After a long period of lackluster Disney animated efforts, the studio roared back to life with the double shot of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. Now, in 2013, they have released what might be the best “traditional” Disney animated movie in years. You would be excused for thinking that the movie is a carbon copy of Tangled, but there is much more to Frozen than what even that solid animated effort provided.
Yes, the characters in Frozen and Tangled are almost identical in how they look. The males and females from the two movies are interchangeable and the horse from Tangled and the Reindeer from Frozen might as well be the same character. There is also the non-human sidekick (a chameleon in Tangled is replaced by a snowman in Frozen). Heck, the stories are pretty similar as well, with a girl who has been sheltered her entire life getting out into the world for the first time and finding a reluctant hero to help her.
Yeah, from top to bottom, Frozen is pretty much the same as Tangled. But, at the end of the day, that is really not that much of a problem because there is a heart in Frozen that is almost bigger than in any other animated movie in recent memory. This is a Disney animated film that hearkens back to the glory days of the company while keeping the ideals updated for the new generation of girls who knows they don’t need a prince to rush in and save the damsel in distress.
This was a welcome return to the princess movies with huge musical numbers that the company shelved when Pixar became what they strove to be.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a princess who will one day rule her kingdom. She also has the magical powers of creating ice and snow with her hands. We see this amazing power in the start of the movie when she played with her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), only to accidentally strike Anna in the head with ice when things got out of control. Her parents took the two girls to a family of Trolls in the woods who told them that they were lucky the ice struck the head and not the heart. The head can be fixed, but the heart is a more difficult injury to fix. The Trolls then erase all of Anna’s memories of her sister’s powers, but allows her to keep the fun memories. The king and queen then decide to lock their daughters up in the castle and work hard to teach Elsa how to keep her powers under control and a secret.
Then, their parents die.
Elsa and Anna grow up, but Elsa is scared of hurting her sister again because she still can’t control her powers. This causes her to shut her sister out, which hurts Anna a great deal. When Elsa turns 18, it is time for a coronation to make her queen, but after an argument with Anna, Elsa loses control of her powers and then runs into the wilderness when people start to fear her and one evil Duke calls her a witch. However, on her way out, she unknowingly freezes her kingdom and places it in an eternal winter.
It is then up to Anna to find her sister and try to convince her to return to help fix things.
The movie contains a lot of the tropes of classic Disney, including a handsome and dashing prince who Anna falls in love with at first sight as well as the common man that was so enjoyable in Tangled, this one an ice salesman whose only friend is his reindeer Sven. It also has the motif that the only thing that can cure a frozen heart is a moment of the “one true love.” It is through this classical element that Disney turns the idea on its head and creates an ending that is both surprising and endearing.
This movie also took the classic Disney story and used 3D filmmaking to its full effect here. In animated movies, more than any other, the depth of the picture in 3D filmmaking can be breathtaking. This movie has that amazing depth throughout, and honestly, I can’t imagine that the snow and ice could look better than it did in the striking 3D footage. I have never seen ice done this well in any animated movie. The 3D was also used for its gimmick, with many things popping out of the screen. To see my 4-year-old reaching out to try to catch the snow was a perfect moment in itself.
The songs are also mostly enjoyable, and while one or two are enough to cause adults to roll their eyes, they are perfect for the kids. Honestly, it seemed like the Disney animated musical movies had died off, and at the time that was a good idea, but it lives strong in Frozen and is a welcome return to the kind of movie that Disney at one time mastered.
Just like The Little Mermaid, Frozen is based on a classic Hans Christian Andersen story, and that is fitting because this is the best Disney animated movie since the wonderful string of films in the ‘90s. While it shares a lot of similarities with Tangled, it is also a big step up from that movie as well.
At the end of the day, Frozen is a movie that hearkens back to both classic Disney animated movies while adding brilliant twists that brings those ideas to the present day in a way that allows it to keep its heart. It is that heart that makes this one of the best animated movies for families to hit theaters in years.