Frozen is one of those movies where you either love it or hate it.
It’s a movie based off the story The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Anderson. But has since the days of Disney been in production-purgatory until it finally turned into something new. The film is about Anna, who joins Kristoff on a journey to save her sister Elsa, who has frozen the fictional kingdom of Arendelle with her winter magic. A simple enough story to follow, but where it’s at is how character-driven it is. Touching on subjects such as emotional abuse, depression, anxiety, and betrayal, but naturally taking a happier turn, developing into a story of unconditional love, and not the romantic sense.
People go into this movie, expecting an exact retelling of The Snow Queen, which is an expectation I fail to understand from people. Not because Disney is not known to make perfect (or even near-perfect) adaptations. But because Russia already released an exact retelling of The Snow Queen, that is also beautifully animated. It's widely known by fans of The Snow Queen, so why would you want Disney to make the exact same film? Disney has made many "replicas" of less popular films, but people are forgetting that Disney today is not the same Disney is was ten years ago.
People also go into this movie with intentions of overanalyzing. If you overanalyze a Disney movie, I can't imagine you enjoying any of them at all. So if you already hate Disney, this is not a film for you. Disney has never been known for their sci fi or logical or realistic storytelling. Disney is not about excessive use of exposition, if explaining it doesn't change anything. Disney has always been about setting a mood and making you feel emotions, ever since the beginning with Snow White. If you can't set aside your left brain for 80 minutes, again this is not a film for you.
There is no reason to hate this movie. There are, however, many reasons for people to dislike this movie. Whether it be a lost opportunity to have more POC, or maybe the odd need to twist the "true love" Disney trope with an otherwise useless villain. Plenty of reasons to dislike Frozen outside of those two main ones, but considering everything, the absolute good this movie does definitely outweighs the bad.
These are a few reasons to enjoy Frozen, outside of the music and the overall exterior of the film.
1) Disney's first female director: This may not be a big deal for some people, but it is a big deal for the rest of the world that takes it for granted. Out of every 100 male directors (mostly white) there are approximately three or fewer female directors, which does no favors for diversity in the movie world.
The movie Brave was previously named The Bear and The Bow, and was a dark epic about princess Merida abandoning her role as princes of Dunbroch to become an archer, returns to find her entire kingdom destroyed, aside from her mother, who was turned into a bear. It was all of that when it was created, written, and directed by Brenda Chapman, until she was ultimately kicked off the team and replaced by a male director, all because of "creative differences". Brave was "too dark" for Pixar's desired audience, and what we got was a silly 3D version of Brother Bear.
Jennifer Lee, director and writer of Frozen, was in charge of the characters (which were the drive of this movie) and was consistently forced into budget cuts by her higher-ups, forcing the movie from being Disney's final 2D movie into a 3D one, and despite all the drawbacks, it proceeded to be Disney's highest-grossing film yet, and a big step in the right direction for female directors and writers in movies.
2) Two female leads: Disney, along with Ghibli, is a leader when it comes to providing strong (as in well-written) female leads and make tons of great content that girls love. That is something that movies in general lack. What we have for our leads are two sisters, which is a familiar relationship with Disney, but as opposed to Lilo & Stitch where two sisters understand each other, in Frozen we're given polar opposites (no pun intended). Both are wronged and driven apart from each other. And their story centers around them, and romance takes a back seat to how important they are to each other.
3) It passes the Bechdel Test: What is the Bechdel Test? Well it's something every movie should be able to pass. Which means having two (named) female characters, who talk to each other about something that isn't guy-related. A fairly easy test to pass that even our beloved How To Train Your Dragon fails on two counts.
4) Main character dies on-screen with her eyes OPEN: Kind of a big deal for a kid’s movie. Just putting it out there.
