The latest offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios takes Disney back to its roots, in the best animated film of last year.
Frozen, loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the Snow Queen, explores the lives of two Princesses, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) of Arundel, a Scandinavian country. Elsa has supernatural powers, giving her control of snow and ice, that she is forced to hide away after an accident as a child. Between the death of her parents, and her coronation when she comes of age at Eighteen, Elsa locks herself away in her room, with Anna never knowing why. When Elsa accidently unleashes her powers at her coronation, and flees, not realising that she has started a never ending winter in July, it is left to Anna to go after her sister and reverse the effects.
Frozen is pioneering for a Disney film, for it is not about finding a man, or saving the day – at its heart it is a tale of two sisters, who find each other after years apart. Instead of a Prince Charming saving the day, it is Anna who saves her sister. The twist at the end was one I never imagined happening, and seeing an act of true love between sisters as opposed to between a male and female lead as in most Disney films, is a welcome change.
Frozen shows a more mature side of Disney, Elsa is not a simple one dimensional villain, if a villain at all. We can see how Elsa fears her gifts, how she has been made to hide them away, and we understand her every move, she is not a villain but a misunderstood character who fears what she is capable of, and flees so she won’t put her loved ones on danger. Identifying with the ‘villain’ in such a way is unheard of in most movies, let alone animated Disney films aimed at children, and a lot of other films could learn from this example.
The animation is amazing, with Disney pulling out the stops to create frozen vistas, the backgrounds look more like a painting then a CGI model. Each and every snowflake, icicle and drift are rendered in exquisite detail, and the characters are flawless, each with their own unique look and feel.
The music, written by husband and wife team, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (of Book of Morman and Avenue Q fame) is perfect, the stand out being the powerful Let It Go, which allows Idina Menzel to show off her lungs. Let It Go shows Elsa alone – but she doesn’t care, because she’s free. She no longer has to fear harming others, and can unleash everything that she has built up inside her for years, now no one is danger. She can embrace her powers, finding out what she is capable, creating a huge ice palace where she can stay hidden away without fear of persecution. The other songs, particularly Love Is An Open Door, and Let’s Build a Snowman, are just as catchy and memorable, but Let It Go is the best of the bunch, epitomizing Elsa’s inner wants and fears. Frozen is the by far the best musical Disney film since the days of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.
The voice cast is excellent, with Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell giving emotional believable performances as the two Princesses, Elsa and Anna respectively. As you would expect from a Broadway actress, Menzel has an excellent voice, but it was Bell who surprised, with a wonderful voice that was hitherto unknown.
The humour in Frozen is a clever mix of visual and verbal, with a balance reminiscent of other Disney animations. Humour takes a step back to Story, but it is still just as effective, with Josh God’s snowman Olaf the highlight, his solo ‘In Summer’ is brilliant – ‘winters a good time to stay in and cuddle but put me in summer and I’ll be a…. Happy snowman!’
With a new take on the classic Disney tale, Frozen is exactly what the studio needs. Breathtakingly animated, full of heart and humour, with songs you’ll be humming along to long after watching, Frozen is comfortably the best animated film of 2013. 8.5/10