While Pixar can’t seem to break their recent slump (“Cars 2”, “Brave”, “Monsters University”), resurgent stable mate Disney Animation Studios is going from strength to strength; first with “Tangled”, then “Wreck-It Ralph” and now “Frozen”, bursting onto screens with the kind of confidence and artistry that evokes “The Little Mermaid” kicking off the Disney renaissance of the 1990’s. Yes, Disney’s long-gestating take on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” has finally made it into cinemas and the result is glorious.
If you found “Wreck-It Ralph” a little too brash, rest assured “Frozen” is every bit the classic Disney fairy-tale but by only loosely adapting the original story, they’ve delivered a smart, fresh and enchanting story brimming with memorable characters and spectacular imagery.
In the Nordic Kingdom of Arandelle, Princesses Elsa is born with magical ice powers unlike her younger sister Anna. One morning while playing in the palace, Anna is injured by Elsa’s powers and the King and Queen seek help from the mountain trolls. The mountain trolls cast a spell which heals Anna but removes her memories of Elsa’s powers. To protect their daughters, the King and Queen order the gates of the palace shut and keep the girls isolated from each other. When the King and Queen are lost at sea, the sisters’ estrangement continues until the day of Elsa’s coronation, when a misunderstanding and argument between the sisters causes Elsa’s powers to be revealed to the kingdom and the citizens to fearfully brand her a monster. Elsa flees, but not before plunging Arandelle into an eternal winter and it’s up to Anna to find her sister and restore the kingdom.
The characterisation here is wonderful and Anna is a worthy addition to the pantheon of Disney princesses. In fact, we get more than our money’s worth as we get Princess (Queen) Elsa too, as well as two handsome suitors, Prince Hans and Kristoff, the mountain-dwelling ice trader. “Frozen” also features the cleverest twist on the old Disney talking animal trope with Sven the Reindeer, who makes important contributions to ongoing discussions in a way we’ve never seen before. Of course, the whole film is stolen by Olaf the snowman, a charmingly naïve yet bitingly funny commentator on proceedings and surely the breakout character destined to be in thousands of Christmas stockings come the big day, but he’s given a real run for his money by the mountain trolls.
The animation is luscious, especially once winter comes. The artists seize their opportunity to show snow and ice in all its complex and spectacular glory using the 3D to full and magnificent effect. So vivid and spectacular are the visuals on show, that this is one of those rare occasions where I will really recommend you to see the film in 3D if you can.
The music and songs too, are a sparkling return to form, with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez delivering an array of memorable tunes which you’ll be humming to yourself as you leave the cinema.
The supporting feature, “Get A Horse!” deserves special recognition too. It begins as a retro – and occasionally risqué – black and white cartoon straight from the days of “Steamboat Willie” and continues in that vein until it does something so spectacular and mind-bogglingly well realised that to say more would spoil it. Suffice to say, this is another reason to fork out for a 3D ticket.
“Frozen” is a feast for your eyes, your ears and your brain, and there’s so much heart that there’s nourishment for the spirit here too. Your Christmas starts right here, with a wintery, wonderful trip to the Kingdom of Arandelle. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you’re a fan of after-credits scenes, stay in your seats until the very end for a cute happy ending for one of the supporting characters. 😉