How fitting that like a snowflake, Disney’s animated film Frozen is totally unique among Disney Princess movies. Whether it’s Olaf the adorable snowman (the voice of Broadway’s Josh Gad) who has delusions of enjoying summer, or the stunning backdrop of this snowbound girl power epic, there really is something for everyone in this movie.
For all of its cold imagery, Frozen is heartwarming and will not only put a smile on your face, but will dazzle your senses.
Here are five things that make Frozen totally unique:
While based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Disney Frozen bears little resemblance to the fairy tale that inspired it. For this movie and its thoroughly modern style, that’s a good thing.
As an example, check out this hilarious “Big Summer Blowout” clip (bound to give parents in the audience a chuckle):
In Frozen, Princess Elsa (Broadway’s Idina Menzel from Wicked) is born with magical powers that enable her to freeze anything she wishes. The powers can be beautiful if controlled. The problem is that Elsa has a hard time controlling her emotions, which can trigger the powers at the worst times. As children Elsa accidentally hurts her sister Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), who retains no memory of her sister’s powers after the injury.
Ashamed of having harmed her sister, Elsa hides herself from the world for years. Yet when Anna asks for Elsa’s permission to marry Prince Hans, whom she just met, Elsa’s anger inadvertently unleashes her powers once again, causing the kingdom to plunge into eternal winter.
Elsa isolates herself in a palace of ice, and Anna begins a quest to reunite with her once more. It’s rare to have a story about two sisters and their struggle to reconcile. This is a girl power story, and its heroines are go-getters. I also love it that Elsa chastises Anna for falling in love and agreeing to marry Prince Hans too quickly.
This turns the Disney Princess paradigm on its head. How many times have we seen a princess or romantic heroine falling in love with her prince charming in the course of one song? In Frozen, Elsa sharply points out the fact that it’s a huge mistake to marry someone you hardly know. That’s just one of the story elements that makes Frozen feel so contemporary.
There are some new Disney princesses on the block, and these are like no others who have come before them. Sure, Frozen’s thoroughly modern princesses are anachronistic, but they are also a breath of fresh and frosty air that feels totally modern.
What I love about Princess Anna is how real she is. Repunzel in Tangled had her quirks, and Merida in Brave was believable as a rebellious teen, but Anna truly is the girl next door with all her flaws. She is so easy to love because she is so human. She bumps into things, she drools when she sleeps and has bed head. These little foibles are priceless.
Director Jennifer Lee lets us see the things we never thought we’d see in a Disney Princess – that she’s a normal girl, and this is a good thing for little girls to see. Kristen Bell took the role because she loved how “awkward” and “weird” Anna could be, who constantly insists that she is “ordinary.” She is a young woman struggling with her identity. But with her relentless optimism and determination she proves she is anything but ordinary.
Disney filmmakers have had the bad habit over the years of making their prince characters too wooden. Not this time. Prince Hans has personality and, shockingly, a character arc with a pivotal role in the movie. In fact, all the characters including the sidekicks have character development, or at the very least have some depth, which has been sorely lacking in kids’ films recently.
Disney Frozen goes father even than Brave with its spectacular visuals. The representation of snowflakes and frozen water in its many forms almost succeed in making the viewers feel they can see their breath. Yet it is Elsa’s construction of the ice palace that will take that breath away. Inspired by an expedition to Norway, the filmmakers overlooked no detail in setting the scene. Prepare to feel chilly as you are immersed in ice and snow.
Frozen opens with a choral Nordic folk song, which is ethereal as the towering frozen mountains are revealed. In the rest of the songs, the characters are singing about their dreams, which admittedly isn’t new for a Disney Princess film, but the many harmonious duets are new, and quite memorable.
I had no idea that Kristen Bell as Princess Anna had such a beautiful singing voice. Her stirring duets with Idina Menzel as Princess Elsa are sure to go down as classics in the Disney play list, and her duet with Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) is also quite sweet.
Reel Mama’s recommendation: Except for a few scary scenes, one with wolves and another with an abominable snowman (ice man?), and a few near misses for characters with sharp icicles, Disney Frozen should have received a G rating and is appropriate for children ages five and up. (My four-year-old loved it.)