Like many of Disney’s fairy-tale adaptations, Frozen is far from being an accurate retelling of one of Hans Christian Anderson’s most well known fairytales, The Snow Queen. Even the two main characters from the original story, Gerda and Kai, are reduced to servants in the film who add nothing to the story (I didn’t even know they existed until I read the credits).
But it’s pointless to mourn the original fairytale when watching the Disney version, instead accept it for what it is: something almost entirely new with faint inspirations from a traditional tale.
The film opens when protagonists Princesses Anna (Kristen Bell) and Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) are children. They wake up one summer night with the desire to build a snowman. While this may seem a strange and impossible request, it is soon revealed that Anna’s older sister Elsa was born with the powers to create snow and ice. As the sisters play in the snow, things get out of hand when Elsa accidently hits Anna in the head with ice.
Afraid for her sister’s life, Elsa wakes up her parents and the royal family goes into the forest to find a group of trolls who can heal Anna’s head. But a side effect of the trolls’ remedies is that Anna no longer remembers Elsa’s power to create snow and ice. The elder troll warns the family that Elsa’s power will only grow stronger. In an attempt to keep the younger sisters safe, they decide to lock the castle gates and keep Elsa away from Anna.
Years pass and the sister’s relationship becomes strained, with Elsa trying to hide her growing powers and Anna persistently trying to reconnect with her sister. After the sudden death of their parents, Elsa becomes Queen and Anna hopes to rekindle her bond with her sister, though the sisters still don’t see eye to eye.
Elsa’s snow powers are accidently revealed when she creates a blizzard that freezes the kingdom. Elsa runs away to the mountains to keep the kingdom safe from her powers (unaware of the blizzard to come) and Anna goes searching for her. Anna leaves her fiancé Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) in charge and seeks help from Kristoff (Jonathon Groff) and his reindeer pal Sven. Anna sets off to find her sister and end the winter she has accidentally created.
The singing was fantastic and Idina Menzel gave a chilling performance of Elsa’s “villain” song “Let It Go.” The animation was phenomenal; one of the best moments of the film was watching Elsa build her ice castle, a truly beautiful scene, which makes the audience feel as if they are actually inside the expanding structure
But Frozen isn’t without its faults. Though little, the flaws do make the story less convincing. For example, Anna somehow knows Kristoff’s name without ever being introduced. And while the story does explain that Elsa was born with her powers, there are no reasons given for these abilities. Why was Elsa born with the snow powers while no one else in her family has any powers at all?
Nonetheless, Frozen is one of Disney’s best animated films. The focus on familial love as opposed to romantic love is certainly a refreshing theme and I hope they continue to explore new ideas instead of the “true love’s kiss” motif. We’ve certainly had enough of that. Frozen suggests that at least in this respect, Disney is no longer frozen in time.