Monday, April 14, 2014

"Frozen" Will Melt Your Heart

Disney’s animated musical Frozen tells the tale of two royal sisters, a younger, rambunctious Anna, and her regal older sister, Elsa, who possesses magical icy powers. As children, they share a close bond, but one night, after Elsa strikes her sister with her powers, they are separated. When Elsa is coronated, she reveals her powers to the public, and runs away to the North Mountain. Princess Anna, with the help of a visiting prince, a tough ice-harvester, and a talking snowman, will discover the true meaning of love.

It’s not uncommon to see good animation, and Frozen sports visuals that we’ve come to expect from Disney. Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) does their homework when it comes to movies; Frozen is no exception. Staff traveled to an ice hotel and walked through snow in dresses. The colourful environmental design adds to the realism of this fantastical movie. Emotion is conveyed especially well thanks to detailed facial animation.

The movie’s first act is highlighted by a short montage that almost manages to reach the standard set by Pixar’s Up. The second act is typical of adventure-themed movies, although it lags in a few places. The action scenes are disconnected from the rest of the movie, boring viewers instead of keeping them on the edge of their seats. There’s also a major plot point that may leave eagle-eyed viewers confused – how can a visiting prince hold more power than the reigning monarch? The musical is relatively front-heavy, which occurs due to the action picking up drastically in the much-too short final act. Some arcs are wrapped up quickly, while a few are left hanging. Although its flow and plot are of passable quality, Frozen relegates the common “good versus evil” template to the backseat, replacing it with the much more effective and relatable, yet rare, theme of “fear versus love".

As much as it’s mentioned, Frozen is not the first Disney film to show that women can be independent. Frozen subverts many traditional “Disney themes” – “love at first sight” or a prince/princess relationship. While Frozen evolves themes, it stops short of revolutionizing them. Even though a relationship can’t happen after one hour, it can still happen after one day apparently. Regardless, Frozen does well with its roots growing from familial, not romantic love. Its heartwarming themes are accompanied by meaningful symbols – doors, gloves, and Olaf. He evolves from the all-too-overused comedic relief to an important, epiphany-inducing character who symbolizes the bond between the two sisters.

Aside from an adorable snowman, Frozen features not one, but two princesses as its lead characters. Both are multi-faceted and have a tragic background that will quickly evoke sympathy from the audience. Anna is clumsy, joyful, and entirely un-princess-like, a Disney Princess that young girls can relate to. Her sister, Queen Elsa, having grown up secluded, is incredibly stoic and cold. Accompanying the two female leads are three main males: Olaf, a talking snowman, Hans, a model prince, and Kristoff, a bulky, pragmatic ice harvester. These unconventional yet memorable characters make Frozen what it is – a ground-breaker of animation.

Thanks to song composers George and Kristen Anderson-Lopez as well as score composer Christophe Beck, Frozen is accompanied with a glorious soundtrack. While Idina Menzel’s leading song, “Let It Go”, is a defining power ballad, the reprise of “For the First Time in Forever”, shows off its own literary power and keeps Disney tradition in mind, driving a significant amount of character development and plot. Although most songs are amazing, two songs – “Fixer Upper” and “In Summer” could have been removed in order to cut down on its 102-minute runtime. The movie has an excellent score, but the “Epilogue” track stands out from the bunch, reprising both “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”. It’s one of the tracks that can be listened to without context, a property that few scores possess.

Disney’s recent efforts in animation fell behind the performance of its competitors, namely sister studio Pixar. With Frozen, Disney found its place. Frozen is a ground-breaking film which shares the unconventional premise of Pixar movies. Both it and WALL-E stem from unconventional premises, but execute well, teaching humans how to love. Just as WALL-E has robots who showed us how to love, Frozen has a snowman who does the same. The movie’s stellar animation goes beyond what we’ve come to expect from typical CG fare. A slow-moving plot, ridden with the occasional plot hole can be forgiven thanks to strong characters and beautifully written themes and symbols. Frozen is accompanied and carried by a fitting cast and soundtrack, which is only rarely out of place. The mixture of these creative elements produces Disney’s best animated film since the early stages of its Renaissance Era (the 1990s).

Frozen earns its place among the magical movies of the Disney Animated Canon by proving that “the power of family is the strongest magic of all”.

Frozen: A-

Opening Date: 22 November 2013 (limited), 27 November 2013 (wide)
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Production: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Voices: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana
Co-Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Story: Paul Briggs, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Shane Morris
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Production Designer: David Womersley
Editor: Jeff Draheim
Music: Christophe Beck, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
Adapted From: The Snow Queen, Hans Christan Andersen
Rated PG, 102 minutes.