I like to think that writer/directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee presented their script to Disney executives like Rafiki presented Simba to the masses of the Savannah. Frozen is the kind of animated film that doesn't feel out of place in the same sentence as the classics such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin but the delightful point of difference is that instead of damsels in distress this dynamic duo of Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are out to redefine what it means to be a Disney princess.
Elsa and Anna are inseparable sisters and heirs to a beautiful Nordic kingdom. Elsa begins to develop powers to manipulate all things winter and while playing she accidentally injures her sister Anna. For protection her royal parents and some mythical trolls decide to alter Anna's memory to remove any trace of her sister's power on the condition that Elsa hide her powers from then on. Once they come of age and Elsa is crowned Queen the surrounding celebrations loosen her control and the ensuing reaction blankets the country in winter. Fearless optimist Anna teams up with ice cutter Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to try and save their kingdom.
Frozen is a musical ride. Co-directors and writers Buck and Lee are dialled into the microscopic attention spans of their target audience. The pace is high and they jam pack each of the musical sequences with loads information and narrative progression. From the moment the burley ice cutters introduce you to this world it's frenetic; just as one song ends, an action sequence begins or an important narrative scene. The latest raft of Disney animation, beginning with Tangled and continuing with Wreck-It Ralph seems to have found a visual footing with Frozen. With rolling green vales, luscious fiords that transition into hostile blizzards, and knee deep powdery snow so that you can almost feel the uncertainty of the shifting, crumbling, icy mass being waded through by the characters. They've found the right visual balance with their animation to retain its organic textures while using the boundless benefits of computer animation.
There's not a moment of dead air in any exchange, and Lee's script is loaded with great comedic touches that find great trajectory between children or adult viewers. These characters aren't quite like their often perfect predecessors. Anna's the quirky second sibling, desperate to escape the icy shadow of her sister. Her stir craziness manifests itself in her interactions with busts and other inanimate objects that adorn the palace or squeezing her little 'pudding' face into the key hole to attempt to coax her sister out of the room. Bell's Anna really shines in the moments where she's showing the depths of her social ineptitude; and in those foot in mouth moments she'll own it with by audibly marvelling "what?!" to herself. Elsa is still and majestic until she unleashes the full awesome force of her powers. However, Elsa doesn't just devolve into a cartoonish villainess like the absolutely infantile and stupid transition of the Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis) in Oz the Great and Powerful. Freedom is about finding her power and becoming her whole self not losing her compassion.
The vocal performances from Groff as Kristoff (an ice cutter who occasionally gives a voice to his reindeer as a substitute for company) and Ciarán Hinds as Pabbie the elder troll are great but they really pale but Idina Menzel as Elsa is outstanding. Menzel's restrained vocal performances in the melancholy moments make it that much more fulfilling when you hear her belting out the musical showcase centerpiece of the film is in the soon to be oscar winning 'Let it go'; which is the kind of catchy musical tune that you'll have to seek out. Star of Broadway's juggernaut Book of Mormon Josh Gad provides the perfect comedic relief with Olaf the snow man who is slightly obsessed with summer.
Frozen is a soaring musical that does everything you love about classic Disney while giving their portrayal of princesses a necessary twenty first century upgrade.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee Written by: Jennifer Lee (screenplay/story), Chris Buck (story) and Shane Morris (story) — (Inspired by "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen) Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Ciarán Hinds