Elsa, 21 years old
Duke of Weselton
Grand Pabbie, the troll king
Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Jennifer Lee *
Release Date (UK)
6th December, 2013
Animation, Family, Musical
Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Song ("Let It Go")
What's to like?
It might be easy for the cynics like me to dismiss Frozen as an overly sentimental, female-friendly marketing gimmick but for once, Disney has happily proven me wrong. This is, without question, their best film since The Lion King (2) and arguably one of their best ever. Rarely has a film combined stunning visuals with a genuinely good story, interesting characters at every level, songs that will stick around in your head long after the film has finished and genuinely funny moments that everyone will enjoy.
It's the songs that surprise the most, despite the all-conquering success of Let It Go. Other songs like For The First Time In Forever and Love Is An Open Door are genuinely catchy numbers but it's Menzel's soaring performance in Let It Go that sticks with you the most. The film looks a dream, mixing wonderful flowing snow drifts with the precise angular nature of giant snowflakes and the ice castle Elsa creates, oddly reminiscent of Dr Manhattan's project on Mars in Watchmen (3). The story contains a number of surprises, not least the fact that the film is led by two female characters who offer much more personality than Disney's other usually love-struck heroines. Anna and Elsa's relationship feels real and plausible and it gives the other characters in the film scope to expand their roles a little more. Even Olaf, the traditional comedic sidekick in such movies, has more to do than simply make us laugh.
- When the gates open up during the song For The First Time In Forever, the characters Rapunzel and Eugene from Disney's Tangled (4) make a brief cameo, entering the scene from the left.
- Jennifer Lee became the first ever female director of a feature-length animated Disney film as well as the first to solely write the screenplay since 1991's Beauty And The Beast (5).
- When the film was released in 2013, the US was experiencing a much colder winter than usual. This prompted some speculation about the range of Elsa's powers as well as Disney's marketing department!
What's not to like?
No matter how hard you try, you cannot help but sing Let It Go to yourself after the film has finished - even if you're a thirty-something male depressive like me! The film is infectious, getting under your skin like frostbite and warming the cockles of your heart. I was all ready to hate Frozen - I'd grown tired of seeing Anna and Elsa's face of the side of every piece of merchandise out there from advent calendars to umbrellas. I was fed up of hearing every child under the age of six singing that damned song or dressing up as their animated heroes. But that's what you get with Disney - genuinely ground-breaking moments in cinema along with shameless and embarrassing levels of marketing. But is that the fault of the film, if we're being honest?
Of course, everyone working on any movie hopes for success but I doubt anyone working on Frozen would have anticipated it becoming the cultural phenomenon that it is. But it is testament to the film's strengths that children everywhere have embraced the film to such an extent that they quickly learnt the lyrics to every song in the movie. Parents of said children may disagree whenever little Jimmy or Gemma start singing Let It Go for the twentieth time in a day but at least the film has several positive messages at its heart - although whether every pair of sisters will suddenly start getting on or not remains to be seen.
Should I watch it?
Even if you haven't got kids, Frozen is a sheer delight from start to finish. It shows that Disney have remembered how to make quality entertainment for the whole family without being overly sugary or flooding the film with wholesome family values. It's a wonderfully imaginative piece of cinema, bristling with ideas and characters who stand out from the norm and loaded with enough songs to encourage every child to sing out loud. Yes, it's been marketed to death but the film itself remains a bona-fide classic.
Great For: Disney's accountants, families, winter holidays, Christmas viewing
Not So Great For: parents wanting a quiet life, male chauvanists
What else should I watch?
One thing Frozen does do is introduce another player to the already crowded CG genre. Of course, Disney had tried to enter the market before with the likes of Chicken Little (6) and Tangled but nothing has had quite the same impact as this film, which marks them as genuine contenders to the crown. Where Pixar once ruled supreme, the competitors are quickly catching them up - the equally marketable Minions (7) and its parent picture Despicable Me (8) have also spread like wildfire while you can also rely on the likes of Happy Feet (9) and How To Train Your Dragon(10) to entertain you and your family.
For me though, Pixar remain the best. Even their weaker efforts are still better than a lot of the opposition while films like Inside Out (11) and WALL·E (12) are utterly spectacular, brilliantly written and superbly entertaining. These are the benchmarks the others have to reach and until now, only Frozen has truly done so.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox