Today, just for fun, I’m not reviewing a book. I’m going to look at a movie, and a Disney one at that: “Frozen.”
Now, I think the Disney people set themselves a real task when they took on the fairy tale of the Snow Queen. Unlike Cinderella, Snow White and Disney’s other great successes, this tale was not written as one simple and forceful narrative. Hans Christian Andersen recorded a series of seven stories that, strung together, make the whole tale. However, they are fragmentary and episodic, with much of the material off topic. Somewhere in there is a story. You just have to choose what parts to put in.
So the Snow Queen offers a great advantage to a writer, in that there is a wealth of information to choose from (Disney is planning a sequel, I note). However, this is also a disadvantage, in that there is no strong and reliable structure that has stood the test of time as exists in other fairy tales.
So it comes as no surprise that Disney’s Snow Queen is rather a flawed gem. It does beautifully what Disney’s production people excel at, and it falls a bit short in the areas where Disney needs the most help.
– Visuals; A mixture of random frost etchings and hexagonal kaleidoscope images, creating a true wonder of animated art.
– The animation of figures and faces, which Disney has been doing for decades and in which this studio is unparalleled.
– Creation of sympathetic characters, main and supporting, with comic twists.
– Beautiful music: catchy, tuneful, and arranged with wonderful complexity. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” has my two year old grandson mesmerized every time. Everyone loves “Let it Go.”
The other strength that makes this film appeal to adults is the allegorical nature of the theme, a factor that helps many fairy tales stand the test of time. This is the story of two little girls who, through no fault of their own, have love and family warmth wrenched from them, and they spend their young lives striving to get it back. The older sister eventually gives in, (Hence, “Let it Go”) but the younger, who has the warmest heart, never gives up. Of course, she wins in the end. No spoiler; this is Disney, after all. Brings a lump to your throat to watch the ending.
All of this is vintage Disney.
On the Other Hand, Plot:
What is missing is a strong plot line to hold the whole thing together. For example, in most fairy tales our sympathy is all on the heroine. In this story, the Ice Queen is the heroine’s sister, and we feel equal sympathy for her. So in one area where Disney excels – the creation of bad guys – this film draws a complete blank. Doesn’t do much for the suspense.
This flaw does not affect us until the middle of the film, when the viewer reaches a point where there is a lot of action going on, but we’re not sure exactly the importance of it. What happened to me that rarely happens in a good film or story is that at moments I became aware of the presence of the writers. My concern was not the usual, “Will she be able to solve this problem” but “What will the writers do to solve this problem?”
But not to cavil. This is a wonderful film for the whole family. Get the DVD, make some popcorn and snuggle down with the grandkids. They’ve probably seen it ten times already, but they won’t care.
Not quite up with Disney’s true children’s classics, but quality entertainment all the same. 4 stars out of 5.