Frozen (Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, 2013)
I know it’s not always a good idea to give people high expectations BUT… I am not exaggerating when I say: BEST. DISNEY MOVIE. EVER! I was completely spellbound. Based loosely on The Snow Queen, Frozen is the latest Disney animated feature film, featuring two strong female characters. I’m happy to admit I cried. And so did my sister-in-law: multiple times. Her husband and my boyfriend both accompanied us begrudgingly (we forced them) but both ended up having to admit that it was pretty amazing. When it finished my boyfriend said he was feeling quite emotional – nawwww. There’s nothing quite like a Disney animated musical. So much so that I made my Mum come with me to see it a second time. I LOVED IT.
Frozen follows the story of two sisters, Anna and Elsa. When Elsa’s icy powers leave the kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter, Anna takes it upon herself to track Elsa down and put things right. For those of you familiar with Broadway, this film is full of A-grade Broadway stars. Seemingly gone are the days where they used unknowns for the voices of Disney princesses (Jodi Benson/Paige O’Hara/Who?), or used separate actors for speaking and singing roles (Lea Salonga sings but does not speak in Aladdin). The voice cast of Frozen includes Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent, and the upcoming If/Then) as Elsa, Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon) as the hilarious Olaf the snowman, Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening, Glee) as the loveable ice salesman, Kristoff, and Santino Fontana (Cinderella) as love interest, Hans. Kristen Bell leads the cast as Anna, and despite not having been on Broadway yet, she easily could be (She has, however, appeared Off-Broadway in the hilarious Reefer Madness, and appears in the movie musical incarnation also. She is my tip for Glinda when they eventually make the Wicked movie – please can this be soon? I would also accept Amy Adams). Kristen Bell really infuses Anna with a relatable nature – she has said in an interview she deliberately made her “much more relatable and weirder and scrappier and more excitable and awkward” than previous Disney princesses whose characteristics she felt usually seemed unattainable. Props to her! I also loved Idina Menzel- she easily pulls off a character with shades of grey- carrying a darkness whilst simultaneously coming across as soft and vulnerable.
This is definitely the most progressive film of the Disney franchise so far. This may be in part attributed to female co-director and screenwriter, Jennifer Lee (the first female director of a Disney animated feature). I was so excited to see that Elsa was not portrayed as a straight-out villain which so easily could have been the case (and apparently was the initial intention). And it was a feminist film! Which is part of the reason I teared up because I was just so grateful for that, and happy to see the boundaries of Disney being pushed.
The music was SO GOOD. Along with a beautiful score by Christophe Beck, Frozen contains nine original songs composed by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez (brilliant co-composer & lyricist of The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. These guys took it to another level, which is no mean feat following in the footsteps of the great Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, and almost every other major Disney animated feature). Some of the music was really beautiful, and parts of it were hilarious (The little girl who does the line “Ok, Bye” in ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman’ is the cutest thing I’ve heard in my LIFE!) My personal favourite song was ‘Love is an Open Door’ – gorgeous AND hilarious. Other gems include ‘First Time in Forever’, ‘Fixer Upper’, ‘In Summer’, and the showstopper ‘Let it Go’ featuring Idina’s powerhouse belt. It helped that the voice cast were crazy-awesome.
Songs aside, Frozen packed plenty of laughs. As with many Disney (and especially Pixar) films there were a number of jokes that probably went over the young kiddies’ heads. We were laughing out loud. The ability of the animators to perfectly align the visual with the actors’ comic timing was impressive. A major shout-out goes to Josh Gad who is always hilarious – he consistently cracked me up throughout. In addition to the comedic element though, it was a truly beautiful and emotional story about the love of two sisters, as well as being aesthetically stunning. Freakin’ BRAVO Disney. If this doesn’t win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars next month I will lose my shit.