NOVEMBER DISNEY EXTRAVAGANZA #5: Frozen (2013) – dir. Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee

 

Frozen-movie-posterIt seems that these days, Frozen has become both the film loved by everyone and the film hated by everyone who doesn’t love it. I can’t think of any other children’s picture that has received such a loud roar of approval (it being the highest grossing animated film of all time), as well as a just-as-vehement amount of backlash against it. Its most popular song, “Let It Go”, alone has spawned multiple inspired covers while also being the embodiment of all annoyances for others. It has become unexpectedly divisive – yet I still fail to see why. I’m still not sure if this puts me in the majority or the minority, but I find so much to admire and appreciate about this lovely flick. I loved it from the first time I watched it – so much that it’s become one of my favorites of last year – and this rewatch only reminds me of what made me feel so warm and cozy the first time around.

Frozen+everything+wrongI’ll just begin with the most obvious quality of Frozen that were bound to capture my heart from the very beginning – that being its emphasis on sisterly love, rather than a narrative driven solely on romantic endeavor. By no means is this film the first of the Disney canon to place its focus on sisters (an notable earlier example can be found in 2002’s Lilo and Stitch), but given the reach of its popularity among young audiences, I’m willing to say that this is one of the most important. The advertising surrounding this film had always perplexed me, since its focus seemed to lie in the snowman Olaf, who actually turned out to be only a supporting comic relief character. It’s as if the marketers didn’t trust that a movie featuring strong female protagonists would be a great sell – and of course, we know now that there’s literally numerical proof that this notion is incorrect!

I certainly wouldn’t be breaking new ground with stating that Disney has had a decades-long tendency to feature its female characters in problematic ways. While Frozen is far from perfect on this front, I will never cease to reiterate on how great it is that Elsa and Anna deviate from this tradition in ways that, while not groundbreaking, are still very important. There’s a lot to be considered with what Elsa and her ice powers symbolize, but I’m for the idea that it’s a broader metaphor for a woman coming into her own mind and body, whether it be through puberty, sexuality, or otherwise. Anna is the antithesis in this regard; she’s clumsy, relatively childish, and is driven by simple clichés of love at first sight. The journey at the heart of Frozen is one where these two souls can come to meet at a common ground and embrace the beautiful aspects within themselves that make their familial bond so vital and empowering. And I think the film itself is very empowering and an important message for little girls to translate on their own.

tumblr_mtygqqz1mj1ri697yo4_1280But besides this subtext, Frozen is remarkable for a plethora of other reasons as well. It has some of the most stunning digital animation that I’ve seen anywhere, especially with regards to its snow and ice. As stated a million times before, the “Let It Go” sequence is the climax of its artistic beauty – bringing me to the music in this film. While the oft-compared Tangled was nearly as beautiful on the animation front – its pinnacle being the “I See the Light” scene – few of its songs really stuck with me for very long after viewing it. Frozen was the first time in quite a while where the songs immediately stuck with me, for weeks even. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez did a magnificent job with the soundtrack, as nearly every song is just as catchy and sing-a-long-able as the last. The voice work was also very well done, particularly with Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell who also did their own singing.

As I stated in an earlier review of the film, there is no surprise that I would enjoy this film at least a little bit, since I tend to be quite the sucker for Disney movies. However, there are certain elements of the movie itself that did surprise me. For one thing, the progression of the narrative and layout of its music felt much more Broadway-esque than any other Disney film that can come to mind (the closest being Beauty and the Beast). And while it comes as no revelation that certain elements of the story would come off as needless and try-hard (we don’t need to talk about the troll people), I was pleasantly surprised by other characters that I found a delight to watch. In particular, Olaf the snowman (voiced by Josh Gad) –  though a bit of a turn-off due to his overkill of appearance in advertising for the film, as well as his very ugly animation – turned out to be one of the most charming comic relief characters I’ve seen in children’s films. Finally, as I mentioned before, the slight and subtle twists and turns this movie takes to fit itself in favor of having strong, self-reliant sisters on the silver screen was quite a joy to watch. As a woman, I could only wish that such representations were available to generations before; nonetheless, I couldn’t think of a better film to be seen by so many developing eyes and brains.

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