Movie Review - Frozen
March 13, 2014
It's been a long time coming, but Disney magic is back! The glorious fantasy of storytelling, the beauty of fairy tales filled with princes and princesses, magic, wonder, beauty and eye-popping ultra widescreen Technicolor, this is just what we have from Walt Disney Animation Studios with FROZEN; ethereal, beautiful, perfect use of 3D and all to glorious magical effect creating a winter wonderland that sparkles as far as the eye and heart can see. The epitome of wide-eyed wonder and amazement as exhilarating as seeing your first snowflake, FROZEN will have a smile on your face and your heart, twirling you into a flurry of magical delight. FROZEN is timeless classic Disney animation in every sense of the word - and pure Oscar gold.
Loosely based on "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson, FROZEN is a tale as old as time, and one that Walt Disney himself wanted to bring to life on the big screen but was never able to do. Enter screenwriter and director Jennifer Lee (the first female director in Disney Animation feature history) who, along with co-director Chris Buck, found a way to honor the tradition of the 1845 fairy tale, develop and contemporize core themes of love and family and the driving force of love versus fear, while presenting engaging and entertaining characters in a beauteous and lush animated setting punctuated with signature song.
We first meet sisters Anna and Elsa as very young girls. Members of the Norwegian royal family, Elsa has the power to create snow and ice with the wave of her hand, a little bit of magic that the girls use to heartwarming delight whenever Anna wants to build a snowman or play in the snow - in the great hall dining room. But when Anna is injured by Elsa's powers, the King and Queen must call on the mountain trolls to save her from "freezing" - and make her forget, forcing Elsa to now hide her power. Always afraid that she might hurt Anna again, Elsa spends the next 10 years avoiding her at all costs, imprisoning herself in her own room, with her powers growing and her own heart becoming ice. Even the gates of the kingdom of Arendelle are locked and no one is permitted in or out. Sadly, the King and Queen are tragically killed, forcing Elsa to assume the crown.
Where Elsa fears the coronation and an inability to hide her now formidable powers, Anna is ebullient. As the gates of Arendelle open for the occasion, so does Anna's heart with the meeting of Prince Hans. But Elsa, trying to control her powers and rein in Anna, gets caught in her own cross-fire, exposing her powers, freezing the kingdom and fleeing high into the mountains determined to never hurt anyone else ever again. With Arendelle frozen solid and coronation guests unable to leave, there is only one solution. Someone must find Elsa and bring her back to undo the magic. And Anna appoints herself as the person to do it. Joining forces with Anna, she meets Kristoff and his reindeer Sven along with some other interesting creatures along the way, including Olaf, a bouncy little snowman from Anna and Elsa's youth, an abominable iceman (named Marshmallow of all things) and ultimately Elsa, sitting high atop a mountain in her ice castle. Can Anna save Elsa? And what of Arendelle? And what about Prince Hans? And Kristoff? Suffice to say, we've got more than a few snow moguls to manage along with some hard hitting story snowballs.
Where Lee excels with story is by never making Elsa the villain. Elsa is instead empowered and emboldened once accepting her powers, while we are continually reminded of the love and lightness of the fun she and Anna experienced at her hand as children. Female driven with confidence and positivity, Elsa and Anna are like two sides of a coin, both strong, albeit one through power and confidence and the other through clumsy sticktuitiveness and love, and through it all Lee maintains a timeless classicism that we all hold dear. As comes as no surprise, supporting characters are a delight and none moreso than snowman Olaf and reindeer Sven!
With strong voicing led by Kristen Bell, who fulfills a life long dream to voice an animated Disney film and now does so as Anna (and K-Bell does her own singing, too!), joining her are Idina Menzel as Elsa, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, Josh Gad as the warm-hug liking snowman Olaf, Alan Tudyk (quickly becoming a Disney fave) as the Duke of Weselton (often pronounced in jest by all as "Weasel-town"), Ciarin Hinds as Pabbie the rock troll and young actresses Livvy Stubenrauch and Eva Bella as young Anna and Elsa, respectively.
When it comes to animation, the word is WONDROUS! Calling on a team of more than 60 animators led by Lino DiSalvo, great attention was paid not only to the ambient background animation but creation of the characters, elevating the level of subtleties in individual design through facial rigging and even breathing exercises so as to add more dimension, character and "soul" to each with eyes, sighs, shoulder slumps, gesture. And when it came to animating Sven, animators looked no further than the reindeer who came to visit and provide their natural talents as inspiration. And of course, there's snow and ice and snowflakes! Just as every six-sided snowflake is unique in nature, so they are in FROZEN, as is the use of snow as an emotional tool depending on the type of snow, depth, fury, softness. And then there's Elsa's ice palace! As if the world of FROZEN isn't magical enough, your eyes will go wider still at its glistening crystaline beauty.
Musically this is the most complex score and individual song components that I have ever heard in a Disney film. With songs written by husband & wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, each song is as unforgettable as the last and none more so than "For the First Time in Forever" - a duet by Bell and Menzel that soars - and "Let It Go!" Must buy soundtrack now! (In stores November 25th.)
Sparkling with wonder, FROZEN is magical. Won't Oscar gold look beautiful glistening in Elsa's ice palace!
Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck
Written by Jennifer Lee
Voice Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Ciarin Hinds, Alan Tudyk