Winter may be coming, but the Mouse House is on fire in this enchanting reworking of Hans Christian Anderson’s timeless fairy tale The Snow Queen.
Disney’s affiliation with Anderson’s work is a long one; from its Silly Symphony short of The Ugly Duckling in the 1930s through to its hugely successful version of The Little Mermaid in 1989, which spawned a renaissance in animated features by the studio.
Although not a straight adaptation, Frozen fulfills the dream long-held by Uncle Walt to bring The Snow Queen to the big screen and does so in a way that would have made Disney extremely proud.
A chunk of the credit for the Mouse House’s creative and critical upturn should go to Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, who was appointed Disney’s Chief Creative Officer back in 2006 and since then has overseen a fresh resurgence in the studio’s output.
It’s also notable that of Disney’s last four animated movies, three have featured strong female leads, with Frozen‘s Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) among the most tenacious yet.
Elsa has the ability to create ice and snow and locks herself away to maintain her secret, even from Anna. When her powers are unintentionally revealed Elsa, in the process of escaping, unwittingly unleashes an eternal winter on the kingdom. Anna goes after her sister to save the kingdom from her icy spell and on her quest is joined by mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his faithful reindeer Sven and a funny little snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).
This wouldn’t be a Disney film without the musical numbers and Frozen upholds this fine tradition right from the off with the catchy men-at-work Frozen Heart that brings to mind Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs‘ Heigh-Ho.
The plaintive Do You Want To Build A Snowman? does what Disney does best – a heartfelt tune matched by swirling visuals that progresses the story and sticks in the mind, while a group of diminutive trolls are oddly reminiscent of the Fraggles (remember Fraggle Rock? No? Just me then) when they sing Fixer Upper.
The relationship between Anna and Elsa is both simple and complex; they clearly love each other deeply, but time and Anna’s secret has driven a wedge between them, as evidenced by their awkward exchanges during Anna’s coronation as Queen. Disney has been guilty many times of drowning its films in saccharine sweetness, but it’s also the studio that respected its young audience enough to make them deal with death in Bambi and The Lion King.
It pretty much goes without saying that the animation is stunning, but it’s always worth drinking it in regardless, especially the rendering of ice and snow which is simply beautiful. Likewise, the film rattles along at such a pace that you forgive its rather lacklustre plot.
Strong female characters aside, Frozen‘s most memorable character is the loveable Olaf, a figment of Anna’s childhood imagination brought magically and amusingly to life by Elsa’s magic. A lover of “warm hugs”, Olaf is well written and acts just as you’d imagine an imaginary friend brought to life would. Gad’s lively performance elevates Olaf into the premier division of Disney sidekicks next to Pinocchio‘s Jiminy Cricket, the Genie from Aladdin and The Jungle Book‘s Baloo.
Far from leaving me cold, Frozen once again proved that when Disney gets it right, no-one else comes close.