Frozen is simply beautiful. Elegantly crafted, sweetly scored and with a deceptively powerful emotional punch behind its characters and storytelling, Frozen cements the new Disney Renaissance ushered in by Tangled. Crucially for a Disney film it doesn’t feel derivative. This is not territory trodden by Disney before. There might be signs of similarity, but in reality, Frozen is refreshing precisely because it feels like the much more modern successor of the titans of the late 80s and early 90s.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the heir of the kingdom of Arendelle, possessed of powers that enable her to cause snowfall and create ice. However, one evening while playing with her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) she accidentally hurts her sister and is forced by her parents to, “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” The Royal Family are shut away in the Palace from the outside world. Unfortunately, and in a gorgeously understated moment their parents are lost at sea and through a swift time-change Elsa’s coronation day is upon us. Here Disney shows us maturity. Though there’s the introduction of a love interest for Anna in the form of Hans (Santino Fontana), there’s also discussion of diplomacy between Arendelle and its’ neighbours. Of course Elsa’s powers are revealed which sets off the real drama of the piece as she accidentally plunges Arendelle into winter in the middle of summer and a progressively worsening one at that.
Idina Menzel excels as Elsa. Perhaps the signature song of the piece, ‘Let It Go’ feels like an heir to Menzel’s turn as Elphaba in Wicked’s ‘Defying Gravity’. It’s also some of the most fabulous scenes of the film as Elsa ascends a snowy mountain in the midst of a storm raging through the range. It’s simply sumptuous and the scale afforded the song dwarfs that of pretty much any other Disney film of the last 10 years. Kristen Bell shouldn’t be counted out though, delivering an entertaining and refreshingly modern princess who trips over all her words and finds things, “awkward.”
Frozen recaptures the spark of the Disney films of old but offers a refreshing spin by setting the film in a more modern than medieval setting and placing the emphasis on its’ central female leads. Indeed, the film is in large part about Elsa and Anna overcoming the schemes of the two male villains of the piece, Hans and the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) and reclaiming Arendelle for themselves. Disney nods at its’ past, ‘true love’s kiss’ crops up for example, but unlike in The Princess and the Frog it isn’t constrained by it. There doesn’t feel like, in making Frozen they wanted to create a ‘Disney Renaissance’ film. It was about creating a film with those components but pulling it into the 21st Century, and the directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck have succeeded with ease and aplomb. A stunning addition to the Disney Hall of Fame.