Yeah, I know, I’m late to the party. But I didn’t grow up with Disney (at least, not the princess variety–I loved Winnie-the-Pooh and Pixar movies) and when this came out, my brother was a bit too old and our family’s animated movie-watching had slowed. So when it aired on Freeform recently, we DVR’d it to watch.
A couple of disclaimers: 1) I had read the whole Wikipedia summary back when it was super popular and it was impossible to escape references to it, so I was in no way expecting to be surprised; 2) I had seen the first 20 minutes or so a couple of weeks ago when my roommate and a friend were trying to escape the impending dread of finals, but then I left to go study.
Also, In the last six months or so, I’ve actually become acquainted with the main cast members of Frozen without realizing it at first. Though I first knew of Idina Menzel from the popularity of this and “Let it Go,” I became familiar with her work from RENT when that movie/music/show changed my life in June, and more recently, If/Then (which has some really catchy and beautiful music). Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of The Good Place, starring Kristin Bell (even though I was aware of Veronica Mars previously, I still haven’t seen it). And I’ve been watching Santino Fontana (Hans) as Greg on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which I’ve just started getting into) and listening to Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) on the Hamilton and Spring Awakening albums. Oh, and Alan Tudyk aka Wash from Firefly plays the Duke.
I Storifyed my immediate, rather trivial responses to the movie here. What follows are more in-depth points that I tried to explain. Generally, I really liked it, though it just doesn’t happen to be a favorite (yet).
Elsa was my favorite character and aspect of this movie. I love her so much. I think her story is wide enough for many interpretations, but for me, I could see many parallels between her journey and mental health. “Conceal, don’t feel” rang powerfully, because those of us who struggle with anxiety or depression or something else feel the pressure to conform, to not feel perpetually sad and dragging everyone down, to not panic at trivial things and make everyone worry. And yet, that only leaves it all bottled up in shame. Elsa is also very worried about hurting Anna and others around her, which is also relatable. Importantly, she’s sympathetic from the beginning, never really demonized as the villain.
I wish there was more of her, honestly. After the film ended, I realized there wasn’t a big climactic song at the end (the last song is “Fixer Upper”), and part of me wishes Elsa had sung something to frozen Anna, or just something. “Let It Go” is iconic, but that doesn’t reflect her evolution within the film. Okay, look, maybe I really just wanted more of Idina Menzel’s voice.
The snow and ice are gorgeous, but I do have a couple of nits to pick with the animation. Yes, Elsa and Anna have the same face as their mother and Rapunzel from Tangled (and maybe Moana as well?), but also at Elsa’s coronation party, many of the guests look like the exact same people. One particular female figure stood out to me as the exact same in different dresses, over and over. I tend not to be one to care too much about this, but when Pixar’s over there putting so much thought into their creative process and animation, it kind of bugs me.
But my main pet peeve with the animation occurs during some of the songs: there are a few instances, especially with E and A vowels, where the mouths of the characters are too narrow and horizontal to produce the sound heard. This is because they often sing and smile at the same time which, yes, is possible but starts to seem increasingly absurd and I suppose I had the same experience as watching lip-syncing. Yes, I know it’s animated. Yes, unfortunately this is the extent of the video we can find of the original recording performances. Yes, the intense reaction I had to this might be rather silly. I admit it mostly comes from my background of trying to get everything “right” in choir with little confidence while being picked on in middle school, but look, you don’t always smile while you sing. You don’t always have to look “pretty.” In fact, smiling while singing long, open notes is not going to produce a good, mature sound. You have to open your mouth really wide for that, which might not meet conventional beauty standards or seem enunciated enough for animation. Sigh.
Frozen is often touted as breaking the “Disney formula,” because (spoilers) the “act of true love” is between the sisters rather than lovers, and the point that “you can’t marry a man you just met” is made (though I wish Elsa and Kristoff offered more of a reasoning behind why this was a good idea, rather than just repeating it). Anna and Kristoff get a sweet moment at the end, but not a definite “happily ever after.” So yes, in this regard, Frozen does subvert that aspect of the Disney formula and makes an important point in doing so, and I liked that.
But I do want to note that doesn’t mean Frozen entirely breaks the mold (not that everyone who made this observation meant that). There are songs, chase scenes that defy the laws of physics, cute anthropomorphic characters to expand Disney’s merchandising (mostly Olaf; Sven is basically a dog and doesn’t talk), the main characters are princess and queen. These aren’t bad things necessarily, it’s just very Disney (…says the girl who hasn’t seen most classic Disney princess films), and I admit part of me wanted to get away from Olaf to see what Elsa was up to. It also would be nice to see a deviation from the princess/royalty role at some point, because so many different stories could be told in animation. But, hey, this was loosely inspired by The Snow Queen, very much within the fairytale source material Disney usually pulls from. (This criticism is perhaps more suited to Moana, which has a character based upon mythology but then chose to focus on a girl who also happens to be the equivalent to a princess…)
Bonus: Idina Menzel Appreciation
(From If/Then, whose soundtrack has been perpetually stuck in my head recently because it’s so catchy, impactful, and has a ridiculously talented cast. This performance is a bit edited for TV for profanity and spoilers.)