Frozen: Disney rediscovers the magic

The trailer for Frozen, Disney’s latest animated offering, is very misleading. Firstly, there are no songs in it, despite Frozen being a fantastic musical, with punchy songs written by Avenue Q and Book of Mormon composer Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Secondly, the trailer emphasises the romantic exploits of Disney Princess Anna and her ice-selling companion Kristoff. That’s misleading because Frozen is really the story of Anna and her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. To save the kingdom, Anna must rescue Elsa’s frozen heart.

Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, is perhaps the most tragic character in the entire Disney canon. Just like Menzel’s career-defining role of Elphaba in Wicked, Elsa’s extraordinary powers doom her to a life of loneliness, and she teeters precariously between good and evil throughout the film.

Among Broadway luminaries like Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, the surprise casting comes with Anna, who is voiced by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell. Bell turns out to be a talented singer, and brings a feisty contemporary edge to our heroine that helps redefine the Disney Princess for the twenty-first century.

The film is thoroughly enjoyable, but there are some near-fatal flaws. Number one is Olaf the talking snowman – a listlessly zany sidekick. Unlike, say, the Genie from Aladdin or Hades from Hercules, Olaf serves no actual purpose to the plot. He exists to tell wisecracking jokes, which are cheap and unfunny.

The score is certainly clever and ambitious in its storytelling, for instance, the opening number is like a musicalised version of the prologue from Up, chronicling ten years of the sisters’ lives including the death of their parents. Nevertheless, it lacks an out-and-out classic song like the best of the 1990s Disney renaissance.

Nitpicking aside, this is the best Disney has given us (without the help of Pixar) in some 20 years, and it’s perhaps their best-looking film ever – the eerie cinematography of the white expanses are truly magical.

Yes, ‘magical’ – the perennial Disney cliché. But as this film had enough moments that filled me with giddy, childlike joy, I can’t think of a better word to describe it.

A new family favourite that is sure to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

Watch the trailer for Frozen

 

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