Disney has come a long way from traditional animation to computer-generated action. In many ways, the company has always been about taking what was good and glorious in the past and adapting it in modern, not always better ways. Even its own animation departments have succumbed to this turning of the tides.
Case in point: Frozen. It’s actually quite a decent movie but something seems to be missing … like pretty much everything about Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of The Snow Queen. Disney, like most production studios, likes to take its inspiration where it can. Andersen’s name should be associated only loosely with this tale, even less than it was with the movie version of his The Little Mermaid.
Here, there are two sisters: Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). They are princesses but Elsa, for some reason, has the ability to freeze things. She’s practically an eight-year-old Frozone (from The Incredibles). Sadly, she accidentally hurts Anna during playtime one night.
Her parents, the king and queen, take her to a gathering of rock trolls to heal the injured Anna. It turns out that the only way to do so is to remove all of her memories of Elsa’s powers. Elsa, for her part, must also be kept away from Anna, and must never come into direct contact with anything. She always wears gloves.
On the day of Elsa’s coronation, the two sisters are reunited but almost immediately have a spat that unleashes Elsa’s powers and turns the kingdom of Arendelle into a wintry nightmare. The people are at risk of an icy fate unless Elsa can turn the snowfall back into sunshine. For this, only Anna can help guide her sister to find the way to do so.
This is why parents should take their young children to see this movie. The two main characters are both female and not dependent on the secondary male characters. This is important. The fact that they’re both young, beautiful, white females will always be bothersome but this is Disney, after all. You can’t expect the height of social awareness from the House of Mouse. This is its 53rd feature movie and I can think of only two that had female protagonists who were not Caucasian.
That aside, the tale proceeds much as you would expect, with comic relief characters (the token talking inanimate object, here a snowman named Olaf voiced by Josh Gad), a sinister toupee-clad Duke (Alan Tudyk) who has the most fantastic nose and dancing skills like I’ve never seen.
There’s also a mountaineer named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who, along with his reindeer Sven, helps Anna to find Elsa in the unforgiving blizzard on the mountains where she retreats after the disaster at the coronation.
This is also a beautiful movie to look at, with its icicles and ice palaces and snow-laden trees. Computer-generated animation does have its marvels. Whether audiences would prefer traditional hand-drawn snow is up for debate. The debate is moot, since the last time Disney made an old-school animated feature was in 2009 and that was a special case. Chances are slim that we’ll see it much any more or at all.
The other thing that I should say about Frozen is for the parents. Yes, I said that you should take your kids, especially kids under 12. In doing so, you should be prepared to listen to a lot of songs that might remind you of what “the kids” are listening to these days on radio stations like The Bounce. Their singing voices – especially Bell’s and Menzel’s – grated on my eardrums. It’s a small complaint but a good word to the wise.
Starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk and CiarĂˇn Hinds
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Written by Jennifer Lee
Rated: G with mild fantasy violence and some frightening imagery.
Runtime: 102 minutes
Now playing at Grandin Theatres, Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatre