Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You’ll Warm to Disney’s “Frozen”

I know. It’s been months since I’ve posted a story. I’ve been too busy being a mom to be a mom blogger, but Disney’s Frozen is worth coming out of semi-retirement. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Snow Queen," you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised to hear that it bears almost no resemblance to the original tale, but what animated Disney feature ever has? That’s not why we go to the Disney version of a classic tale. We go for what Disney does so well: gorgeous animation; memorable characters; a lively plot; and the reinforcement of simple, beautiful values like the importance and downright power of love. Check; check; and double check.

Elsa in her palace of ice.
This telling has a wonderful feminist sensibility, with two powerful lead characters in the sisters Elsa, the older princess who will one day be queen; and younger sister, Princess Anna. This Scandinavian royal family lives in fear that their bizarre secret may become known: that young Elsa was born with the power of winter. She can freeze objects with a touch and can conjure snow at will. Younger sister Anna delights in her powers, as Elsa creates an indoor winter-wonderland for the princesses.

When Elsa accidentally injures young Anna, her parents take steps to isolate Elsa from the world and from her sister. They live as veritable hermits in their castle, with Elsa practically a prisoner in her own room. This is open to any number of interpretations, the most obvious one being that a harsh and sexist society encourages girls and women to hide their talent under a bushel basket and to loathe themselves for what make them unique.

Kristoff helps Anna find her sister.
Years pass, and her parents are killed in a shipwreck. Elsa (voiced as a grown-up by Idina Menzel) comes of age and it is time for her coronation. Sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) is a virtual stranger to her and has no idea why Elsa “froze” her out for so many years. When Elsa is unable to conceal her icy powers at her coronation ball, she flees for the hills and hides away in an icy palace that she conjures into existence. It’s up to Anna to rescue her sister. Along the way, she falls for dreamboat Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), but her head is turned by nice-guy Kristoff (Jonathan Groff).

Elsa can create snow at will.
At its essence, this film sticks up for the idea of “sisters before misters” and elevates the importance of the idea that being a loving person is something we learn at home. Maybe Elsa and Anna’s parents didn’t know how to love; but their daughters learn that it’s the only true magic in the universe. This is a musical, and the songs by husband and wife team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are nearly as witty as the Alan Menken golden age. My favorites? “For the First Time in Forever” sung by Anna; and “Fixer Upper” sung by a chorus of trolls. Voice performances are all excellent, but the stand-out performance has got to be Josh Gad, lately of Broadway’s The Book of Mormon as snowman Olaf. He likes warm hugs. He’s the side-kick who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth and will support you through thick and thin; in short, the perfect best friend.

And you’ll want to see the 3D version of this film for no other reason than it will increase your chances of seeing the warm-up short, Get a Horse!, a new 3D short that combines vintage footage (along with the original recording of Walt Disney's voice as Mickey) with new, screen-busting special effects that are nothing short of amazing. It is hands-down the cleverest 3D Disney short to date. Period. The power of 3D is essential and core to the story. This won't translate in a non-3D format, so pounce.

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