D.M. Haight

A while ago we were told that Disney had no plans to do another princess movie. They were going to take the company in a different direction, and they have done just that, by acquiring Marvel and LucasFilm. But now it seems that they have returned to the genre that made them pop culture. Frozen is the story of two princesses, one magical,  Elsa, played by Idina Menzel; the other normal, Anna, played by Kristen Bell. It is an adaptation of the Anderson tale, The Snow Queen, but Disney has molded it to suit the needs of the modern audience. It is most commendable to see the trend in their princess films, as of late, where the villains are a deeply troubled grey area of morality. They are neither evil or good, but somewhere they sit, an outlier, their motives being questioned and their character being judged over and over. They are not cut and dry bad guys like they were in the golden age of Disney classics. Elsa, the snow queen, was made into a quasi-villain because of her repression as an individual–something that many in our society can identify with these days. Her break from her containment is an obvious metaphor for coming out in whatever shape or form any of us need to. 

The song “Let It Go” is among the most inspiring in recent memory: poppy and springy in an uplifting, even encouraging way. While Elsa is singing it’s visual transformation, both within the character and the viewer. Having endured a good many years self-imprisoned in a castle, she is freed from her own containment and let’s her powers expand, grow, unleashes them and allows them to do real wonders . We can feel the weight of her burden lifted off of our own shoulders, and suddenly we too feel light, energetic and ready to take on any challenge: like building and entire castle from ice…and making a dress…also from ice. Fact of the matter is, Disney had only one traditional role to go down with Elsa. They could make her a villain; tragic or not, she was going to be the villain. But the clarity we have on the situation, and the glee we feel enraptured in when she is finally free to show her stuff, takes away her villainy–all of it. She’s the tragic hero somehow. We want her to succeed in being happy. Not isolated as she would have herself resigned to, but more integrated as she is. Her coming out made no friends, but we are still allowed to know that she is a good person who has had a closeted life, and her explosion of power is her grand exposure to the world. It’s hard not to be happy for her in the after math.

The visual style of the work is a tad disconcerting. Unfortunately the animators stuck with the traditional look of the golden era princess designs: big eyes, pointed noses, skinny arms, and flowing bodies. This does not transfer well into the realm of digital art, were a step should have the visual reverberations we’d see in life. It has the uncanny ability to hinder the production, unlike traditional animation, because it looks almost real, but there is still something very wrong with the way the physics of the character work. Traditional animation doesn’t have this flaw because its two-dimensional world does not require the more minute nuances of bodily movement to be considered believable. When Elsa is walking up the mountain, she appears to be skating or floating along instead of trudging like we’re supposed to understand her doing.

Other than the animation style, the production is a wonder to behold. It has an inspirational core that sends waves and urges of sympathy and empathy and love and hope and desire to do better. Frozen continues in the vein of the Disney princess flick, but it breaks almost every rule those other women of royalty set up. Frozen is an empowering, forceful film, worth every cent you spend on that ticket stub. It’s a film the entire family can enjoy, and one you’ll be gifting for holidays and birthdays to come.

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