In the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, princess sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are raised in isolation due to the latter’s incontrollable icy powers. When the time comes for Elsa to take on the crown of the kingdom, her anxieties accidentally trigger a snowy magical outburst which sends her into a self-imposed isolation, and the whole of Arendelle into an eternal winter. The younger, excitable Anna vows to retrieve her sister and journeys into the mountains on a quest which sees her joined by magical snowman Olaf, and mountain man Kristoff.
With Frozen, Wreck It Ralph co-writer Jennifer Lee provides a sparkling screenplay which eschews and subverts traditional Disney focus on princes and ‘true love’, and turns its spotlight instead on to family, with the sisters’ dynamic driving the emotional forces of the film. When their parents decide to raise Anna and Elsa as relative shut ins (clearly having never watched how well that worked out for Mother Gothel in Tangled), it turns the girls into completely different people. Anna becomes a restless and jumpy romantic who longs for human interaction, whilst Elsa remains an introverted and anxious Edward Scissorhands-like figure, fearful that she may hurt others with her magical affliction. The filmmakers’ decision to make Elsa a second protagonist with flaws and vulnerabilities rather than a villain is a commendable shift in tone for Disney, and it’s certainly refreshing to see two sympathetic and strong female characters carrying the film. Elsewhere, in the grand tradition of animated films, the enchanted character, in this case Olaf, is an absolute scene stealer, one which judging by the children’s reactions in our screening, will dominate the film’s merchandising output this Christmas.
Musically, Frozen is arguably Disney’s strongest film since the 1990s. The centre piece song, “Let It Go” is Elsa’s rallying cry of liberation and the one you will rightfully hear Oscar buzz about, thanks in part to Idina Menzel’s blistering delivery. Equally beautiful is Anna’s “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” showcasing the character’s desperate desire for sisterly bonding. Husband and wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez ought to be strongly commended for providing Disney with several memorable new songs for the sing-a-long canon. The strength of the music is equally matched by the stunning animation which sweeps from great wintery landscapes of snowy fjords and the magical creation of a beautiful ice castle, to the quietly nuanced emotion of the sisters.
Ultimately Frozen is a glittering triumph, and a wonderfully strong step for Disney to prove they don’t necessarily always need to rely on Pixar’s help to provide tales of equally heartbreaking and amusing magnitude.