What? The Vampire Princess can’t like animation? Honestly, I have a weak spot for animated musicals. I was born in the dark ages of Disney animation where Black Cauldron was one of the highlights. I do remember watching Fox and the Hound, and all the classics. I stared in awe at the animations of The Little Mermaid and had a crush on Aladdin. I cried when Simba’s father died, I dreamed of running through the mountains of western Maryland as Pocahontas and even wanted to find Atlantis and stay there as Milo in Atlantis. I wanted to be taken away by a Beast and live in castle full of books as Belle – He could stay a beast too thank you very much. So obviously this girl had to see Frozen.
I understand there’s some people who are annoyed by the whiteness of it and the fact that many of the character models are rendered using the same skeletons as Tangled. It is true. I would say at least half of the models are re skinned versions of half the side characters of Tangled. Even the sideburns and hair color are there. The two main female characters are also somewhat similar but I am going to outright disregard the criticisms. Here’s why: most of the Disney princess art/characters are so bloody similar to begin with many of them have just subtle alterations anyway unless there are drastic art style changes (Pocahontas/Hercules).
Does it take away from the beauty? No.
Does it take away from the narrative? Not in the least.
What does it take away from? If anything perhaps a bit of originality.
It makes the toy makers lives easy as they only have to make a few changes and lets be honest folks, Disney is still a company and they want to make money and the movies are giant commercials for the toys for kids. I am ok with this. They don’t really pretend otherwise.
It only takes away if you let it and I won’t let it.
As far as the movie is concerned, lets get to the review a bit. Its a touch light as I am still trying to remain spoiler free.
Frozen is based on a story titled The Snow Queen, by the often adapted Hans Christian Anderson (Little Mermaid as an example), written in 1845. When I say adapted, I mean to say that it involves a Snow Queen, a Reindeer, take place in the far north of Andersons Scandinavia and has snow. This story focuses on two princesses Elsa and Anna. Elsa was cursed with the ability to freeze things with a touch and is forced into isolation from her little sister Anna. The whys and wherefores of the curse matter little. One fateful night, as they often are, Elsa’s secret is revealed and she runs from her castle and her family into the north. Her leaving triggers a massive freeze in the kingdom. Her sister Anna is determined to save her sister even if it means her own life. Along the way she is helped by Kristoff (an ice merchant), Olaf (a snowman) and Sven (a reindeer). Can she save Elsa, herself and her kingdom?
Well you need to watch to find out, duh.
Lets talk writing and direction for a minute since they are the same. Chris Buck (Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee(…nothing before) direct with an additional writing credit from Shane Morris. They’ve taken a tact similar to what other recent Disney movies have done where they went very tongue in cheek with blatant nods to Disneys traditional ridiculousness. An example is Tangled where Flynn Ryder is the only one to be bothered by all the singing and the hyper intelligent animals. Frozen picks on the conceit of love at first sight and has more than one character call attention to how silly it can be. There isn’t a lot otherwise to the film beyond a solid story that at times got a little jumbled. Its solid, but not perfect. The fact that the musical numbers stop a little before the halfway point is a bit disappointing.
The voice actors are spot on with Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) as Anna carrying the brunt of the voice work. Idinza Menzel (Enchanted, Rent, Wicked) sings her heart out as Elsa. I was pleasantly surprised at Kristen holding her own in a duet with Idina. Both are always fun to listen to through the movie and bring the emotions they need to the performances they have. Jonathan Groff (Jesse from Glee) must have been brought along with Idina from her time on Glee and sadly isn’t used for all the musical potential he has. He does bring a certain charm to the movie and grounds the film where it needs to be. The rest of the cast isn’t really worth mentioning sadly, but the focus isn’t on them. It is, however, worth mentioning that I had expected to be annoyed by the Snowman and the Reindeer and was happily surprised that they didn’t annoy me and actually were quite endearing.
This is where I normally talk effects, shooting, etc. So instead lets talk animation. Yes, the character models themselves are from Tangled. Moving on. The actual “skins” are really quite beautiful with an ever increasing attention to detail on how fabric moves and how hair looks. There is a clear and conscious decision to separate the faces from realism while hyper attention to detail has been placed on the finer details and lighting. The snow is rendered like someone who has been in a blizzard and knows how it moves; while the ice. Wow. It is incredibly beautiful and perfect. Many people will miss how you can see reflections in the ice of all the objects that should be; all the while able to see through it at the proper places. There’s a scene where Elsa makes a dress (that I want) out of ice and walks through a door and you can see how the ice on the walls distorts the image from inside. Even the simple stomp of her foot and the explosion of ice seems to have a weight and gives the ice life like it does if you were to watch something freeze at high speed.
The musical numbers are a mixed bag for me. Some of them truly resonated and I’ve listened to one track twenty times already while writing this review. Others did not and thats all that keeps me from buying the CD right now. It is sad that the musical beats stop about halfway and they don’t use Groffs talents more, I have distinct feeling there are some serious edits to the film as there are a few seconds/scenes in the trailers that didn’t make it into the final film. Live action movies aren’t the only ones who run into that.
I really enjoyed it. It isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it was a solid film for its two hour running time and I feel right in recommending it for evening or matinees. It is most certainly kid friendly and still enjoyable for adults.
There is a warning of course to those who don’t like cold. If you have a thing about the cold, this is not a good movie for you.
If you are like me and think Ice and Snow are two of the most beautiful things to be surrounded by – I promise during Let It Go (Elsa’s solo) you will stare in awe as I did and fall in love with the beauty and wonder of it as she is.
…Now if you will excuse me I need to see who I can bribe to make Elsa and Anna’s dress for me….