Starring the vocal talents of: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana
For 76 years now, The Walt Disney Company has been making animated full length movies. In that time you have had what many refer to as the golden age of animated films (Snow White, Fantasia, Cinderella, etc) and then the rebirth or “Waking Sleeping Beauty” era ( The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc). While Pixar may have definitely carried the animated film mantle ever since “Toy Story” premiered in 1995 (along with a few quality products from Dreamworks pictures), Disney Animation Studios in recent years has shown some sense of the titan of industry they used to be with such great releases as “The Princess and the Frog”, “Tangled”, and “Wreck-it Ralph”. Now for the 2013 holiday season, Disney has released what may be its best film in recent memory with the aptly titled “Frozen”.
Inspired by the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson The Snow Queen, “Frozen” is set in the land of Arendelle and tells the story of two sisters: Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell). Since birth, Elsa has had the power over cold and ice, though without complete control. When some playtime fun between the young sisters almost results in a tragic incident, they are kept separated and forced to grow up isolated from each other. Though they are literally kept apart, a montage done around the emotion building “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” shows Anna through the years longing to connect with her sister, while Elsa forces herself to do what she has been taught, “Conceal, don’t feel, put on a show” hiding who she is to protect not only her sister but the Kingdom she is in line to rule as Queen.
Upon Elsa’s coronation day however, the overwhelming emotions of the situation coupled with some quite impulsive decisions on Anna’s and her newly found love Hans’ (Fontana) part forces those powers to lash out uncontrollably, revealing to the masses that their new Queen is much more than she appears. Horrified, Elsa flees Arendelle, and in doing so causes the entire land to be frozen over, covered in an apparent never-ending winter.
Not willing to accept losing the sister that she just got back into her life, Anna races after her, eventually meeting up with Kristoff (Groff) an ice delivery man whose livelihood just became completely unnecessary and is willing to help find the Snow Queen so his life can return to normal. Accompanying Kristoff is his faithful reindeer Sven, who (wisely) doesn’t speak but still manages to be a delightful addition to the team. When they are later joined by Olaf, (Gad) a snowman who dreams of basking in the days of summer (which is entertainingly explained through song) the driving themes of love, family, self- acceptance and sacrifice come to the fore-front and are chillingly apparent. Though not heavy handedly so.
As much as I’d like to wrap up and explain so much more of this film to you, I can’t, I won’t do that to you. I will say though, that this is a film that must be seen and heard to be appreciated. The visuals are fantastically done by the team at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The care they presented and attention to detail with the multitude of ice formations, crystals, even the snowflakes themselves are breathtaking. The creation of the Ice Palace alone is some of the best looking animation in years if not decades. First time director Jennifer Lee who also wrote the screenplay and came up with this version of the story with Chris Buck and Shane Morris has done a masterful job in a movie that has great pacing, beautiful settings and environments, great score & fantastic performances from all the actors involved (Kristen Bell, in particular was a fantastic choice and delivers a wonderful performance that I think is above any she has done to date) and songs that will absolutely take your breath away.
One thing I cannot leave without mentioning is the performance of Idina Menzel. An absolutely amazing performer who may be best known for her work on Broadway, (winning a Tony award for her role in Wicked) her voice is hauntingly beautiful and sorrowful in Frozen. She captures the heartache that Elsa has to live with and delivers it in such a way that you may forget altogether that what you are watching is animated. In particular, the song “Let it Go”, is a performance that will rip right through you and chill you to the core.
Frozen is the first film from Disney in quite a long time that is being directly compared to some of the great works that they are known for. Whether or not you agree with that, I can tell you this. Frozen stands on its own as a beautiful piece of film, and what it delivers to both your eyes and your ears would melt even the coldest heart.