I never thought of doing a movie review, let alone a Disney movie, but I haven’t had inspiration to write about anything else lately. Furthermore, I felt the need to put the movie in perspective.
The movie Frozen is a computer-animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and was released in November 2013. The plot revolves around a princess trying to reach out to her sister, the queen, whose magical ice powers have prevented her from having a normal life and a relationship with her beloved sister. The story’s origin stems from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Many believed that the original story was too dark for children and Disney was fortunately able to make a beautiful story that’s suitable for all audiences.
Before watching the movie, I didn’t really have any expectations. When I first heard of it, I actually resented the fact that Disney wasn’t creative enough to think of a better title. Like most great movies that I’ve watched, it’s the feeling that I had at the end, which makes them astounding.
Below are my own criteria of reviewing the movie. I didn’t want to approach it in a more technical manner using the basic elements of screen arts and all that so I opted to a more… user-friendly approach (and easier to write too!).
Overall look / Visuals:
If you look closely with any movie, each one has its own mood or theme with regards to its visuals. With the dawn of computer-animated films, we’ve seen more and more different types of themes in movies. Wreck-It Ralph invited us to a digital computer world as it should since it’s about video games, while The Princess and the Frog had a whole different setting because it was set in good old New Orleans. With the use of technology, animators have been given the freedom to make characters more real than ever and essentially more fun.
What I liked about Frozen is that its mood and overall visuals went hand in hand with the story. It wasn’t too bright like so many other children movies nor was it too dark, as you would think since it had a sad beginning. The animators even researched how light reacts to snow and ice. To moviegoers like you and me, they created a world of magic filled with the beauty of snow.
The characters also looked cute and loveable. You didn’t mind if they were computer-generated or not, unlike in other animations wherein they just couldn’t quite get human characters right.
The initial intentions of creating a version of The Snow Queen started way back in 1943 when Walt Disney and Samuel Goldwyn wanted to make live action films and animated ones for select stories from the author Hans Christian Andersen. Ever since that time, the producers had difficulty translating The Snow Queen because many felt that the story was too dark and audiences won’t be able to relate to the characters. They tried to bring the project into life two other times in 1990’s and again in 2008 but failed to do so. It was only after Disney released Tangled when everything fell into place. Instead of focusing on the Snow Queen, they made Anna the protagonist so that audiences could see the relationship of the two.
I find the background of the production of this film really intriguing as much as the story itself. In many angles, I can see how Elsa, the Snow Queen, could be depicted as evil, shut out, and cold. But throughout the story, you could see the development of this character. You could see the reasons why she acted the way she did and why she had to be left alone. It resonates to so many human emotions as there have been times in our lives when we do want to be left alone and don’t want anybody to come into our lives. The journey of Elsa together with the perseverance of her sister Anna, who was relentless in finding a way to reach her, is a story that can be emulated and told again and again.
Voice Acting and Production:
Actress Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) played Anna while Broadway sensation Idina Menzel (Rent) brought Elsa into life. I find it outstanding to know that Kristen Bell sang the songs in the entire movie. I thought she only voiced the character but little did I know she was also the singing voice. The two were a perfect pair as Anna and Elsa.
The screenplay was written by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-it Ralph) and she co-directed the movie with Chris Buck. Lee became the first female to direct a full length Disney animation. Pretty cool huh?
Musical Score and Songs:
Christopher Beck scored the film and drew inspiration from Norway as his setting. As for the songs, they were written by Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
The songs were really beautiful as they allowed the audience to experience the power of songs as they did in the old Disney movies. During the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999) they produced heart-warming and memorable musical classics for countless movies like Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The songs weren’t too annoying like in other movies but they fit perfectly into the seam of the story. It wasn’t forced and didn’t sound too modern. Try watching The Emperor’s New Groove and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Messages / Moral:
ANNA: “We’re getting married!”
ELSA: “You can’t marry a man you just met.”
Okay, okay, that’s not the moral of the story. Haha. But a lesson nonetheless to all you young girls out there!
As in all animated films, Frozen had many messages to tell about love, courage, finding your path, trust, and family. However, I truly love the portrayal of Elsa as she kept hiding herself and not let people enter her life. I already explained this in a couple of paragraphs before but I really like her character. She was like any other human being (well, if you discount her magical ice powers) who was afraid of other people judging or hurting her. She didn’t want to let people in because she too might hurt others. This speaks to millions of teenage girls all around the world but can also reflect any other person old or young. What’s more striking is how her sister Anna pursued her throughout the movie. The song “Do you want to build a snowman?” was perfect and was one of the ultimate “aww” moments in the movie. Here was Anna just trying to play and spend time with her sister but Elsa couldn’t because of her powers. When their parents died and Anna was in need of her sister, she just says “I’m here for you” and then with a hint of nostalgia, asks the question “Do you want to build a snowman?” again.
Once the secret was out and the entire kingdom knew about Elsa’s powers, Anna was neither frightened nor discouraged. She went out into the blistering cold to look for her sister. She got hurt and even got her heart frozen. When an act of true love was needed, she thought (as did the audience) she needed a kiss from someone she loved. I loved the twist in the end when Kristoff was running towards her and we all expected that he was the one to kiss Anna. But in an act of love in its truest form, Anna sacrificed herself to protect her sister Elsa. In the end, it was the love she had for sister that made everything go back to normal. In every aspect, they were right: true love thaws out the cold.
Critical acclaim :
Some stats for Frozen:
- 13th highest-grossing animated film
- 7th highest film in 2013
- 3rd highest animated film in 2013
- 4th highest-grossing non-sequel animated film
- Highest pre-Thanksgiving opening garnering $15.2 million on its world wide opening
- Best Animated Feature (African-American Film Critics Association, Austin Film Critics Association, Denver Film Critics Society, Golden Tomato Awards and many others)
- Best Animated Feature film (Golden Globe Awards)
- Nominated for Best Original Song, “Let it Go” (Golden Globe Awards)
- Garnered a total of $711, 919, 106 worldwide which is second to only Lion King as the highest-grossing Disney animated film
Aside from its box office success, what struck me the most was its potential to bring back the Disney Renaissance era. For ten solid years from 1989, Disney released some of the most memorable and acclaimed films. I’m glad that I was born during this time because damn, that was my childhood! After Tarzan (1999), Disney produced so-so films but never the same caliber as its predecessors. From its art, songs, musical score, and characters, the movie felt like… home. True enough, it garnered praise from Time, The New York Post, Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, countless other critics and even Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 7.7/10 rating.
Frozen is an absolute delight that mesmerizes you with vivid artistry, gripping your emotions through its empowering story and loveable characters and leaves you with a joyous heart through its Broadway-like music.
As an ending note, I leave you with a clip from the movie. This tearjerker moment ranks high up there with the death of Mufasa in Lion King or in Mulan when she was singing “Relfection.”