After kind of breaking the mold last year with their ode to all things video game with Wreck it Ralph, Disney is back in their comfort zone with their latest princess adventure, Frozen, based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, “The Ice Queen”.
Kristen Bell stars as Princess Anna, whose sister Elsa was born with magical ice powers. After an accident when they are young, Anna loses her memories of Elsa’s powers and their parents lock them away in the castle. Many years later, Elsa is poised to become queen but an impetuous acceptance of a marriage proposal by Anna causes Elsa to lose control of her powers and she flees to the mountains, leaving the kingdom frozen in her wake. Anna sets out to talk her down and gets help from ice harvester Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and magical snowman Olaf. It’s pretty typical Disney fare although there is some fun twists, not the least of which that there’s not really an overt villain until the last 30 minutes or so. Elsa freezes the kingdom but she didn’t do it with nefarious intentions, she just lost control of her power and there’s a scene immediately afterward where she gets to unleash her full powers in the safety of the mountains that is incredibly cathartic. It’s pretty clear that everything is going to work out fine and who Anna is going to actually fall in love with but it’s done at the usual high level of Disney classics and their recent efforts, like Tangled.
As you might expect from a title like Frozen, most of the animation effort has gone into making the snow and ice look as amazing as possible and it was definitely worth the effort. It’s pretty incredible looking whenever Elsa unleashes her powers, whether she’s creating a castle out nothing or conjuring up a giant abominable snowman. The winter setting is also a nice change of pace for Disney, whose movies usually exist in some sort of perma-Spring. The characters all have great animation and personality as well, although they are definitely settling into a very specific look for their CG efforts, with a different hairstyle almost being the only thing separating Anna from Rapunzel. Kristen Bell is fun as Anna, who’s pretty spunky but not quite the paragon of independence like say, a Belle, as her immediate impulse upon having the castle reopened is to find a prince to marry. Josh Gad brings a ton of sweetly dumb energy to Olaf the Snowman, who is almost insanely optimistic about everything, even things that will kill him, like heat and Summer. The rest of the cast is built up of more obscure voices, like Broadway star Idina Menzel as Elsa. It definitely lets you get more into the story and characters when you aren’t constantly trying to figure out who is voicing who (although I could have sworn Adam Scott was the voice of the handsome Prince Hans). There’s a few fun sequences but the story is mostly concerned about the relationship between Anna and Elsa, Anna and Kristoff, etc. so there’s no full blown action sequences like in Wreck it Ralph. The songs are fun for the most part as well, written by Robert and Kristen Lopez of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, they feel very classic Al Menkenesque but have some of the ironic humor that you would expect from the duo that brought you the song, “The Internet is for Porn”.
It’s definitely worth mentioning that there is a Mickey Mouse short before Frozen that is almost worth the price of 3D admission alone. I don’t want to spoil it because it’s so great but it does a great job of mashing up classic Mickey 2d animation with 3D CG animation that feels like it should be some sort of 4D attraction at Disney World. If you are late getting to Frozen, you’ll be missing one of the best parts of the experience.
(I would give Frozen by itself like a 3.5 but the Mickey short easily earns it another star)