Frozen marks a return to the glory days of the Disney Renaissance. Finally, here is a film that recalls the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin – it’s a magical adventure with all the hallmarks of a Disney classic. It’s a great feeling to know that some young kid out there is going to watch Frozen and have the same reaction to it that I had when I first heard that grandstanding Zulu chant at the beginning of The Lion King.
Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen follows the story of two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Both are Princesses of Arendelle, a seaside kingdom with sunny skies but a cold future – Elsa, the elder sister, was born with the power to manipulate ice and snow. She can’t control it however and so her parents, the King and Queen, close the doors to the castle in order to protect their daughter and those around her.
Years later, the doors to the castle are finally opened as it’s time for Elsa to be crowned Queen. During the coronation however, her frosty powers are revealed so she flees Arendelle so that she won’t harm anyone else. Unbeknownst to Anna, Elsa almost killed her during a play session when they were younger and only the magic of the benign Troll King (Ciarán Hinds) saved her.
Yet as Elsa retreats to the snowy mountaintops, she unwittingly leaves Arendelle in a state of perpetual winter. With the world frozen over, Anna resolves to find her sister in order to return everything to normal. Along the way she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a mountain man down on his luck as he normally sells ice for a living, and his reindeer Sven as well as Olaf (Josh Gad), a lovable snowman who dreams of summer.
What’s surprising about Frozen is how it plays with many of the Disney clichés. Early in the film, Anna falls for Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and it’s love at first sight. This originally had me rolling my eyes but it develops into a major plot point with other characters questioning the wisdom in agreeing to marry someone you’ve only just met. I appreciated the twist on the old, and it’s repeated again with a play on the ‘only a true love’s kiss can break the spell’ routine.
The story itself is fresh, funny and engaging but – let’s face it – these Disney musicals are only as strong as their songs. Make no mistake; Frozen is a bona fide musical, so much so that you can already see the stage show taking form. Fortunately, unlike Tangled which was let down by its rather ho-hum numbers, the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez have absolutely delivered. The showstopper is Idina Menzel’s ‘Let It Go’, which is practically guaranteed to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. It’s a doozy.
The same can be said of Christophe Beck’s score, which draws deep of Norse themes to give the rest of the film a unique flavour. My only disappointment, and it’s a mild one, is there’s no villain song (there’s scope for one). I love my villain songs but Frozen lacks its equivalent of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’, ‘Be Prepared’ or ‘Hellfire’. The climax is also a bit rushed, but these are really minor nitpicks in what is otherwise the best Disney musical in over a decade and by some margin the best animated movie of 2013.
The greatest compliment I can give Frozen is that it’s The Lion King of a new generation, and will be remembered just as fondly by many.