I'd sent this question along to Jim Hill's Why For, but it's been over a week and no sign of an answer posted, so I thought I'd bounce it off some of you guys.
I know that Disney often makes alterations to fairy tales, and as long as the reasoning behind it is sound, I don't mind. I can enjoy the original fairy tales for what they are, and the Disney version for what they are (often very good movie musicals in the movie musical tradition). Even Tangled, which only kept the bare bones of the Rapunzel story, was an excellent movie in its own right (although the songs could have been better IMO).
But what I've heard of Frozen's plot baffles me. They're not even keeping as much of the story skeleton as Tangled did...the only thing that this seems to have in common with Andersen's Snow Queen is that there is someone called the Snow Queen, and even then, she's not an immortal elemental, but someone who started out as human. They've completely junked the plot, the main characters, everything in favor of something entirely new.
This puzzles me for two reasons. For one thing, when Disney first started floating the idea of a Snow Queen movie, the plot synopsis they released was quite faithful to the Andersen original. The only real change there seemed to be was aging Gerda and Kai into young adults--and after all, many Snow Queen adaptations have done just that, to bring the story's implied romance into sharper focus.
For another thing...if you've ever read the Andersen story, it already HAS tons of classic Disney movie elements! It's a long enough story that they probably wouldn't need to pad it out at all. It has romance (well, more so once the leads have been aged up). It's got a strong quest story that takes us to many different locations--which would be a visual treat. It has a strong, active heroine who takes matters into her own hands. It has a strong motivation for its heroine (find and rescue the boy she loves) and an emotional journey for its hero (his heart hardened by the ice splinter, he re-awakens emotionally when Gerda finds him). It has talking animals (the raven and his wife, the birds who tip Gerda off to Kai's kidnapping). It has all kinds of interesting supporting characters (the Robber Girl alone could carry her own story). It has a strong and memorable villain (visually and otherwise). In short, all they would have to do is add songs and put in a stronger ending with a decisive confrontation with the Snow Queen (the story always seemed a little anti-climactic in that regard). Everything needed to create a Disney classic is right there!
So WHY would Disney just choose to eighty-six a plot that's been handed to them on a silver platter in order to create something entirely new?
Oh, don't get me wrong. The plot of Frozen sounds like it has potential and it'll probably be a very good movie. I'll see it and I'll probably enjoy it. But I'll also wonder what could have been if they'd made a more faithful adaptation. Like, for example, the Russian-animated version from the fifties that got dubbed over with the voices of Sandra Dee and Tommy Kirk as Gerda and Kai. (It's the best Disney movie Disney never made!)
Can any of you shed any light on this?