Halfway through Disney’s new animated feature film, Frozen, I realized I had no idea what was going to happen next. That was about the same time I realized that what I was watching was something pretty special. This is a Disney movie. You pretty much know how it will end. But this time around, you may not have a clue how it will end up getting there.
The film begins with the story of two sisters, Anna and Elsa, the princesses of a Norwegian kingdom, Arendelle. Elsa, the older of the two has the gift of creating snow and ice. After an accident that puts Elsa’s sister Anna at risk, the king and queen are advised to hide Elsa’s special powers. The main story picks up years later, as the girls are both grown and actively ruling from a closed off castle. Through a series of events, Elsa (Idina Menzel). is forced into exile due to her powers.
Elsa runs to the mountains for refuge and belts out the movie’s first memorable tune, “Let it Go” from Robert Lopez, who won Tony awards for “The Book of Mormon,” and his wife, Kristin Anderson-Lopez. In fact, this movie is all musical. Even more so than the most recent Disney movie musical, Tangled. Music comes and goes as naturally as dialogue. And, while much of the music isn’t memorable, it is good and it helps keep the movie moving forward without boring lulls.
If Arendelle could be sufficed to let Elsa run off into her icy exile, that would be the end of the story. But Elsa triggered an eternal winter upon her exit and it is then up to younger sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) to try and reach the frigid sibling. What to do? Younger sister Anna sets off into the frozen but artistically stunning wilds in a hope of ending the freeze.
Along the way, Anna enlists the help of handsome Ice Harvester, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven (who reminded us very much of the horse, Maximus, in Tangled). It is also at this point that we meet Olaf (Josh Gad), the animated snowman. Based upon the terrible trailers featuring this character, we were looking forward to seeing him in the actual film about as much as you might enjoy a root canal. Thankfully, he comes off quite well and is likely to steal the show with young audiences in much the same way the Genie did in Aladdin. Watch for his show stealing number in which he laments his desire to enjoy summer (you’ll also see this scene featured prominently in Disney California Adventure’s holiday version of World of Color).
Aside from the solid characters, perfect voice casting, solid tunes and action packed storyline, there’s one other thing that this movie has in spades, visual beauty. There’s a point in the film, during a rousing musical number by Idina Menzel, where you realize that you are witnessing one of the most jaw droppingly beautiful animated segments ever produced. The art direction of this film is brilliant and will no doubt help cement this film as a future Disney classic.
There are two other things that Frozen has going for it that you might not otherwise consider when going to a movie. This is a 3D film, and it works wonderfully. There are very few obvious 3D gags, it is instead used to provide visual depth and add atmospheric elements (such as snow) which greatly enhances the feeling of being in the picture rather than just watching it from a distance. The other huge plus to this film is the short feature which runs before it entitled Get A Horse. In some ways, it’s almost as strong an element as the main feature itself. This is a classic style Mickey Mouse cartoon which uses characters who have long since passed into memory such as Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Peg-Leg Pete. While it may look like a vintage short to you at first, that notion is soon dispelled when the characters burst forth from the screen in CGI modeled 3D. This is a full on prank filled Mickey Mouse slapstick short as Walt Disney himself would have done. Clever, clever, clever and NOT to be missed by any Disney fan. And here’s a little item of note, the character voices are original and were sampled from the actual classic shorts. So, that’s really Walt Disney you’re hearing!
Here’s just the first part of the short which is in black and white. You’ll just have to see Frozen to see the rest of the short, which will amaze you and leave you chuckling.
After all is said and done, the emotional thread of the film leads to a rather poignant finish. There is no cheat in the dramatic structure here and everything leads to a logical climax. Mark my words, Frozen will be a big hit, one that will stand the test of time. While the music isn’t the most hummable, it is good. The characters are engaging and sympathetic. On top of it all, there is plenty to entertain theater-goers of every age. Frozen is destined to thaw hearts and steam up the box office this holiday season.
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