5) Realistic and psychologically distressed characters: This cannot be emphasized enough. Elsa had many symptoms of manic depression, partially caused by self doubt planted by her parents, and partially caused by traumatic childhood experiences, and that is why so many people relate to her. Her character to contrast Anna brings a darkness to the film not seen in other Disney films. Anna, the spontaneous optimist, with unconditional love for her sister, but shares in her lack of self confidence to the point of falling into the "true love" Disney trope that we as an audience are so willing to accept. Kristoff, the sassy realist, but turns out to be an all-round good guy without stealing the attention, but sneaking away from it if he can. Hans, while not as realistic, is a very accurate depiction of a sociopath, from personal experience. He is the only Disney villain that is not depicted as a villain that's obvious to the audience. Olaf, as a symbollic representation of childhood innocence. And Sven, continuing Disney's no-talking-animal tradition. For the most part, particularly Elsa, Anna, and Hans, these are all things that Disney has never done before.
6) Representation of the Sami people: Sami are the indigenous people of the northern regions of which Frozen’s setting is inspired by. A Sami composer did the opening of Vuelie, which was something that Disney went out of their way to do to help bring as much authenticity as they could, considering their constant cuts. And Kristoff’s outfit is loosely based off the traditional Sami clothing, and his career involving reindeer is another tribute.
7) The animation: By now we know what we can do with graphics. We have the power to make things as realistic as possible. This was not Disney's goal and it never was. You can have the most beautiful graphics in the world, but if the story is terrible you can't see past it (Blue Sky's Epic). While Frozen had some bumpy parts in it's story, none of it was terrible to the point of distraction. This movie was only given 17 months to animate. That is only slightly more than HALF of the time usually given to animate a 3D movie. An animator from Frozen said that "When they were working on the film, they all felt it was a beautiful story, and people would stay late and work off the clock to make each scene just a little more beautiful. People had a level of dedication to this film that they have never seen before, and that it wasn’t just another job for them. They honestly felt they were working on something special and they all went the extra mile over and over again to make it better." If that amount of dedication put into it despite all the odds against them doesn't thaw your heart, I don't know what will.
8) The Disney rulebreaking: You may have been watching Frozen, predicting that Hans was going to betray Anna. You may have even called it painfully obvious. But put yourself in the shoes of a little girl, one who's grown up with Disney, loving the Disney princesses and falling in love with the princes instantly. You've never been betrayed by a prince before. And then Hans happens. You're now second-guessing the Disney prince stereotype. Maybe this "prince charming" isn't everything you imagine him to be. This is an excellent lesson to take heed of for it's demographic. And it does not just apply to little girls either. Not only that, but it's another Disney movie that adds on to the "you don't need a prince to save you" bit. The sisters save each other. You can call it cliche all you like. But it's not a bad cliche to have. And while it definitely wasn't needed in this particular film (and even tho that was literally the reason the character Hans was even created) you have to admit that Disney eventually needed to break the stereotype they themselves created.
9) The reactions this movie made: If everyone disliking Frozen got together, they would agree that their anger is aimed at the fact that it's success. They were angry because a girl movie (their term) was a much bigger success than most of the boy movies they saw. And so every tiny flaw became a HUGE thing. A very "hipster" mindset, if you ask me. But they weren't the only ones with doubts about this film.
Disney itself had no faith in Frozen being a success, telling people they didn't have to try hard and to not be disappointed if it wasn't a success. Disney has been wrong about films before (Pocahontas VS Lion King for instance, where Pocahontas was given all the money and technology, TLK had the budget cuts and it was Disney's most successful film of that time)
Disney itself underestimated the female audience. But it spoke to a variety of people, not just women. There's reasons why people love it so deeply. Frozen didn’t hit some as hard as it did me, and I agree there are problems. But it’s clear that despite its flaws, they created a film that speaks to huge numbers of people. And it spoke to them on a large emotional level.
And it’s interesting that people in the industry seemed to be convinced it would (and should) fail. It's something worth contemplating. They thought Frozen would flop, and it seems to be at least partially because it’s a ‘girl movie.’
Frozen is a beautiful movie with a beautiful story, told by people who refused to be put down by the odds stacked against them.
So whether you saw this movie and hated it, or haven't seen it and refuse to simply because you've heard "Let It Go" one too many times, give this movie a chance. It may not hit home with you, but it's worth seeing for the heart put into the film, and to acknowledge that the good seen in this movie exists, and it's not because of the hype.
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